Walking into Hamikdash, I expected to be overwhelmed by the sights and smells of incense and barbecued meat. Instead, I found a modern restaurant, a talented chef and a focus on creative meat dishes with touches of molecular gastronomy.
Hamikdash is on the outside of the Oshiland Mall in Kfar Saba. You pass by a pretty fountain with colored lights, and walk over a small bridge to enter. Chef Liran Blue co-owns the restaurant with his father, who recently retired. The restaurant was successful and not kosher, but Lior decided to make it kosher for both personal and business reasons.
“The religious crowd will drive hours for good food, while the secular crowd is barely willing to cross the street,” he says.
He says he has regulars who come often from out of town, including one couple from Jerusalem who have a standing reservation for the same table every Wednesday night and bring a different couple with them each time.
Blue prints a new menu every day, although there are some standard dishes that make frequent appearances.
My dining companion and I had skipped lunch and were very hungry when we arrived. We glanced at the one-page menu but told Chef Blue that we eat everything and we would like him to choose for us.
He gave us four appetizers to share. First up was the braseole (NIS 42), one of his signature dishes. Cured sirloin steak is sliced very thinly and placed in a basket that is placed in a larger bowl with green tea. The server pours liquid nitrogen into the bowl and the resultant smoke is supposed to flavor the meat further. The meat was chewy and salty and delicious, but I didn’t get any green tea flavor. It was still fun to watch the smoke swirl around the meat.
Next was a tongue salad (NIS 56) with slices of slow-cooked tongue and yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The vegetables were a nice partner to the meat.
We also tried a tartar from fillet of beef (NIS 62). The fillet was served raw (which is what “tartar” means) with shiitake mushrooms and mustard cream. It was a lovely, luxurious dish.
We also tried one hot appetizer of a bean and smoked brisket dish (NIS 49) which was somewhere between chili and cholent and was absolutely delicious.
Portions on all of the appetizers are small, so if you come very hungry as we did, you might want more than one appetizer.
While waiting for the main course, Chef Blue went around the restaurant distributing “dragon kisses,” small pieces of meringue chilled with liquid nitrogen. When you bit into them, smoke is released through your nose and mouth. He smiled devilishly as everyone started expelling smoke.
“I think you’re like Professor Snape,” I told him.
“No, I’m definitely Dumbledore,” he responded.
For the main course, the Chef brought us 350 grams of long-smoked asado (NIS 92). I have to admit this was my least favorite dish of the night. Although less fatty than other asado I’ve had, it is not my favorite cut of meat.
But the win goes to the cook-it-yourself meat platter. You get a tray with a volcanic block that has been slowly heated to a high temperature, a small dish of duck fat to grease the block (although Lior warns that it makes smoke and to use it sparingly), small tongs and a tray of meat. In our case, the meat included sirloin, flat-iron steak, and slices of Denver steak. These last two are cuts not usually found in Israel. Blue sources the meat to independent kosher butchers in the Golan Heights.
The idea is that you cook the meat as long as you want, and then dip it in the homemade chimchurri sauce that is served alongside. I let my companion do the cooking for both of us, and he cooked the small slices of steak for just about 30 seconds on each side to a perfect medium-rare.
We are both serious carnivores, and the steak was among the best we’ve had in Israel. We stopped talking to each other (don’t worry, we’ve been married a long time) to better appreciate the complex flavor and texture of the meat.
The meat was served with small baked sweet potatoes and tiny smoked potatoes that I couldn’t stop eating.
Along with the meat, we had two glasses of very good wine, but I was so focused on the meat, I barely listened to what the server was bringing.
Dessert was also excellent, with a crème brûlée that I would have sworn was dairy, and homemade sorbet.
There is a very good deal on a tasting menu that includes a choice of two appetizers, two glasses of wine, a mixed platter of 700 grams of meat for grilling at the table, and one dessert for NIS 350 per couple.
Oshiland Mall, Atir Yeda St. 1, Kfar Saba
Kashrut: Rabbanut Kfar Saba
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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