The menu for RANI, the new dairy restaurant at the First Station, describes it as Food, People, Love. It recently opened, and the owners, all members of one family, clearly see the connection.
“It’s home-style food with a twist of gourmet,” co-owner Rinat Sylvester told me. (Full disclosure: Sylvester is a neighbor of mine and our kids went to school together.) She runs the restaurant with her brother, her son, and her cousin, and they all seem to be having a great time.
The name RANI comes from a Libyan proverb that says “Rani Nifrek Beek,” meaning “I will be happy with you,” and Sylvester says the food and the ambience aim to make people happy. It’s also a great place to people-watch at the First Station.
Libyan-inspired dairy/fish food at Jerusalem's First Station
The food is Libyan-inspired and dairy/fish, mostly because the kitchen they took over was already dairy. They also wanted the restaurant to have mehadrin kashrut so that everyone could eat there and thought it would be easier to keep it dairy.
Inside the restaurant there is a shelf with games, puzzles and coloring books for children.
“We want this to be a place where parents can come for a glass of wine with their kids and their kids will stay busy and they can just relax,” Sylvester said, bending down to ask a little girl to see her drawing.
I could definitely have used a place like this when my kids were young. But now they’re all grown up and I brought two of them (Nos. 1 and 4) with me to RANI.
We tried the fish croquettes with Moroccan Frena bread (NIS 88), which was delicious and a little spicy from the homemade harissa sauce. But if my Ashkenazi palate can handle it, you should be fine. My other favorite dish was the crunchy fish and chips (NIS 74) made of cod and served with a delicious tartar sauce. The meals come served on aluminum trays à la Eyal Shani with newspaper. It was a fun way to eat.
There are five different salads, and although I was intrigued by the Illegal Juan Salad with “all the vegetables in the world,” I let the chef choose what I should taste, and he brought the unique fried okra salad with roasted eggplant, peppers in tehina and harissa (NIS 58), which looked like a painting.
We also tried the chraime, a fish fillet in red sauce that was also delicious (NIS 90) and was served with a small challah that I kept dipping into the sauce.
For dessert we had a wonderful chocolate soufflé (NIS 48) that had me wondering how many hours I’d need at the gym next week.
There are also cocktails that looked enticing, which I didn’t try, and house wines (which I did), and the rose I drank went very well with all the food.
On Fridays, from 12 noon to 4 p.m., there is Kabbalat Shabbat with a DJ that sounds like a lot of fun.
RANIFirst Station, JerusalemHours: Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.Kashrut: Mehadrin
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.