An authentic Algerian experience

At Hamotzi the food, as well as the ambience, is wholesome and homey.

June 6, 2013 14:47
2 minute read.
Hamotzi restaurant, Jerusalem

Hamotzi restaurant, Jerusalem . (photo credit: Courtesy)

Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road, Hamotzi, the restaurant owned by 2011 Master Chef winner Avi Levy, transcends many genres of the dining experience. It’s kosher, family-style, religious and sexy.

How did Levy do it? “The food here is very homey,” Levy tells The Jerusalem Post. He says his main goal is to keep his products fresh, buying all his ingredients from the neighboring Mahaneh Yehuda market.

“Fresh lemon, meat and fish... this is part of my cooking,” he says.

The name “Hamotzi” is taken from the traditional blessing made over the halla at the Shabbat meal. And the restaurant makes its own halla, serving it with a range of traditional mezze salads in the Moroccan and Algerian tradition.

The ambience of the restaurant gives it a close-quarter feel. Under old Ottoman arches, you can choose to sit at the bar – which doubles as a prep station – or at tables inside or outside on the cobblestone street.

The portions are generous, and the mood is set when the staff bring over a complimentary chaser of Arak – whether you’re a table of two or 11 – to begin the meal.

Levy’s menu ranges from Mediterranean staples such as crispy cauliflower (NIS 43), marinated in a classic matbucha sauce, fried and served with tehina, to adventurous specials like lamb brains, marinated in the restaurant’s signature sharmula sauce, served with chickpeas and crisp fried noodles.

The best way to experience Hamotzi is with a large group, as the dishes are too varied and too delicious to order just one.

The Basharmula fish (NIS 49) and veal sweetbread cigars (NIS 53) are two starters that shouldn’t be passed up. The fish is marinated and fried in sharmula sauce, usually made from garlic, cumin, lemon, oil and fresh herbs. The cigars are equally decadent, fried like a crispy spring roll with tender and juicy meat inside. The sharmula makes a second appearance as a dipping sauce.

The staff at the restaurant say that Israelis are crazy for the mashmana (NIS 86), a large, flat, puff pastry topped with foie gras and roasted red peppers. But it’s hard to choose between boulette, (NIS 59), Algerian meatballs fried and sautéed in a sweet tomato sauce with red cabbage and onions and the Hamotzi mixed grill (NIS 69), equally daring with chicken hearts and liver in a savory sauce.

To drink, Hamotzi offers local Israeli brewery Negev passion fruit beer and amber ale. The bar also stocks a house Chianti and wine from the popular Israeli vineyard Tishbi.

The menu is hearty fare, but Levy says he’ll be changing dishes for the summer, and he’s already started cooking in his head.

The meal is topped off with a cup of sweet Turkish coffee and honeyed and fried pastries served with a marshmallow dipping sauce.

Pistachios and coconut make their way into the mix for a decadent end.

On the wall opposite the bar, there is a sign that reads “Open your hands and give to everyone what he wants” – a blessing taken from Psalms 145:16. And it’s true. Levy has given to Jerusalem good food and the experience to give and share with many people.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

4 Mashiach Baruchov St., Jerusalem
(02) 631-0050

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