Gourmandises by Yoel in Kikar Hamusica is an authentic French bistro run by the Afriat family.
Livnatt and Yoel Afriat were opticians in Paris with a number of their own shops, but they knew they wanted to change their careers to something that would be more easily transferable to Israel. So Yoel gave up being an optician to become a pastry chef and spent a year at Le Notre, one of Paris’s most prestigious cooking schools. Then he started his own patisserie business, selling his creations from the family home in Paris.
A chance meeting with the owner of Kikar Hamusica at a party in Paris in 2014 led to the Afriat family’s making aliya and the opening of Gourmandises by Yoel just six months later. All the pastries, breads and beautiful desserts are made by Afriat and his team from their factory in Talpiot, while the food for the restaurant is prepared by chef Oscar Zuckerman in the kitchen below the restaurant. Livnatt manages the restaurant and the catering business, which caters events at the restaurant itself for up to 200 people but also provides parve or dairy dessert buffets for weddings and other special occasions.
Many people think that Gourmandises by Yoel is just a bakery or pastry shop, but the varied menu offers so much more, so we were delighted to be invited to sample the dinner menu. In keeping with the musical theme, many of the dishes on the menu are named after French musicians.
We started our meal with a chef special – ceviche of sea bream with mango, beet, pea shoots and bulgur wheat (NIS 69). This dish was a riot of strong colors, textures and flavors and included touches of wasabi cream, citrus jelly and creamed spring peas.
Real French crepes are a weakness of mine, so it was a pleasure to try some of the savory crepes. The Jean Jacques Goldman (NIS 69) was filled with sautéed zucchini, tomatoes and cheese. It was beautifully presented so I could see the colorful filling at the top of the dish rather than a folded crepe where you can’t see the filling.
The crepe itself was fresh and light, so the focus was on the filling, and all the flavors worked well together. We also tried the Georges Brassens crepe (NIS 69), which was filled with a trio of Emmental, Camembert and Roquefort cheese. This was also a rich and tasty dish, but I preferred the first crepe with the vegetables.
Next came the Edith Piaf (NIS 69), a bruschetta with eggplant, zucchini, dried tomatoes and Parmesan. The dish was well presented and colorful, but the flavors did not blend so well, and we felt that the tomato sauce overpowered the taste of the vegetables. It was still enjoyable and would make a good light meal.
Our final starter was the Waltz salad (NIS 64), made with lettuce, apple, walnut, Roquefort, mustard French dressing. While this was a pleasant salad, it lacked any unique elements, and the price was high for such a simple salad.
For mains, we chose the Michel Fugin (NIS 65) – fettucine with a creamy mushroom sauce, which was cooked perfectly al dente. The baked sea bass (NIS 119) looked like a piece of art on the plate. The fish was served atop roasted carrots, fennel and beet, with a dusting of pink almond olive oil powder and artistic drops of green sauces at the side. Although this was a nice dish overall, we felt that it was slightly too salty and needed more acidity on the fish.
The rich Barbara potato gratin (NIS 62) had a great crispy top layer with a lovely nutmeg flavor, but overall it was slightly bland and needed a sharper cheese. It was also very rich as a main course but would be ideal as a shared dish or as a smaller side dish.
Finally, we had a gnocchi chef special (NIS 69) served with roasted sweet potato and cherry tomatoes, covered in a coconut foam and flaked almonds. It was well cooked, and the sauce was light and refreshing.
The desserts were definitely the highlight of the meal. We could not resist the crepe Suzette (NIS 45) which did not disappoint, even though it lacked the kick of the flambéed orange liqueur that it is traditionally served with. It was very difficult to choose from the array of beautifully made French delicacies, but with the chef’s guidance we settled on the Snickers (NIS 38), which was rich and sweet with a touch of salted caramel to balance the flavors; and the Alliance (NIS 35), an almond mousse cake with an almond biscuit and praline mousse. It was light and fluffy and the perfect end to a very tasty meal.
Just like all the restaurants in Kikar Hamusica, there is the option to sit in the shared courtyard and enjoy the musical performances that take place most afternoons and evenings. The schedule of concerts can be found on the Kikar Hamusica website, http:// kikar-hamusica.com/en/concerts.
Whether you are looking for a light lunch, a full dinner or just an indulgent evening of authentic French pastries while enjoying the music, I highly recommend heading to Gourmandises by Yoel.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Gourmandises by Yoel
10 Yoel Salomon St., Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 566-7222
Sunday – Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.