You'll get hooked

Jerusalem’s Michmoret restaurant specializes in preparing fish any way you want it.

July 18, 2013 09:47
3 minute read.
A delicious meal from Michmoret

A delicious meal from Michmoret . (photo credit: Courtesy)

I have a restaurant-assessment theory that I’ve mentioned before: I think an extensive menu is a sign of a lack of specialty and/or expertise. If you’re busy making a little bit of everything, you can’t focus on any one thing.

That is why I breathed a sigh of relief upon opening the menu at the new Michmoret restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. There were about four lines of salad and bread options, one pasta option, one fish specialty, and a very long list of types of fish. Above the names of the fish (and the prices) were the following instructions: “Choose if you want your fish filleted or whole, and whether you prefer it grilled, baked or fried.”

Aside from a beverage section, a brief dessert section and a wine list, that’s it.

Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Hebrew word michmoret means “fishing net,” and owner Shlomi Ohana is also the proprietor of the Fishenchips eatery across the way. He’s also the third generation of his family’s fish stall in the market, which was begun in 1979. As he puts it, fish run in his veins.

Ohana explains that his dream to open a fish and chips shop in Israel dates back to a trip he took to Amsterdam with his family at age 15, when he stumbled upon – and fell in love with – a fish and chips food truck. This dream was fulfilled nearly four years ago when he opened the mightily successful Fishenchips. After a few years of saving up and a year of renovations, his father’s dream of opening a proper fish restaurant has come true as well.

While Michmoret is not exactly the romantic, intimate seaside dining experience you might associate with a quality fish restaurant, it’s still a bit nicer than most of the shuk’s eateries. The décor is simple and harks back to a classic Jerusalem look, with tiles, colored glass, wood and iron creating the atmosphere.

My dining partner and I began our meal with a selection of nine small mezze, which comes with the meal. The salads can change from day to day, but other than that, the menu at the restaurant remains the same, with no specials or “catch of the day.” Ohana wants diners to know what to expect.

Our table was graced with olive tapenade, (very) hot peppers, tehina, zucchini with mint, spiced chickpeas, eggplant and tehina, labaneh, a pesto-heavy version of caprese, and egg salad. The salads were served with cubes of bread. Altogether, the mezze were average.

But then came the fish. We sampled the house specialty of the traditional Moroccan chreime (NIS 89), which is cod fillet cooked in a tomato and pepper sauce. It was spicy, and it melted in my mouth. We loved the Australian barramundi fillet (NIS 85), which had no fishy taste whatsoever and had an almost meaty texture. We also savored the sea bream fillet (NIS 85), which was mild and had nice, crispy skin.

Ohana advised us that a few drops of Arak dripped onto the fish would make it even better, though I remained skeptical even after the experiment. The last fish we tried was whole sea bass (NIS 90), which was not as butterytextured as the other fish. It, too, was incredibly fresh (it comes from Cyprus) and was almost reminiscent of chicken breast.

All the fish dishes came with a grilled half of beet and a hasselback potato with a campfire taste (in a good way).

We finished off our meal with crème brulee and malabi (NIS 30 each). Both were made onsite, although some of the desserts are made elsewhere. The crème brulee’s custard was a little creamier and a bit colder than some versions, but it was certainly tasty. The malabi’s milk pudding and coconut and pistachio topping were good, but it was a bit heavy on the rosewater, which overpowered the rest of it.

Michmoret’s specialty is fish, and there’s no arguing that the kitchen knows what it’s doing on that front. With minimal seasoning and no fancy garnish, the freshness is conveyed swimmingly. I’ll be going back for seconds.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Kosher dairy 
7 Hatut Street 
Mahaneh Yehuda, Jerusalem 
(02) 579-9846

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