Bistro by day, pick-up bar by night

Burla offers a great selection of bar food and drinks in central Jerusalem.

Bistro by day, pick-up bar by night (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bistro by day, pick-up bar by night
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Growing up in London, I am no stranger to a good gastropub, so I was excited to try the new tapas menu at Burla, a popular bar in downtown Jerusalem.
My dining companion and I braved the snowstorm to head over there, and although the bar was fairly quiet when we arrived at 8.30 p.m., by 11 p.m. it was packed to capacity with local artsy students who seemed to be regulars, as well as groups of Americans and other expats looking for good food, drink and the possibility of meeting someone new.
Burla has been open for three years, but chef Shanir Hayon, formerly of the upscale Gabriel restaurant, moved there three months ago and designed a new menu with tapas treats and more.
We decided to divide and conquer. My dining partner took the meat dishes, and I went for the fish and vegetarian options. There was plenty to choose from for both of us. I started with the famous ceviche (NIS 33), which was incredibly fresh, with a nice tangy taste – one of my favorite dishes. Another great dish was the mushrooms sautéed with garlic, honey and Parmesan (NIS 28). The mushrooms were succulent and perfectly cooked.
Among other dishes we sampled were the red mullet risotto (NIS 30), which was creamy and had a good consistency but lacked any real kick; and the Caesar salad (NIS 28), which had slightly too much dressing for my taste, making the lettuce leaves soggy. The Middle Eastern eggplant baladi (NIS 26) had a delicious smoky flavor profile, and I loved the addition of roasted peppers. My companion tried the meat version, however, and found it bland.
I happen to love most things cauliflower, so I particularly enjoyed the cauliflower coated and fried with sweet chili sauce and tehina (NIS 23). It is a great bar snack, very simple, although I would have preferred more sauce and a lighter batter. The bar also serves fried calamari rings in the same batter (NIS 31), and my companion agreed that he would have liked lighter batter and more flavor.
From the meat selection, my dining companion tried the sirloin carpaccio (NIS 39), which was nice but underwhelming, and the entrecote skewer (NIS 28), which was very fatty. On the other hand, he particularly enjoyed the hamburger (NIS 47), served with fries and salad.
When it came to desserts, we both agreed: they were mouth-wateringly delicious. We sampled the chocolate soufflé (NIS 28), which was a perfect balance of warm, rich chocolate with creamy vanilla ice cream and halva. The crème Burla (NIS 28) is a classic crème brulée with a good crunch on top and a creamy base. Last was the surprise dessert (NIS 27) which, luckily for us, was an almond tart served fresh out of the oven in a mini-skillet.
The selection of drinks is vast, and we both enjoyed the Kirill sangria (NIS 38/glass), and I also sampled a fruity glass of Australian Yellow Tail Shiraz (NIS 33/glass; NIS 119/bottle).
As bar menus go, there really is something for everyone, and the tapas dishes are perfect for sharing or a late-night feast.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
37 King George Avenue, Jerusalem
Open every day, noon – 5 a.m.