When I was first invited to the Palace to try the new menu, I thought that perhaps Queen Elizabeth had read my reviews here and wanted me to write about the food at the Royal Palace. But alas, this Palace was the one at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem. Yet after eating dinner there, I can’t imagine that the food at the Queen’s Palace is any better.
Just walking into the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem makes you feel like you’re on vacation already. The Palace, which seats 55, is just off the massive lobby. It is a nice space, with comfortable chairs and linen tablecloths. When one of the servers accidentally spilled a little olive oil on our tablecloth before our dessert, she insisted on changing the tablecloth even though it would only be used for dessert. The olive oil, by the way, is a custom blend ordered specially by Executive Chef Itzik Mizrachi Barak.
Barak’s family is 9th generation Jerusalemite, and his grandfather was the “mukhtar” of Mahaneh Yehuda during the British mandate.
“The concept is Jerusalem food that I was raised with and that I still eat in my home,” Mizrachi said. “It has a lot of Turkish and Syrian influences and we change the menu daily depending on what is fresh at the market.”
“It has a lot of Turkish and Syrian influences and we change the menu daily depending on what is fresh at the market.”Itzik Mizrachi Barak
Everything is made in-house, including all of the syrups from the cocktails with which we started our meal. London-born bartender Jon is serious about his cocktails, which are matched to the food. He suggested that I have the Shuk Mahaneh Yehuda (NIS 64) which is gin, chamomile tea, pressed white grapes, rosemary and sparkling white wine. It was light and refreshing and a great way to start the meal. My foodie son had the “17” (NIS 58) which was gin, lemon juice, black tea, ginger and honey. Also delicious.
Barak offered us a tasting menu which we happily accepted. We started our meal with meze, a series of small salads which included a homemade Jerusalem bagel (NIS 20), the long oblong round bread with sesame seeds sold in Jerusalem’s Old City, homemade tehina (18 NIS), which also had a smoked eggplant cream, garlic in tamar Hindi sauce (NIS 18) and the winner of this round, a labaneh (which is usually dairy) made from almonds.
We then moved on to a series of first courses which were outstanding. One dish I’ve always wanted to try is kibbe nayah made with raw meat and often served in non-kosher Arab restaurants. Here it was called Tcheega (its Turkish name) and was raw beef mixed with herbs and burghul, also known as bulgur wheat, and served in spinach leaves. We also had the sweetbreads (NIS 80) which were just salty enough served with a smoked eggplant cream with artichokes. I tried to make myself slow down so it would last longer.
For our main course, Carlos Asfour, the very professional restaurant manager, offered us smaller portions of two of their specialties, grilled lamb chops and entrecôte. The kosher supervision at the Palace is mehadrin, part of what I believe to is be a new trend of upscale mehadrin restaurants. I have sometimes found the meat in these restaurants to be a little salty or tough because of the very strict kashrut rules. Not here. The entrecôte steak (NIS 135) was a perfect medium rare, tender, and not at all salty.
But it is the lamb chops (NIS 125) I can’t stop thinking about. The chops were much thicker than the ones I occasionally splurge on at home and were as soft as butter. I actually sat back in my chair and said to my son, “This may be the best lamb chop I’ve had in my life.” They really were that good.
The service was outstanding as you might expect, and I thought the prices were reasonable, given the quality of the food and presentation. I’m already planning my next meal at the Palace. Maybe I’ll see if Queen Elizabeth is free to join me.
The Palace and the Garden TerraceWaldorf Astoria HotelGershon Agron Street 26-28, JerusalemOpen: Sunday-Thursday evenings, 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.Phone: (02) 542-3333Kosher: Jerusalem Rabbinate mehadrin, meat and chicken Badatz, Rav Rubin
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.