(photo credit: Courtesy)
When we were looking for a special dining experience to celebrate the seventh
anniversary of our Tu Be’av wedding at Jerusalem’s Mount Zion Hotel, we didn’t
have to look very far.
Eucalyptus, which is located just up the street
from the hotel, across from the Old City Walls, was a good fit for Tu Be’av,
because it is a romantic, Bible-themed restaurant. It has a reputation as a
place you go to for special occasions, because it is pricey, extremely filling,
and because Chef Moshe Basson does his best to makes sure diners have a good
In addition to the regular menu, Eucalyptus offers three special
tasters meals: The seven-course King David feast for NIS 167, the 11-course
Kings and Prophets feast for NIS 187, and the formidable 15-course Shir Hashirim
feast for NIS 225.
Our Kings and Prophets feast started with hyssop,
coriander, tehina, and olive spreads with fresh homemade bread. This was
followed by a salad course of tabouleh, carrot salad, potato salad, beet salad
and Israeli vegetable salad. Our first appetizer was charcoal-smoked eggplant
with tehina and pomegranate syrup. Next came a hubeiza salad. Hubeiza is a wild
mallow plant that was eaten during the time of the siege of Jerusalem.
found the soup course to be absolutely inspired. Instead of having to choose
between the delicioussounding soups on the menu, the tasters menu allows diners
to try a small cup of each of three different soups: lentil, artichoke, and the
soup of the day, which happened to be a rich tomato soup.
course included stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage, and decadently sweet figs
stuffed with chicken in a tamarind sauce. The rice served on the side was
Eucalyptus’s signature dish is Maklouba, a combination of
chicken, rice and potatoes traditionally made for celebrations or for welcoming
Maklouba is Arabic for ‘upside down,’ and Chef Basson makes a
spectacle several times throughout the night wherein he rings a gong so that
everyone will come to watch the show, then chooses a diner, has him circle the
pot of Maklouba three times, make a wish, and then turn the pot over so that the
chicken ends up on top of the rice and vegetables. We witnessed the show twice
during our meal, and it was almost as entertaining as the Maklouba was
Next came Kofta – veal meatballs in and okra and tomato sauce
– followed by lamb baked all night in a clay pot over a traditional taboun
By this time we had had our fill, but somehow had to make room for
dessert. We started with ‘ice from paradise,’ an aspic of oriental
After this came a Jerusalem honey cake, followed by ‘milk and
honey’ – sesame cream with halva and date honey. Pears in red wine provided a
fruity, aromatic end to an incredible meal.
The food was not the only
reason we thoroughly enjoyed our evening out. Basson is a card. He spends so
much time chatting with diners that one wonders how he finds the time to cook.
He loves to explain about Biblical sources for his ingredients and the dishes
into which he incorporates them.
As perhaps the world’s top expert on
biblical food, he has been called the gastronomic equivalent of Eliezer
Ben-Yehuda, who revived the language of the Bible. A winner of an international
couscous competition, he tells a remarkable story about how it originated as the
oilmingled meal offering at Jerusalem’s Holy Temple and reached Tunisia and
Sicily via Solomon and Hiram King of Tyre.
Basson has set out to change
his restaurant’s reputation as a pricey eatery where people venture for special
occasions. He is now creating a menu of 70 rotating kinds of tapas that will
include many fish, meat, pasta, and vegetarian dishes, and dairy items that will
be served at the separate Angelo restaurant on the roof of Eucalyptus.
also intends to add to the menu some of the features of the special mesorah meal
of rare kosher treats that took place at his restaurant last month, such as
buffalo carpaccio and locusts.
“We want people to be able to come not
just for meal that costs 200 shekels but also to enjoy something light and tasty
with a glass of wine,” he said.
And for that, you don’t need a special
Eucalyptus is located at Rehov Hativat Yerushalayim 14,
(02) 624-4331. The writers were guests of the