You couldn’t ask for a better location in Jerusalem for a restaurant. The dairy café/ bistro Dunya is situated near the corner of Shlomzion Halmaka Street and Jaffa Road, where virtually every visitor to the capital’s downtown area passes by. In addition, it’s at the apex of the bar scene, with revelers emptying out onto the street after late-night partying.
That’s why Dunya – with the motto “coffee bar eat & beat” – adapts itself to the daily changing complexion of the area by offering varied menus and vibes throughout the day. It’s an economical and tasty lunch choice, a lovely dinner option, especially if you sit in the spacious outdoor area, and a bustling nightspot with dance music and a munchy menu a few notches up from felafel and sabich.
We chose the dinner scenario for our visit to the restaurant, which has been open for nine months and already has a loyal following among local Jerusalem Anglos. The 5 p.m. menu, extensive for a café, included a selection of salads, pizzas and sandwiches, as well as several appetizers and entrees.
For starters, we chose the portobello mushrooms stuffed with a cheese, nut, pomegranate and date sauce mixture (NIS 48) and the avocado rolls (NIS 48).
The mushrooms were plump and juicy, and the stuffing offered the perfect complement – sweet and savory at the same time.
The avocado rolls were a successful offshoot of the traditional Chinese egg roll, lightly fried and crispy on the outside, with a vegetable filling of fresh avocado, red pepper, dried tomatoes, cashews and Hindu dates. It was a winning combination.
Along with the appetizers we were served a fresh, soft loaf of homemade kefir bread that tasted as delicious as it looked healthy.
The serving staff was always one step ahead of our desires.
Even in August, Jerusalem can get chilly in the evening, so Dunya had a stack of snuggly blankets available for those of us that braved the evening breeze.
There were more than a dozen mainly fish or pasta-based main courses, but after very little deliberation I chose the gnocchi dish because it sounded so tantalizing: mushroom and chestnut gnocchi served in a cream, chive, roasted almond and Parmesan sauce (NIS 64). It tasted as incredible as I had hoped, with all the ingredients blending together into a explosion for the taste buds.
My wife went with the salmon fusilli, served with peas and curry in coconut milk and coriander (NIS 68). The ample portion, with generous chunks of pink salmon, had a distinct piquant aroma and taste thanks to the curry and coconut milk. It wasn’t as immediately accessible as the gnocchi but was one of those dishes that grew on you the more you ate.
A diner next to us, a backpacking tourist from Vancouver, ordered the hreimeh, the spicy Moroccan fish (NIS 68), and labeled it “terrific – the best meal I’ve eaten in Israel.”
We begged off dessert, but among the attractions were crème brulee, cheesecake and hot chocolate souffle cake.
From a slightly reduced menu, lunchtime diners can choose a starter, main course and a glass of juice for NIS 58 until 5 p.m. The nighttime menu from 11 p.m.
features items such as Dunya’s triple toast with cheese, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, onions and oregano (NIS 40); a talked-about original take on shakshouka (NIS 40); and fish and chips with aioli, pesto and chili ketchup (NIS 44).
So it seems like Dunya can indeed be all things to all people.
Considering the diversity of people that walk around downtown Jerusalem, that’s saying something.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Dunya Kosher 1 Shlomzion Hamalka St., Jerusalem