Meat lovers: Take heed

Hachatzer's understated appearance doesn't hold a candle to its sizzling offerings.

7 Derech Beit Lehem
Tel: (02) 761-9922
Mediterranean chef restaurant (meat) Kosher
As a South African, my girlfriend prides herself on her appreciation of meat and the vast quantities of it she says she can consume in one sitting. For my part, I had always doubted her boasts. After all, she is beautiful, slim and petite, as well as a lover of salad (and no real carnivores are salad lovers, right?). Our recent visit to Hachatzer was arranged to settle the argument once and for all.
The tasting menu (NIS 170) at this Mediterranean chef’s restaurant on Derech Beit Lehem in Jerusalem is a real feast, and by a real feast I mean three hours of non-stop delicious food being brought to our table until we literally had to beg for the deliveries to stop. It was the perfect opportunity to place my girlfriend’s boasts under scrutiny. Of course, there is a wide range of other dishes at lower prices, but we were going for hale and hearty.
First up on the tasting menu was the restaurant’s signature mezze plate, served with Moroccan bread. While I cautioned my partner not to fill up too much on the salad courses, as the small dishes began to arrive we both found ourselves gorging on the delightful little treats, and, sin of sins for a huge meal, tearing into the freshly baked bread. All the dishes were a modern take on traditional favorites, and all were exceptional. Fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds and roasted garlic elevated this course into something truly worth writing about.
A selection of fresh fish dishes soon followed and passed in a blur. One complaint that we both had was that the dishes were served too fast, leaving little time to appreciate how delicious each was individually. I recall being disappointed by the ceviche (served with a clementine and fennel salad), but I was really impressed with the Asian seared red tuna, which was served coated with sesame in miso, strawberry and balsamic vinegar.
What came next really set Hachatzer apart as a gluttonous carnivorous treat and confirmed beyond any doubt that my girlfriend (on behalf of all South Africans) can hold her own when it comes to devouring delicious meat. The veal asado, a “juicy cut served with a barbecue, orange and ginger sauce” was the highlight of the main meat dishes, and I can honestly say its sweet aftertaste will live long in our memories. It is very rare that I will eat a dish that is so tasty and inventive that I will dream about recreating it in my own kitchen and yet have no idea how to make it as good as the restaurant I ate it in. Hachatzer’s sticky, melt-in-your-mouth veal is one of those dishes.
It was after a couple of starters and then the veal, that I began to feel a little full. The meal was far from over, however, and we had to make room for a filet mignon and a butcher’s cut served with grilled tomatoes. Perhaps both dishes suffered by following the wonderful veal, but I was genuinely underwhelmed – a surprise because butcher’s cut is normally one of my particular favorites.
After a couple of desserts, my girlfriend literally struggled to get out of her chair. And I, while also full, tried to preserve some dignity after losing our argument by licking my platter clean.
At NIS 170, Hachatzer’s tasting menu is not the least expensive meal you are likely to eat in Jerusalem, but the portion size, coupled with the simple yet delectable flavors, make it an option worth exploring. The setting – modern, warm and understated – allows the diner to concentrate on the food which, overall, does not disappoint. The veal was truly special, and for that alone I would recommend this restaurant to anyone and everyone.