Just saying to people, ”Ah, we’re at the Waldorf tonight…” is enough to put you in the right mood for a luxurious escape. But nothing prepared me for the welcome that awaits guests as they drive to the entrance of the newest luxury hotel in Jerusalem.
A line of smiling young staff members greeted us as we stepped step out of the car. One of them drove it down to the parking lot, while others carried our bags and ushered us to the reception desk. As we approached the desk, the clerk smiled at me from afar, as if I were her long-lost sister, welcoming me by name (do we know each other?). A few minutes later, we were ushered by yet another lovely and smiling person to our room. Wow. That’s what I call a warm welcome.
A small group of food editors were invited to the launch of the new gourmet meat menu at the hotel’s Palace Restaurant. So the main event of the visit was the dinner that was being prepared as we settled into our rooms.
But before describing the room (amazing), I must go back to the entrance. The first impression walking into the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is of the stunning open atrium and the grand double staircase adorned with black metal ornaments. I loved the restoration work and the fact that the theme of the lattice is incorporated into the interior design throughout the hotel’s public areas and is carried into the rooms and even onto the breakfast plates.
The interior design throughout the hotel is a good combination of late 1920s New York style combined with the original style of the Palace Hotel, designed by Turkish architect Nahs Bay in 1921, with many typical Jerusalem features.
During a quick tour of the hotel with the hotel’s manager, we went down to the ballroom, designed in beige with imposing glittering chandeliers, ready and waiting for a proper New York style Jewish wedding to take place there. The ballroom has its own kitchen. Although its style is traditional, the equipment is cutting edge.
Back in our room, which was large and very spacious, especially when compared to other luxury hotels in Jerusalem, the successful design combination continues. The bed is large and very comfortable, set with the finest linens. The small sitting area, the desk, the pampering bathroom and old-style furnishings are all welcoming and relaxing. Despite the traditional design, the room has the latest technologies, such as a personal tablet with free Wi-Fi, with which you can surf but also order from room service or guest relations; a large-screen TV and one in the bathroom; and an espresso machine with complimentary capsules by Nespresso.
That evening, after trying to guess what Turkish delights we would be tasting, the group met up again, all refreshed and dressed for dinner.
Chef Itzik Mizrachi Barak offers a menu that is described as French style kosher cuisine.
When we were told that, my dreams of exotic Turkish cuisine mixed with local Jerusalem dishes and New York style steaks went flying out the window. “Keep an open mind,” I told myself, returning to the reality of what was being served.
The food was good. Good ingredients; a heroic effort to meet the challenge of kosher restrictions; fashionable plating, complete with heavy slate slabs that made me feel sorry for the waiters carrying them; amazing gimmicks, such as smoke and pretty flowers. The effort was there, the hard work was there, the expense was there, but the inspiration was not. Was it me? I wish that the idea of mixing Turkish and American styles had been carried into the kitchen. I wish the idea of 1929s style had been carried into the dinnerware. But instead we got good food, made from highquality ingredients the likes of which we could get elsewhere.
To start with, a host of starters was served.
Our favorites were the red tuna, salmon and sea bass sashimi with roasted beetroot, cucumber, citrus segments and orange vinaigrette (NIS 72); the chicken consommé (NIS 48); and the salmon confit, served in a glass jar filled with smoke, next to red tuna tartare wrapped in cucumber, cream of beetroot and Atlantic sea salt (NIS 86).
From the main course I ordered the lamb cassoulet, a dish that includes tongue, lamb shank and ribs, baked potato, green beans, cherry tomato confit and red wine sauce (NIS 186).
I didn’t try the other dishes, but both the sea bass fillet baked with thyme and garlic confit, artichoke, tomatoes, sweet pea and mint cream in fish bisque foam (NIS 135) and the roasted seared salmon fillet (NIS 120) looked delicious.
The staff again was courteous, helpful and very gracious. The dinnerware was beautiful and the wine excellent. But, as mentioned before, the high-quality ingredients, painstaking preparation and satisfactory food were not sufficient to make the food at the Palace appropriate for its home.
We expect more from the Waldorf Astoria.
Maybe our expectations are too high. Still, we loved our time there and would love to go back in a few months. Hopefully, the chef will find inspiration in the hotel’s roots and bring some much-deserved authenticity to the menu. The writer was a guest of the hotel.
The Palace Restaurant
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
26 Agron Street, Jerusalem