Empanada empathy

An exciting, inexpensive eatery in the Mahaneh Yehuda market.

January 12, 2017 17:32
2 minute read.
Argento in Mahaneh Yehuda

Argento in Mahaneh Yehuda. (photo credit: DOR VANGER / COURTESY ARGENTO)


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‘I’m going back to my roots,” says chef Lukas Zitrinovich as he deftly prepares a spicy and delicious meat and vegetable-filled empanada in his new hole-in-thewall restaurant in the Iraqi Shuk in the Mahaneh Yehuda market.

“I want to introduce the food of my childhood to the people of Jerusalem,” asserts Argentineanborn Zitrinovich, formerly head chef and partner at the prestigious Sadna restaurant behind the city’s old railway station. “At the same time, I want to get way from the pretentious, overpriced establishments that charge NIS 200 for a meal and where you have to book a week in advance.

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At Argento, you can pop in any time and enjoy a tasty simple meal with a drink for up to NIS 50.”

Zitrinovich arrived in Israel in 2005 at age 27 as a lone immigrant. But he didn’t remain that way for long, as he met his wife-to-be, Georgi, at Ben-Gurion Airport after they had been on the same flight from Buenos Aires.

After a spell at an ulpan, he took a chef’s course at Hadassah College.

He has always been charmed by Mahaneh Yehuda and started working at a small restaurant there, eventually landing a job at Mahaneyuda restaurant soon after it opened seven years ago. The Mahaneyuda phenomenon boomed and became a network of related haute cuisine establishments (including the Sadna) that even attracts sophisticated Tel Avivians to Jerusalem for fine dining.

Zitrinovich opted out of haute cuisine and chose to go back to his roots and open an empanada eatery. He searched in the shuk and found a little place, parallel to the main Mahane Yehuda Street, nestled between stalls selling vegetables and nuts. Here he fashions his empanadas, which he makes by folding dough over a stuffing, which may consist of meat or vegetable ingredients. He serves the empanadas with grilled vegetables. He also offers sandwiches and a variety of drinks, including Spanish Estrella draught beer.

Argento [a native Argentinean, equivalent to the Israeli Sabra] opened this week. It is open weekdays from the afternoon until the last customer leaves at night.

It appears to me that after searching for 50 years for an inexpensive, convivial and tasty place to eat in the capital, this might just be it.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Iraqui Shuk, Mahaneh Yehuda market Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 994-5755

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