It was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to Angelica restaurant on Rechov Shatz last week. Having been open for two years already, the place has almost slipped under my radar, and I had heard neither good nor bad reviews. For this reason I somewhat pessimistically assumed that it had joined the cabal of overrated and soulless kosher meat eateries that line the streets of Jerusalem's Emek Refaim and the city center.
Upon walking through the door however my fears began to melt away, as we were greeted by a stylish 80 seater dining room which oozed sheek sophistication while at the same time remaining remarkably homey and cozy. The centrepiece of the room was a large table covered in gorgeous marinated antipasti, which I was soon to discover came free as a preliminary source.
The inspiration behind chef and co-owner Erez Mergi's eclectic menu is fresh, seasonal produce, so it was with no hesitation that I shunned traditional starter options such as carpaccio and pate, and went for the Specials' option of Jerusalem artichoke soup with foie gras. Bang in season, the pureed artichoke was velvety, flavorsome and thick, and was perfectly complimented by the small pieces of seared foie gras. My companion - a fish lover - decided on the 'catch of the day', a beautiful pan fried barramundi with crispy skin and sublimely delicate white flesh, served with asparagus and on a pickled Jerusalem artichoke. This particular fish was sourced in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, but the chef can regularly be seen travelling the length and breadth of Israel to ensure only the best quality arrives at your table.
For main course, I had the lamb served two ways - a slow cooked shoulder which fell off the bone, and pink and succulent baby lamb chops. While I'm not convinced the two went well together, individually they were both excellent, and the chops in particular, served with a mint chimichurri, were heavenly. My companion had room for the Entrecote steak, ordered as is fashionable nowadays, by weight. The quality of the meat, together with simplicity of the seasoning and the vegetable accompaniments elevated the dish to another level, and was described as easily the best steak he'd sampled in months.
With over 100 bottles of wine in the cellar, Angelica's choice is vast, and we left it to attentive and knowledgeable co-owner Marcus Gershkowitz to recommend a lovely Israeli Cabernet Sauvingon that was equally comfortable with the fish as it was with the meat. The dessert selection (between 36 and 42 nis), while not quite as varied as the wine, was nonetheless interesting, inventive and delicious. A unique chocolate concoction with cherries and a saffron cream provided a decadent end to our meal.
Angelica's late summer/autumn menu, influenced deeply by
chef Erez' passion for seasonal, local and good quality ingredients, is a small triumph. Containing only 10 starters and 10 mains, there is still more than enough choice to please everyone. A vegetarian could happily dine here alongside a staunch carnivore, and the barramundi starter was as good a fish dish as I have tasted anywhere in Israel. With the bitter Jerusalem winter edging ever nearer, one of the few things to look forward to is the imminent launch of Angelica's winter menu, and if the Jerusalem artichoke soup is anything to go by, it will be delicious.
Angelica is located at 7 Rehov Shatz, Jerusalem, (02) 623-0056. It is open Sun-Thu 6-11 p.m. Sat 7:30-11 p.m. Starters from NIS 32, Mains from NIS 69. Kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.