The Dan Caesarea is a lovely hotel, with a focus on family fun. There is an actual pool table in the pool, mini cars that kids can drive and two treehouses near the pool that kids can climb.
But the pop-up restaurant Bachetta caters more to adults. The chef is Yehonatan Sharvit, one of the finalists from the fifth season of Game of Chefs, and the food is creative and unique. The setting is lovely – next to the pool of the hotel, with blue and white chairs, white umbrellas and lovely dishes and glassware, you almost feel like you are in Europe.
The menu is “Italian, Mediterranean, Turkish,” said restaurant manager Mohammed Maree, who is very good at his job, an Arabic teacher and an Arabic calligraphy artist. As a reviewer, I always get good service but looking around, I saw that everyone was getting excellent service. The table next to me, a family celebrating a birthday, had an issue with a steak being overcooked. Maree offered to exchange it, but they said it was too late. He then gave them two free desserts and took the steak off the bill. And it was all done with a smile.
I came with my favorite daughter, who is a serious foodie in her own right, and we decided to let Mohammed order for us. We are not an easy pair to cater to. She is allergic to tomatoes or anything made with tomatoes and I have an aversion to raw onions. Again, with a smile, Mohammed said “no problem”, or actually “ma fish mushkila” as we were speaking in Arabic. He also refrained from laughing at my atrocious accent in Arabic, which already earned him points.
What's on the menu?
We started our meal with a unique breadbasket including seeded crackers made in-house. They came with a little bowl of tehina over fennel salad, a spicy carrot zhug, and a watermelon salsa.
“Put all three on a cracker and eat it together,” Mohammed suggested.
I complied but used a little too much carrot zhug the first time, leaving me gasping for a moment.
“Yes, you are really light-skinned. Maybe go easy on the zhug.”Mohammed Maree
“Yes, you are really light-skinned,” Mohammed said laughing. “Maybe go easy on the zhug.” (An aside: zhug is delicious in Ashkenazi chicken soup, which we have every Friday night no matter the temperature outside).
Then there was an amuse bouche, a bite the chef sends out to wake up your tastebuds. It was a very pretty tartlet with a fish cream that was both savory and sweet. It was not my favorite dish.
To me, one of the advantages of going to a restaurant is tasting things that I would never make (or rather, eat) at home. We tasted a series of appetizers that were a great blend of flavors and textures.
First was fatayer (NIS 42), a baked triangle of spinach, zaatar and leeks, served with basil aioli. It was a great start. We tried bruschetta of beef tartare (NIS 58) with egg yolk, capers and shallots. It was decadent and delicious, although a little clumsy to eat, as the tartare kept falling off the toasted bread.
I really enjoyed the brasiole (NIS 68), which had been cured for several weeks at the restaurant. It was served with Persian melon, which is a little less sweet than regular melon, and smoked olive oil. (If anyone has watched The Bear on Hulu, this is something you’ll want to try).
We also tried the amberjack tartare (68), which was served on a yellow tomato gazpacho, with melon and spicy pepper.
Now, none of these appetizers are things that are commonly served at home, at least at my home, although my foodie son makes an amazing carpaccio. Maree wanted us to try the gnocchi carbonara (NIS 66) as well but we begged off, saying we were already getting full. It is served with sauteed lamb, chicken broth and a raw egg yolk that you can then mix with the pasta, and he brought it anyway. It was delicious.
Several of the dishes can be made vegan and are indicated as such on the menu. I like that there are vegan options so a group can eat together.
There were just four main courses offered and we tried two of them. The sirloin (NIS 82), which was offered with a gratin of purple cabbage and a beef broth, was medium rare, just as we had asked for it. The steak had no fat, and was soft and flavorful.
I was more interested in trying the second dish, called lamb cannelloni (NIS 84), which was homemade pasta stuffed with a ragu of lamb and root vegetables, served with a skewer of sweetbreads in a pomegranate glaze. Unfortunately, this dish was the least successful of everything we tried. The sweetbreads were overcooked and the lamb ragout was very salty. I like salty food but this was just too much.
I asked Mohammed to come over and taste the dish, which he did, saying it was the first time he had tasted from a customer’s plate.
“I’ve been telling the kitchen for weeks that it is too salty, but they didn’t want to change it,” he said. “Maybe now that you’ve said something, they’ll fix it.”
For dessert, we shared a deconstructed mille-feuille (NIS 48), which had a coconut-flavored creme patisserie, pistachios, cookies and an almond crumble. Very delicious.
We headed back to Jerusalem sated with good food and good service and feeling like we had a mini-vacation. The pop-up is open until the end of October. Reservations recommended.
BachettaDan Caesarea HotelHours: Sunday–Thursday 7 pm–11 pmKashrut: Rabbanut
The author was a guest of the restaurant.