Itzik Abu worked as a security guard before he did the obvious: join the family restaurant.
By SYBIL KAPLAN
Sometimes you miss the what is right under your nose or in your own home. That was what happened to Itzik Abu five years ago.After the Jerusalem-born man finished high school and three years in the Givati Brigade, he took a job as a security guard in a Jerusalem suburb in 2005.After doing that for a year, he says, “My father suggested I join the family business” – the fish restaurant Ahavat Hayam, which he had opened in 2000 under the name Shirat Hayam. His father, Ya’acov, had previously managed the Chez Simon restaurant on Rehov Shamai and owned the restaurant in the Jerusalem Theater.“My father has been in the restaurant business for 40 years,” says 28-year-old Abu in wonderful English he learned as a child watching a lot of English-language movies.Learning experienceThe first year, Abu learned the business side of the work and ordering supplies. In 2008, he went to Michlelet Hachef school in Bayit Vagan to learn to be a chef and graduated the following year.“Now everything I learned I show to a grill man, a man for salads and a cook who works with spices, fish and cooking,” he says.The décor AdvertisementThe ambience of the restaurant, which seats 100 in its two rooms, is nautical and elegant.Aquariums filled with fish serve as a divider between the two dining areas. Stuffed fish and other nautical items also decorate the rooms.The tables have white tablecloths and navy blue napkins, and each table has flowers in a blue glass vase.The menu Many fish restaurants also serve meat or spaghetti but, says Abu, “We only do one thing – fish.”Gray mullet, drum fish, bass, red mullet, white bream and farida are available. Trout and St. Peter’s fish come from Kibbutz Dan, while the salmon comes from Norway.Abu says the most Israeli thing on their menu are the salads.“Israelis like to eat with their eyes. They want to see a table that is full.”When patrons sit down for a meal at Ahavat Hayam, for a fixed price they receive 15 homemade salads (which include smoked eggplant salad, baba ghanush, matbuha, tabuleh, beets, cheese and labaneh, roasted eggplant with white cheese, cabbage, humous, tehina, and olives); garlic pita with butter or za’atar and olive oil; a pitcher of orange juice or lemonade; a choice of fish and the style in which it is cooked with a baked potato or French fries; and a dessert of ice cream and Bavarian cream. The meal ranges from NIS 110 to NIS 130, depending on the choice of fish.The business lunch includes the same foods as dinner and is available from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and costs NIS 85 to NIS 99, depending on the fish.Abu enjoys being chief chef of the restaurant. “If you don’t like what you do, you can’t do it because it is very hard work,” he says. “I also like to see the people enjoying what I make.”Plans for the future“We hope to open another restaurant in Jerusalem – maybe fish with meat,” says Abu. “When that will be depends on what God wants. It could be tomorrow, it could be next year.”Dinner is served Sunday through Thursday from 4 p.m. until midnight and Saturday evening, one hour after sunset until midnight. It is closed on Fridays. The restaurant is also available for private parties up to 60 people. Kosher lemehadrin.
Ahavat Hayam is located upstairs of the Paz gas station on Sderot Ben-Zvi, opposite Sacher Park. Tel: 623-6767. Website: www.2eat.co.il/Ahavat-Hayam.Salmon filet with cream and mushroom sauceSauce2 Tbsp. butter 1 onion, sliced 4-6 fresh mushrooms, sliced 500 ml. high-fat sour cream A pinch of nutmeg 2 pinches parve chicken soup powder 2 pinches white pepperSalmon 2 Tbsp. butter 600-700 gr. Norwegian salmon Salt and pepper to taste Chopped parsleyMelt 2 Tbsp. of butter in a frying pan.Add onion and mushrooms. Add cream, nutmeg, parve chicken soup powder and pepper. Cook 5-6 minutes over a low flame. Set aside.In another frying pan, melt 2 Tbsp. of butter. Add salmon, salt and pepper.Fry salmon 2-3 minutes for rare, more for well done.To serve, place fish on plate and pour sauce on top. Garnish with parsley.Makes 2 servings.
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