(photo credit: Courtesy)
Run by the same owners as Café Itamar, Derech Hagefen is like the café’s fancier cousin. With its rustic décor, exposed wood beams and wood-burning stove, the restaurant creates a special atmosphere. Like its cousin, it too is surrounded by gardens and plants and has a greenhouse-like seating area in addition to the more traditional part.
The dinner menu created by Ilan Niv boasts many fish options, salads, risotto, pasta and pizza. Niv’s path to the kitchen began as a dishwasher in a restaurant, as Hollywood as that sounds.
Among the starters that we sampled were a lemony cured salmon carpaccio with a touch of horseradish (NIS 46), an amazing dish of tender grilled asparagus topped with Parmesan sauce (NIS 36) and a fresh tuna ceviche with tomatoes, yogurt and parsley (NIS 48). Meanwhile, the beet gnocchi (NIS 35/62) filled with goat cheese on creamed baby spinach and garlic sauce was more standard, although the sauce was tasty.
A surprising standout dish was the Beit Zayit salad (NIS 59). Comprised of mushrooms, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, candied pecans and Parmesan sauce on a bed of lettuce, the salad instigated a fight over who got the last bite. The juicy, flavorful mullet kebab (NIS 45) came on a bed of tzatziki, tehina and sumac, and it packed a little punch – in a good way.
In terms of pasta, the tortellini porcini (NIS 62) was filled with mushrooms and mascarpone and came in a tomatobutter sauce, but somehow the only flavor really detectable was Parmesan.
We also sampled the beet spaghetti al olio (NIS 48), which was oddly pleasing and a little spicy.
For a fish main, we tried the grilled sea bass on a stew of gnocchi, carrots, Portobello mushrooms and corn in a butter, turmeric and caper sauce (NIS 98). While the stew combination might sound a little strange, it was a successful combination. The fresh fish was quite good as well.
When it came time for dessert, we tasted the hot chocolate cake (NIS 32), which would have done well with some whipped cream; a fun Krembo-like coconut cream mound filled with marshmallow in a pool of tangy passion fruit sauce; and katayef (NIS 34), an Arab dessert consisting of folded, fried pancakes – in this case, one was filled with malabi, and the other with a cinnamon-nut mixture. It was served with vanilla ice cream and proved an interesting dessert, if not overwhelming with flavor.
Derech Hagefen is not your typical Jerusalem-area restaurant: The menu is more creative, and the setting is more intriguing. It’s a good place to go for a change of scenery.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
1 Derech Hagefen
Moshav Beit Zayit