Walking into Mitzle on a cold Jerusalem night feels like walking into a party. Flames shoot out of the large grill in the center, the music is loud, and the patrons sitting in a horseshoe shape around the grill are clearly having a great time.
Chef Avi Levy of MasterChef Israel fame, and more recently the owner of Hamotzi down the street, opened Mitzle just two months ago as a Jerusalem street food restaurant.
Whatever he is doing seems to be working. On a recent Thursday night there was a line out the door, with several chefs manning the grill, and a giant skewer of doner kebab, manned by a real live Turkish grill-man (yes, he’s really from Turkey).
Doner kebab is different from shwarma, which is small pieces of meat, usually turkey, pressed into a skewer. Doner, which is how it’s served in Turkey, is one large piece of meat on a skewer and you get thin slices, rather than small pieces.
The seats around the grill are definitely the most fun, but if you’re of a certain age, or just want to be able to have a conversation, there are a few tables upstairs (which is also where the restroom is). To reach it you climb a steep circular staircase, which is not for the faint of heart, and not for anyone with mobility issues.
“This place has a great vibe,” said my foodie son and frequent dining companion.
With one exception that I’ll get to later, everything is made in-house, from the pickles to the spice mixtures to the sauces to the kebabs. It is this attention to detail that makes outstanding food.
Avi chose the menu for us and started us off with a plate of grilled vegetables called Kumsitz Mitzle (NIS 56) that included fennel, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, onions and red peppers topped with a green herb sauce. The flavor of the vegetables was intense, and I thought my vegan friend Estelle would be happy to make a meal of just this dish. It is a great option if you have a vegetarian or a vegan in your group, and was a large portion.
Next Avi brought a tasting of Baladi of the Jerusalem Mountains (NIS 52), which was grilled eggplant with white tehina and pine nuts. It was so good it had my son and I dueling for the last bite.
The main courses are served on a round metal tray with various salads, pickles and sauces.
“This is for people who like to play with their food,” my son said. “You can try the dishes with different combinations of sauces and salads and see what you make.”
Avi brought us a lamb kebab on a pretzel roll (the roll is the only thing not made in-house, but they contract directly with a bakery). I am normally not a big fan of kebab, as I don’t like a strong flavor of onions, but this was different. The meat was soft and tasty and went perfectly with the pretzel roll. In fact, I came home and told my husband I want to take him there for this dish.
We also tried the shwarma, which is served on a homemade laffa. At first, I found the shwarma a little bland, as I chose not to eat it with the green onion that it was served with. But with a little mixing and matching of the amba and the herb sauces, it was delicious.
When it came time for dessert, I didn’t have great expectations and planned to leave it to my son, who can afford the calories much more than I can. I expected malabi, which I don’t really like, and some type of parve cake. We received a nice plate of desserts, including malabi, which was much better than the standard one, and a semolina cake that was still warm from the oven.
Mitzle, by the way, is the type of place where you can strike up a conversation with the people next to you as you’re all sitting around the grill. When we arrived, the young couple next to us said it was their third time at the restaurant. He is a chef, and they came from a moshav outside Tel Aviv. They left, and were replaced by a middle-aged couple who told me they came all the way from Netanya for dinner, and were heading back right after their meal.
So the news about Mitzle is out. They don’t take reservations, so you might have to wait a bit for a seat. But it’s worth it.
MitzleJaffa 105Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 12 noon-midnight; Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.Phone: (02) 672-9990Kashrut: Jerusalem Rabbinate
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.