Eating kosher Chinese food on Christmas in Jerusalem

The only drawback still is that the restaurant doesn’t deliver to most of Jerusalem.

Naya (photo credit: SAGIV AMZALEG)
Naya
(photo credit: SAGIV AMZALEG)
Like many Jewish New Yorkers, I grew up celebrating “Jewish Christmas” by eating Chinese food on Christmas Day and going to the movies.
The story I heard was that only Chinese restaurants stayed open on Christmas, and it became an American Jewish tradition to eat Chinese food and see a movie on Christmas Day.
With COVID-19, there are no movie theaters, and in Israel most of the restaurants are really Asian fusion rather than Chinese, but it’s still a tradition worth preserving.
This year, with Christmas Day falling on Friday, we decided to celebrate on Thursday night, and we clearly weren’t the only ones. I first wrote about Naya soon after it opened two years ago.
Even then, just six months after opening, when nobody had even imagined COVID-19, Naya began a thriving takeout and delivery business which has only increased with the pandemic. The only drawback still is that the restaurant doesn’t deliver to most of Jerusalem. But the food is good enough that we were willing to drive there to pick it up.
We arrived to quite a scene – a busy kitchen and dozens of bags lined up to receive takeout orders. Naya was very strict with corona directives. In fact, when I lowered my mask to take a sip of a drink, one of the workers came over and politely told me that if I want to lower my mask to drink, I would have to go outside.
“What will happen now with the new closure?” I asked Lahav Doron, one of the three partners in the restaurant. “Will you deliver to Jerusalem?”
“First of all, on May 1 we are opening a branch in Beit Hakerem,” he said. “It will be much smaller, but will have the same menu.”
You heard it here first.
“And,” he continued. “If a group of people wants to get together and make a large enough order, we would come deliver to Jerusalem. In fact, today we had 10 families from Efrat that placed a large order, so we delivered. Not quite sure why today specifically.”
“Of course,” I answered. “Because of Christmas.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked, not having heard the tradition.
“Walla... who knew?” was his response after I explained it.
Now on to the food. Two years after opening, it is still really, really good. I often like to let the chef choose my meal for me, both as I like surprises, and it lets the chef showcase what he believes are his best dishes, as well as those that will best survive the takeout or delivery process.
We received an array of sushi rolls that were creative and well made. Perhaps most interesting was the T and T (NIS 64), an inside-out roll of red tuna, asparagus, shiitaki mushrooms and topped with tobiko (fish eggs). It was served with a truffle cream which I didn’t particularly like, and chose to eat it with wasabi and soy sauce.
One note about the wasabi – there was only a little bit in a small plastic container and it was bland. Luckily, I have my own far spicier version at home that I used. If you like a lot of wasabi, make sure to ask for extra.
We also tried the Nigiri Special, six pieces of nigiri that included two tuna, two salmon, and two yellowtail (NIS 92). The first was fresh and there was a good amount of fish in comparison to the rice.
There was a delicious bowl of duck ramen (NIS 78), with the soup packaged separately from the noodles, duck, vegetables and egg. The broth was more delicately spiced than other ramen I’ve had, but it was just delicious.
Our last dish was chicken tikka served with white rice (NIS 74) made from dark meat chicken, with cauliflower, hummus and green onion. Here the spice was bolder but not too spicy. It was an excellent dish I would definitely order again.
Incidentally, there is an excellent lunch deal, from noon to 5 p.m. every day, that includes an appetizer and a ginger lemonade for the price of the main course. The deal is valid for delivery as well.
Naya
Beit Nekofa
Hours: Noon-11 p.m. Closed on Shabbat
Kashrut: Mateh Yehuda Rabbinate
Tel: (02) 990-0070/71 or order online www.na-ya.com

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.