Steak at Jerusalem’s Red Heifer.
(photo credit: BUZZY GORDON)
As 2017 draws to a close, some of the Hebrewlanguage media have been taking a look back at the toll the year has taken on fine dining restaurants, and the news was not sanguine. Israelis have had to say goodbye to a number of top restaurants that have graced the gastronomic scene for as long as 25 years and as brief as a few months.
In this challenging environment, it is all the more remarkable, therefore, when a prominent restaurant prepares to celebrate a significant milestone of longevity. In the coming year, the Red Heifer steakhouse will celebrate its 18th anniversary in the nation’s capital, a culinary achievement worthy of note.
The Red Heifer’s formula for success is no secret. Its commitment to quality is written in black-andwhite at the top of its leather-bound menu: All beef is hormone and additive-free, and aged for a minimum of 28 days in the restaurant’s own facility. Its loyal customer base also appreciates the highest standard of mehadrin kashrut certification.
If any restaurant can be called an oleh hadash, then that was the Red Heifer in 2000. Its proprietor, Yossi Wuensch, comes from Miami Beach, and his brother manages a sister glatt kosher steakhouse in Manhattan, Wolf & Lamb. And, like most olim, the restaurant is proud of its heritage, while embracing some the best its adopted country has to offer.
“One of our most popular dishes is the siniyeh,” Wuensch reveals, referring to a starter that I had not noticed on the menu before. The siniyeh (NIS 85) – ground beef in tehina, served in a skillet – is Middle Eastern in origin, although the Red Heifer version has some welcome Western touches: crispy potatoes and stewed cherry tomatoes.
But the siniyeh (and one similar dish, the grilled eggplant) is about as far as Wuensch is willing to go in modifying the menu to conform to local norms.
“I myself like hummus,” he says, “but I will not put it on the menu, lest people start to think this is another Israeli steakhouse. We are American, and that is part of what sets us apart.”
The other appetizers on the menu reinforce his point, notably the Texas wings and chicken tenders. We opted, however, for a special of the evening: seared entrecôte in a pomegranate reduction (NIS 85). The chewy morsels of prime beef were nicely enhanced by the touch of sweetness imparted by the syrupy fruit concentrate.
As our main course, we chose the intriguingly named Grand Butterfly (NIS 399) – 700 grams of boneless rib eye. When I told the waitress that we were obviously going to share a portion that size, she surprised us by commenting, “Some people like the challenge of eating the whole thing.”
In any event, the Grand Butterfly arrived with its giant wings already separated: two generous slabs of meat stacked one atop the other. As expected, they came precisely as ordered – a perfect medium-rare, rendering the thick steaks juicy and succulent.
As a side dish, we ordered the sweet potato (NIS 45) – roasted chunks that were flavorful and meaty, yet with interiors as soft as whipped.
With our meals, we each enjoyed a glass of the house wines (NIS 38): the Chateau Blanc white and Chateau Rouge red, both pleasant vintages from Carmel blended especially for restaurants.
In lieu of receiving a dessert menu, our waitress appeared with a plate of four desserts (NIS 48), two of which are served cold and two served warm. We settled on the two chocolate options, which also came in each of the temperatures. Both the Snickers bar – caramel and peanuts covered with chocolate ganache – and the warm cake smothered in a hot fudge sauce were rich creations sure to please any chocaholic.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
The Red Heifer Kosher (Mehadrin) 26 King David Street, Jerusalem Tel: (02) 624-0504