Like his Hahatzer, chef Moti Ohana’s new Medita in Jerusalem abounds with good food and loyal patrons..
(photo credit: PR)
What do you do when your Jerusalem meat lovers’ culinary landmark Hahatzer is constantly packed and the demand for tables far exceeds supply? If you’re energetic Moti Ohana, Hahatzer’s visionary chef and proprietor, you open up a much larger restaurant close by that runs by the same credo of expertly prepared dishes with a wide variety of choices, reasonable prices and a luxurious atmosphere.
Welcome to Medita (short for Mediterranean), Ohana’s latest project that is nothing if not ambitious. Taking over a huge corner location in the upscale strip mall on the corner of Derech Hebron and the road that leads up to East Talpiot’s Haas Promenade, he has created a sleek, spacious magnet for the flow-over crowd from Hahatzer. And based on a recent meal there, the restaurant is going to build its own independent fan base.
“We opened in the middle of Operation Protective Edge and in the middle of the nine days before Tisha Be’av,” said Ohana as he gave my wife and me a tour of the open, glass- and wood-heavy structure. “But little by little, we’re gaining traction.”
Ohana likens Medita to a casual Mediterranean bistro, where someone can stop in for his or her favorite dish during the day, sit at the centrally located bar and have a drink while ordering a meal, bring a large crowd for a nighttime celebration or enjoy an intimate meal for two in one of the spacious corners.
With seating for 80 and a separate back room that can host special functions of up to 110 diners, Medita is in no danger of having to turn people away. But if the secret of how good the food is gets out, all that could change.
Ohana says that the only dishes served at both restaurants are the irresistible smoky creamed eggplant dip served with focaccia and the trademark asada Hahatzer (NIS 82), and the delectable short ribs in orange sauce garnished with scallions and pomegranates. Both items are just as perfect at Medita as they are at Hahatzer.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Besides the creamed eggplant, the piping fresh focaccia that comes straight out of the formidable-looking taboun at the entrance to the restaurant is served with a selection of spreads, including tangy lemon tehina, pesto and olive oil with balsamic vinegar.
In addition to a variety of healthy salad offerings (NIS 28-34), the starters included a refreshing denis carpaccio (NIS 48) served with artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes and macadamia nuts, taboun-baked eggplant with tehina, roasted cherry tomatoes, lemon, parsley (NIS 34) and a delicious pulled asado beef and humous dish that packed a spicy kick (NIS 24).
For main courses, there’s plenty to eat besides meat, and Ohana has done his part to ensure that noncarnivores won’t get short shrift. The fillet of denis with tehina and macadamia nut crust (NIS 78) was a revelation in its texture and taste.
Other offerings from the sea included whole sea bream baked with coarse salt, arak and dill, and fish kebab fettuccine (NIS 62).
But if it’s meat you like, then Medita more than holds its own with its older sister Hahatzer. The highlight remains the aforementioned asado Hahatzer, but a plethora of choices abound, such as chicken livers with mushrooms, shallots, corn gnocchi and wine sauce (NIS 54); beef stew with root vegetables, red wine and corn gnocchi (NIS 76); the mainstay entrecote steak (NIS 94); and a juicy and tender butcher’s cut (NIS 92). We received ample samplings of the last two on our personal butcher’s block, including some tasty pargiyot and grilled vegetables.
Although we begged off the seductive dessert list, which included apple crumble, chocolate mousse, and a pear or toffee tart, Ohana’s attentive and friendly staff insisted on bringing us a dish of vanilla ice cream served with raw tehina, silan, halva pieces and pistachios (NIS 30). Along with a strong cup of espresso, it was a refreshing end to a delightful meal.
With its generous and inventive use of Mediterranean ingredients, Medita certainly earns the right to its name.
Before too long, Ohana may have to open a third restaurant to handle the overflow from his latest Mediterranean bistro.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
101 Derech Hebron, Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 566-4466
Open Sunday through Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. (for business lunch); 5 p.m. until the last customer