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It's been a long time since I went to Spaghettim. So long, in fact, that I haven't been to this restaurant in its two-year-old location in Jerusalem's Beit Agron, at the bottom of Rehov Hillel.
There's no good reason for this. On previous visits we have always been impressed with the standard and pricing of the food, the good, fast service and range (within the genre) that this chain offers.
So when we were invited back to try some new items on the menu, it seemed like a good opportunity.
The new restaurant has a decidedly Tel Aviv vibe. What do I mean by that? First, it's huge whereas most Jerusalem restaurants are decidedly small. Second, it's fabulously designed with a super-high ceiling, chandeliers hanging from the center, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an upstairs seating area for overflow. And finally, service is swift and efficient, not quirky and erratic. (And not just for those representing a national newspaper.)
Although Spaghettim now has a new chef overseeing its restaurants, the basic concept here remains the same, with about 80 percent of the menu dedicated to spaghetti in every sauce, topping and combination you could possibly dream of.
The pasta menu is divided into cream sauces, tomato sauces and olive oil sauces, but other items include a good list of first courses, focaccias, soups, pizzas and meat and fish items. There is also, rather bizarrely, a "sports" menu for before and after working out.
We chose the new carcuffi mozzarella salad (NIS 35), comprised of artichoke hearts, mozzarella, black olives, tomatoes and small crostini for starters. It was artfully arranged and all the ingredients were fresh and tasty. I felt that the salad was a little over-seasoned, with a heavy hand on the fresh herbs, oil and salt, but it was definitely a good, creative choice.
When in Spaghettim, one eats spaghetti. We continued with shrimps, toasted almonds and cream spaghetti for me and one of the healthier options for my dining partner: whole-wheat spaghetti with broccoli and almonds.
I was impressed with the generosity of shrimps in my dish, which were fresh, firm and tasty. The cream sauce - while far from light - was well-balanced. What let the dish down slightly was the spaghetti itself. It was fine, by which I mean not overcooked, still with a bite, and hot (a seemingly simple thing to achieve, but not always accomplished). It just wasn't remarkable; its texture wasn't silky and the mouth feel was ordinary.
My partner was happy with her choice: the broccoli was generous, fresh, bright green and cooked beautifully. She liked the whole wheat spaghetti, even though I think it could have also been a little more impressive in texture.
We finished with two desserts. One was the "kipod" or hedgehog, so-called for its round, spiky appearance. The "prickles" are made of solid white chocolate which encases a white chocolate mousse and a heart of nougat. For serious sweet teeth only, but a definite crowd pleaser.
I plumped for the apple pie, which suffered from having seemingly been reheated in the microwave (it kills the crisp texture of the pie crust) but was still good. The apple filling was plentiful and fresh.
As our Thursday lunchtime meal progressed, the space really filled up and there was a nice, easy buzz. In front of us was a big table full of Koreans, to our right two women on a lunch date and a number of other visitors of different age groups in between.
All in all, the stalwart Spaghettim is still up there as one of Israel's best restaurant chains. It now boasts 17 branches and by the end of 2007 there will be another four joining the ranks (the new branches are set to be in Petah Tikva, Nahariya, Kfar Saba and Kiryat Ono).
It is a restaurant that aims high, keeps innovating, but has little pretensions. It does what it promises to do: feed you and your family well on a reasonable budget and in a way that almost guarantees everyone will come out happy.
A good birthday party destination for all ages. r
Spaghettim, Rehov Hillel 35, Jerusalem. (02) 623-5547. NIS 35 to NIS 50 for all spaghetti main dishes. Not kosher. (Spaghettim has a kosher branch in Ramat Gan.)
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