Oy, Davidaleh

Looks aren’t everything.

davidaleh restaurant 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
davidaleh restaurant 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
What Davidaleh has going for it is its location and its look. Nestled in downtown Jerusalem on Rehov Rivlin (in place of the now defunct Rivlin restaurant), the place has a great outdoor patio that’s perfect for soaking up the sun and people watching. Everything is done (or preserved) in old Jerusalem style, with stone paving outdoors and Middle Eastern tile indoors. The entranceways are arches fitted with metal-and-glass doors, as is common in old Jerusalem buildings. Jerusalem-themed literary excerpts from S.Y. Agnon and Naomi Shemer are printed on the walls. Potted plants give the patio a cozy feel.
What Davidaleh doesn’t have going for it is its menu, its service or even its coffee. Though we were seated right away, my dining partner and I waited for more than 10 minutes before we finally asked for menus and were brought them. From that point on, the service was quicker, though far from friendly.
The Jerusalem theme theoretically carries over and inspires the food, but really, there are just a few dishes with an Israeli feel; the rest are standard French and Italian wannabes of lasagna, pasta, quiche, risotto and pizza. Of course, the same old salads are present, too. At least the sandwiches have cute Jerusalem neighborhood names.
Again, the look is good: each dish is presented nicely in a simple but elegant manner. The taste, though, falls short. In an attempt to ascertain the Jerusalem aspect, my dining partner and I ordered a few first courses: the yerushalmi kugel (NIS 22), heirloom eggplant (NIS 32) and goat cheese cigars (NIS 36). At first I thought the kugel was peppery, as yerushalmi kugel normally is. But then I realized that the “garnish” of pickles and olives also contained jalapeno peppers – and that was the source of the spicy flavor, which rapidly became overpowering. In any case, the kugel was a bit too salty and had a too-crunchy crust. The roasted heirloom eggplant came on a bed of tehina, as it typically does. The tehina was a bit thick, which was ok. The problem was the pickled lemons on top of the whole thing that twisted the flavor around. I did appreciate the rock salt, though. As far as edible cigars go, the goat cheese sticks had a chance. Oily is expected, but sprigs of thyme buried inside the cheese are not. The pizza sauce-like dip helped only slightly.
Although it was not on the menu and we didn’t order it, we were treatedto a dish of salads (roasted peppers, eggplant, tehina, pesto, zucchiniand beets) and fresh bread. The dense bread was obviously freshly madeon premises, and the salads were quite good, even if the beets were abit plain.
As a main course, we opted to share the “quiche kosh” (NIS 48), whichis made with whatever vegetables are on hand. We thought we had luckedout with sweet potato. However, a particularly bland and thick crustovershadowed whatever flavor the filling might have had.
Our two cups of coffee would have been fine if they had been hot. We didn’t bother to try dessert.
The manager informed us that the restaurant had recently undergone somechanges both managerially and in the kitchen, but that’s not a validexcuse. He also said that the menu would undergo alterations within thenext few weeks. While it’s apparent the chef is trying to make the bestof what he has to work with, unfortunately, it’s just not enough. Theinvestment that was made to secure a prime location like Davidaleh’sshould be matched by a similar investment in the kitchen and staff.
Davidaleh, Rehov Rivlin 7, Jerusalem. (02) 624-6316. Kosher.