Tea Time

It has a French name, a British flavor, a sabra chef of Canadian parentage and an American proprietor.

June 29, 2006 11:10
3 minute read.
Tea Time

coffee tea mug 88. (photo credit: )


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It has a French name, a British flavor, a sabra chef of Canadian parentage, an American proprietor and it is located in downtown Jerusalem, though slightly off the beaten track. To veteran Jerusalemites, the location in Rehov Havatzelet will bring back memories of The Palestine Post, the forerunner of The Jerusalem Post, which was for many years headquartered in Rehov Havatzelet. It is across the road from the old Jerusalem Post building that Boston-born Gita Ostrovitz, whose family has been in the food business for some 70 years, chose to open Chez Gita, her European Tea Room, modeled on a Parisian Salon de The. However what enticed this reviewer and several readers of In Jerusalem was an item featured in Chez Gita's advertising. Though not really related, it's reminiscent of that billboard advert that used to appear all over New York: "You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy's pure Jewish rye." By the same token, you don't have to be British to enjoy English scones - but if you're a product of any Commonwealth country that still retains something of its British culinary legacy, you're going to positively salivate at the thought of scones served with fruit preserves and clotted cream. It takes a very special talent to make good scones, and quite frankly, I was preparing myself for the worst. Not so at Chez Gita. Though not quite as aesthetic as the Australian scones from the old country, they were every bit as light and as tasty, though for my palate, they could have used an extra smidgeon of sugar. Other reminders of the Australian-cum-British kitchen include Welsh rarebit, French toast, tea sandwiches, lemon meringue tartlets - and of course leaf tea served in a proper tea pots, accompanied by a tea-strainer on a small stand, and a mini jug of milk. A Scottish friend who happened to be at Chez Gita argued with me about whether the milk should be poured into the cup before or after the tea. She poured the milk first, I poured the tea first. But I suspect that the end result was the same - delicious. To people whose experience with tea is solely via the tea bag, you have to taste tea that has been steeped in boiling water. After that, you may never want to see a tea bag again. The second time I visited Chez Gita, I ordered the tea sandwiches, which turned out to be six small triangles, two each of tuna, smoked salmon and cucumber ringed around a bed of pleasantly spiced lettuce. The bread, which had been baked on the premises, was a little too thick to be in line with true British tradition. All baked goods served at Chez Gita are baked on the premises. Ostrovitz admitted that they're still having a few problems with the texture of the bread, but pledged that they will keep experimenting until they get it right. The chef at Chez Gita is Doron Degan, a native Israeli of Canadian parentage who trained in Europe. Degan is open to both criticism and suggestions, and when I mentioned Australian lamingtons to him, he said he would be happy to receive the recipe for the small sponge squares which are dipped in chocolate and then rolled in coconut. He also said that he wouldn't mind making crumpets - but we couldn't agree on whether they were similar to lechuch or more like malawah, both of which are Yemenite breads. My Scottish friend was dining with another friend of American background and they ordered the traditional English tea, which came on a triple tiered platter, with the triangular sandwiches on the bottom, an assortment of cakes and pastries in the center and the scones on top. One of them had a pot of tea, but the American, who doesn't drink tea, asked for coffee - and got a good cappuccino. Prices at Chez Gita are fairly reasonable. The service is efficient, polite and friendly without the over-familiarity so often encountered at local establishments. The kitchen is spotlessly clean and can be viewed via a serving window that patrons can pass if they choose to dine in the garden patio at the rear of the premises. Chez Gita, 5 Rehov Havatzelet. Open Sunday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 2 p.m. on Friday. It reopens on Saturday night two hours after the end of Shabbat. (Kosher, dairy)

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