Asia with a twist of West

If you're looking for Asian food with a New Age ambiance, just go to Jerusalem's River Noodle Bar and look through that skylight roof.

sushi 88 (photo credit:)
sushi 88
(photo credit: )
Jerusalem's River Noodle Bar is all about space. You approach the entrance through a courtyard. Then you pass through a glass enclosure into a room of black and gray tables lining the sides, a pastel brown booth with green chairs, and a bar in the center. A retractable glass roof provides natural light. In a way, the atmosphere is the first hint of the restaurant's Asian character. The calm of its open spaces allowed us to pretend that we were enjoying a meal with Eastern transcendentalists. This remained true though the wait staff wasn't at all transcendental. Initially, we were served by three different waiters, leaving us more confused than pampered. Once they got their act together, our singular waitress was prompt, informative, and relaxed enough to joke around with us by the meal's end. In retrospect, I should have begun with the tangy, atmosphere-appropriate appetizers. Instead I did so with the cocktails, a poor choice because almost none of them are Asian and the ones we chose were too strong, jolting us from the serenity. My drink, the Rastinet, was a combination of Drambuie and Ballantine's. The taste of the former swallowed up that of the latter, and I felt like I was drinking a too-creamy version of Arak. My friend got a Jack & Coke - simple recipe, but with too much whiskey causing him to struggle to find the right balance between the drink's two ingredients. I should note that the drink menu wasn't properly prepared either. Though kosher, the restaurant was using the same menu as its non-kosher affiliates and displayed several unkosher beverages. River's wine selection was also limited, which resulted in ordering the Barkan Merlot, an unadventurous choice. We had a similar experience with the beer, which featured two options from the tap: Carlsberg and Stella Artois, though there was a decent selection of bottled alternatives. My food experience, however, more than compensated for my disappointment with the drinks. Our first appetizer was the green salad, which featured three types of lettuce in vinaigrette that complemented the greens without overwhelming them, plus a sprinkling of peanuts that created an enticing blend of flavor. Our second starter was the chicken strips, the meal's highlight. The strips were grilled to maintain a chewy texture and their sake chili sauce was Asiany delicious, sweet but not too tangy, and spicy enough to add good flavor but not too spicy as to burn my mouth. The tataki entrecote also presented a good set of mild tastes. The Sabra-like meat, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, combined nicely with the Japanese tehina and teriyaki sauce. Continuing with the blend trend, another main-course, the alliterative Fire and Flames, was composed of stir-fried carrots, red onions, cabbage and noodles over a mix of beef and chicken. It was a pleasure, both to see and to taste, not to mention a textural mix of veggies and meat that kept my mouth guessing. Our second main course, the maki grill sushi, went beyond your Japanese supermarket delicacy by virtue of the avocado, mango, sesame seeds, and teriyaki sauce that bathed it. Of course, the traditional pickled ginger and soy sauce were present. Our first dessert was the chocolate bomb - a brave choice for a Jerusalem menu. Not for the faint of heart, it was a pyramid of chocolate, biscuits and halva with a swirl of cream on top. In fact, it was so rich that the smallest bite sent me on a nostalgic journey to every dessert I've ever eaten. The second finisher, a coconut ice-cream ball coated with coconut shards, was a cool-down from the 'bomb' and left us bloated, barely able to motion for the bill. While still enduring its growing pains and not a restaurant for those desiring a formal experience (they showed the Euro match the day before we came), if you're looking for Asian food with a New Age ambiance, just go to River and look through that skylight roof. River Noodle Bar is located at 6 Rabbi Akiva St. Appetizers range from NIS 29-36, main courses from NIS 33-46 and desserts from NIS 31-36. Handicap Accessible. Kosher.