The building housing the Kishle, the upscale restaurant in the Setai Hotel in Jaffa used to be a prison in Ottoman times. Then it became a police station under the British Mandate and today, the beautiful space is the Kishle, a fine dining restaurant where chef Shay Dayani offers contemporary food with a nod to Turkish flavors.
As I entered the restaurant, there were two musicians playing live music, one on an oud and the other on a darbuka. The music set the tone for what would be an excellent meal. The restaurant is beautiful with tables spaced far apart under the arches of traditional Arab building. This is not the place for a rushed meal, it’s a place to savor both the food and the atmosphere.
The menu is limited, with 10 starters and seven main dishes. I personally prefer a more limited menu done well, than a menu that has everything but the kitchen sink in it.
What is there to eat in the former prison?
We started our meal with a freshly baked focaccia and dips (NIS 59), which included a tomato dip, a pepper and herb aioli, and seasoned Thassos olives.
For starters, I chose the goose liver pate (NIS 95) – I’m a sucker for goose liver and this one was very good. It was 80% goose liver and 20% chicken liver and was served with blueberry jam and brioche toast. My husband chose the lamb kebab sanieh (NIS 88), which came with onions and tomatoes in a tahini soup. While my appetizer was a small portion, this was a large portion of three round kebabs that were well-spiced and went with the tahini.
For his main course, my husband chose the whole grilled sea bass (NIS 145), which came with grilled vegetables in a hot skillet. The fish was fresh and Cliff skillfully took the fish apart, getting rid of the bones. Continuing on my carnivorous journey, I went with lamb chops (NIS 180), which were some of the best lamb chops I’ve eaten. There were three thick lamb chops and I immediately regretted my promise to share both main dishes with my husband. It came with a cardamon and honey sauce and was served with wild rice. It was one of those dishes you want to savor every bite.
There is an extensive wine list and with our main dishes, we each had a glass of Yarden Merlot (NIS 45), a wine that goes with almost everything.
Now it was time for dessert. My husband is a chocolate fiend and I like desserts, especially cheesecake, but pareve desserts are usually not worth the calories. Niv, our waiter, asked if he could surprise us. In a quirky fact of history, Niv’s father, a policeman, had served in the Kishle when it was an Israeli police station.
Niv bought us three beautiful desserts, the best of which was a deconstructed lemon pie that made it impossible for me to keep my vow of just one bite.
The KishleSetai Hotel, JaffaHours: Sunday-Thursday 6:30 p.m.–10 pmPhone: 03-601-6022Kashrut: Rabbanut Jaffa
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.