Dreaming of Arcadia

Ten years on, Ezra Kedem's restaurant is still the shining star in Jerusalem's culinary skies.

arcadia 88.298 (photo credit: )
arcadia 88.298
(photo credit: )
For more than 10 years, Arcadia has pumped excitement into the downtown Jerusalem dining scene. It still gets the taste buds racing. On a recent visit, we tasted the new winter menu and found Ezra Kedem's culinary commitments intact, highlighted by the always-warm, welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant continues to showcase Ezra Kedem's devotion to fine Israeli cuisine. His carefully crafted, perfectly chosen foods, based on the freshest flavors of the season, form the heart of this admirable restaurant's reputation. There are staples such as the Baladi eggplant with raw tehina and olive oil, or the stripped steak (Butcher's steak), in which Kedem has always taken great pride. After an aperitif of Campari and passionfruit, we started with a citrus pumpkin soup, served in an espresso cup spotted with Nigella seeds. I loved its verve and balance, the hint of citrus nicely complementing the texture of the pumpkin. Together with homemade bread and two dips, one made of herbed peppers and the other a delicate tomato dish, it was a magnificent way to begin our meal. Next was an excellent 'Calzones' - a big ravioli filled with steamed eggplant, goat cheese spiced up with hyssop (za'atar), toasted spinach and a sprinkling of tiny tomato cubes and garlic. A hearty dish, the shape reminiscent of eastern European kreplach, it is a perfect starter if you just want to take the edge off your hunger without destroying your appetite for what follows. We continued with an outstanding dish of grilled sea bass with black olive oil and saffron on a bed of Swiss chard and an utterly delightful sauce made of Swiss chard juice. This was all cooked with flair and imagination and beautifully presented - creative without being overly pretentious. The other main course of tender and moist slow-cooked lamb stew, cooked with turnips, Jerusalem artichokes and bulgur wheat, was also very good. The mix of flavors in this dish worked perfectly. By this stage we were stuffed but simply could not resist an inventive dessert of apple cider soup with baklawa and a cinnamon stick. An unlikely marriage of savory and sweet flavors which, if you allow it to, may end up to be true love. A medium bodied 2001 Yarden Syrah proved a perfect accompaniment to the meal. For years Kedem has been a patron of Israeli cuisine. He distinguishes between two main kitchens in Israel: the Jerusalemite and the Galileean. A third, influenced by the Negev, is still in its developing stages. His commitment to Jerusalemite, Judean Hill regional cuisine expresses itself in the fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats and herbs that the restaurant serves. Kedem buys his goat cheeses from Shai Seltzer in Sataf; he grows a number of vegetables and herbs in his home garden in Ein Kerem and supplements them with herbs grown in the Agrippas alley that houses the restaurant. Arcadia, 10 Agrippas Street. A special business menu offers two courses for NIS 150 in the evening, and NIS 99 for three courses at lunch. Opening hours: 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m., 7:00p.m.-10:30 p.m. every day. Not kosher.