A perfect mismatch

With its colorful, salon-style decor, Kalo is right at home on the upmarket Beit Lehem Road.

Chef Rachel Ben Elul  52I (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chef Rachel Ben Elul 52I
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Kalo is the perfect embodiment of a neighborhood cafe, a casual, comfortable sidewalk eatery that owes its atmosphere to both its location on the capital’s quaint Beit Lehem Road and its colorful, salon-style decor.
How it started Kalo (which means “light foot”) is the nickname its Jerusalem-born owner, Yaacov Ben-Elul, acquired at the age of six.
After being a bartender and working in restaurants for many years, he decided to start his own.
“I saw Beit Lehem Road as a good neighborhood with good potential,” he says, and so Kalo opened in 1998 as a neighborhood cafe.
His wife created the menu with the help of his sister, Rachel Ben-Elul, who is the chef.
For decoration, he found tiles in the garbage, cleaned them and laid them in his own design throughout the three rooms of the 90-year-old house where the restaurant is based.
In 2001, he also opened a sushi restaurant on Kibbutz Na’an.
Experience Ben-Elul, born in Jerusalem, says that from the age of 10 or 12, she had an affinity for the kitchen. Her mother, born in Barcelona, cooked Sephardi food.
Ben-Elul, who never studied cooking formally – “I do cooking from the stomach!” she says – was initially an engineering student at an ORT school, but didn’t like it. She worked in electronics, then left that and started working in restaurants, including for the ministries of Tourism and Transportation. When her brother opened Kalo, she came on as chef.
Decor With a large collection of mismatched furniture, Kalo has a front sidewalk area that seats about 30; an entry room with a bar and pastry case, seating about a dozen; and a private balcony for eight. Antiques of all sorts decorate the window shelves. Out back is a wood deck that seats 10, and a large garden, available for private parties, that has tables, chairs and couches for 27. Tablecloths of all designs cover the tables.
Cuisine Breakfast is served all day, and there are nine options to choose from, ranging in price from NIS 35 to NIS 52. There are seven first courses, three kinds of focaccia, nine pastas (from NIS 43 to NIS 50), shakshuka, soups and fish dishes. There are 12 kinds of sandwiches, which can also be ordered by the half, and are served with a salad. There are toasts; 11 salads; cakes and sweets; cold and hot beverages; beers and wines. Every Wednesday, the cafe offers sushi.
Many of the foods, like the neighboring streets, are named after biblical figures.
Most popular dish on the menu Ben-Elul points to Mefuneket, “pampered” – a breakfast consisting of two eggs, an herb and nut salad, a green salad with seeds, ricotta cheese bruschetta with fried mushrooms, mozarella cheese with tomatoes and herbs, homemade cured salmon, bread, butter, juice and coffee, for NIS 52.
Chef’s favorite item on the menu “Fish in white wine with butter and garlic sauce.”
What the chef likes best about the work
Biggest accomplishment “When people come into the kitchen and say thank-you.”
Best part of the job “To make new food. We change the menu twice a year.”
Who cooks at home? “My mother, 87 years old, who lives upstairs.” •
Kalo is located at 31 Beit Lehem Road and is kosher. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to midnight; Friday from 7 a.m. to two hours before Shabbat begins; Saturday evening from half an hour after Shabbat ends until 12:30 a.m. (02) 673-6365.
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1⁄2 cup mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce 1 tsp. crushed fresh garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups torn cilantro, lettuce and mixed greens
  • 2 Tbsp. raw, peeled, slivered beets
  • 2 Tbsp. slivered radishes
  • 2 Tbsp. slivered kohlrabi
  • 2 Tbsp. sliced fennel or white cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp. slivered carrots
  • 1⁄4 cup of your favorite vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 large peeled sweet potato, sliced on a mandoline grater into very thin slices
  • 1 tsp. date honey
  • 1 Tbsp. hazelnuts
  • 60 gr. kashkaval cheese, thinly sliced
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and stir-fry a few minutes. Add soy sauce and garlic. Add basil, stir-frying another few seconds. Add honey.
Meanwhile, place sweet potato slices in a deep fryer basket, lower into oil and deep fry. You can also put oil in a deep pot and deep fry them for about 5 minutes, then drain. They will resemble curled potato chips.
Place cilantro, lettuce and mixed greens on serving plate. Add beets, 1 Tbsp. of the radishes, kohlrabi, fennel or cabbage, and carrots.
Pour vinaigrette over vegetables and toss.
Add hazelnuts to salad. Spoon mushroom mixture on top. Scatter the deepfried sweet potato slices around the salad. Garnish with the remaining 1 Tbsp. grated radishes and slivers of kashkaval cheese.
Makes 2 main dish servings or 4 side dishes