Jems: It’s all about the beer and food at this Israeli chain - review

It’s also a chain of great meat restaurants – 14 at the last count – where meat dishes are interspersed with a very good choice of vegan options.

 Jems (photo credit: VADISLAV SHUMKIN)
(photo credit: VADISLAV SHUMKIN)

Jems is a household word in Israel, famous for the beer that Jeremy Welfeld began making soon after his aliyah in 1984.

It’s also a chain of great meat restaurants – 14 at the last count – where meat dishes are interspersed with a very good choice of vegan options.

The one we chose to visit recently was the Netanya branch, situated in Kiryat Sharon, and we had the pleasure of Jeremy’s company during our meal, getting firsthand information on what we were eating and drinking.

Tasting the famous beer and food

The first item to arrive at our table was the tray of different lagers and ales, which gives a great overview of the subtle distinctions between seven or eight kinds of beer. Jeremy explained how the difference in fermentation timing and the hops that are used all contribute to the varying flavors and colors of the beers. The alcohol content ranges from 5% to 9%, and none of them taste or look the same.

It was fun tasting the whole selection of beers available, a sip at a time (NIS 49 a tray).

 Jems (credit: YOSSI SHAUL) Jems (credit: YOSSI SHAUL)

Now it was time to try the food. Jeremy ordered what seemed an inordinate number of dishes for us to try, and we tried to convince him it was too much, but to no avail. Much of it was packed up for another meal at home.

The first course was homemade onion rings and chicken wings. The rings were fried in beer batter – what else? – and were crispy and good (NIS 42). The wings were not sweet as usual but very spicy, crispy on the outside and tender within – a real delicacy (NIS 48).

Next up was a dish of beef carpaccio sprinkled with vegan Parmesan cheese and vegan carpaccio, which was actually very thinly sliced zucchini, garnished with sun-dried tomatoes and the same Parmesan. Both dishes were very good and attractively presented.

Jeremy also insisted we try his chopped liver. This was very pâté-like – no hard-boiled eggs visible – and it tasted wonderful (NIS 47).

After this we had vegan asado, the “meat” being just the right chewy texture. It came on a bed of white bean puree with chimichurri and tomatoes.

Yet another vegan dish, which was packed up to take to our vegan son, was chopped fried mushrooms on a bed of chestnut cream with beetroots and rocket leaves, and vegan lentil burgers on caramelized sweet potato (NIS 64). Both were pronounced delicious by their recipient.

Finally some homemade sausages appeared – long, thin and very spicy. We loved them, and Jeremy revealed the ingredients – beef and lamb with chili. No wonder they were so good – meaty and juicy (NIS 78).

We were offered coffee to go with dessert, and my companion had a thimbleful of espresso – very Italian in taste and appearance.

The shared dessert was a chocolate volcano with vanilla ice cream – very sweet and a great ending to an outstanding meal.

Jeremy, who lives in Ra’anana with his Brazilian-born wife, Sandra, and their children, recounts how the pandemic really affected his business, as it did many others whose livelihood is in catering.

He has brought American tastes and great beer to many places in Israel with his chain of eateries, which maintain the high standard he set for himself. Before setting up his business here, he completed serious studies in the States to qualify as a brewer.

So find yourself a Jems and try it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Jems60 Tom LantosKiryat Sharon, NetanyaTel: (09) 748-5247Open: Sun.-Tues., 12 noon to midnight; Wed., 12 noon- 12.30 a.m.; Thurs., 12 noon- 1 a.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.-1 a.m.Kashrut: Netanya Rabbinate.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.