It’s a date

Dinner at 1868 in Jerusalem is an elite and elegant, albeit expensive, experience.

1868 Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
1868 Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the sign in the entryway to 1868, underneath the name of the restaurant, read the words “Elite Jerusalem Cuisine.” A lofty sentence to open with. However, it is seemingly true of the seven-year-old establishment. Fitting into a snug niche of kosher fine dining, 1868 offers a pleasant and upscale dining experience.
The name 1868 refers to the year in which the first stone house was built outside of the Old City in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of a colossal expansion of the city. Situated just across from the King David Hotel, 1868 has a clientele that is comprised mainly of tourists and local businessmen. The only language being spoken the night I had dinner there was English.
The first thing that caught my eye was the sparse décor of 1868. The cavernous restaurant, which is cleverly divided into a number of small and intimate rooms, boasts not one painting. The bare white walls allow one to appreciate the historic architecture of the building. The location feels ancient, from the drafty windows to the vaulted ceilings.
The menu, which is adapted daily to take advantage of the freshest produce at the market, has a long list of appetizers and entrees that are drawn from French cuisine. There is an in-house sommelier ready to recommend the right bottle from 1868’s impressive wine list.
Upon considering the choices at hand, we opted to allow chef Jacob Turjeman to choose for us. Turjeman, who made a brief appearance at our table, is much younger than one would expect. For a man with the weight of such a popular restaurant on his shoulders, he seemed cool as a cucumber.
The first course, which was ultimately my favorite of the savory dishes, was a white root soup with barley. From the presentation to the flavors to the delicious rolls served alongside it, this soup was unforgettable and a perfect starter course on a particularly cold Jerusalem night.
Next we were treated to Atlantic salmon carpaccio with aioli and citrus fruits and an endive salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Both dishes were vibrant with color, which contrasted nicely with the white tablecloth and plates. Following that, Turjeman sent out the sweetbread lasagna and veal tongue. For the adventurous diner, these dishes are sure winners, though a little on the salty side.
For the main course, we had a gorgeous lamb chop on a bed of mashed peas. Here, Turjeman really showed his creativity. While not nearly the fanciest plate on his haute kosher menu, the flavors and colors of this entrée were fantastic and unexpected.
Then came the point in the meal when I worried for Turjeman – dessert. In kosher restaurants, dessert is often a disappointment. But 1868’s candy platter was beautiful and surprisingly delicious. Evoking the opulence of Turkish cuisine, the platter was comprised of a host of bite-sized treats. One particular highlight was the frozen rosemary and grapefruit marshmallow. Unlike any texture or taste I had ever encountered, this small jelly-like cube was packed with punch.
Overall, 1868 lived up to the expectations I had. The food was well seasoned and exuberant, the staff was friendly and efficient. The location is appropriate for business meetings or romantic dinners. Given the high prices, you might want to save 1868 for a special occasion.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
10 King David Street, Jerusalem
(02) 622-2312
Sunday – Thursday, noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday, an hour after Shabbat until 11:30 p.m.