Four's a charm

Simone and Moise Zemour’s latest venture, the meat restaurant Moise, offers something a little different.

Moise 521 (photo credit: Barry A. Kaplan)
Moise 521
(photo credit: Barry A. Kaplan)
When you meet Moise owners Simone and (Claude) Moise Zemour, they are as warm and welcoming as if you have been their friends for a long time. It is charming to watch Simone sometimes translate for Claude from English to French as they work as a team – she as a chef, and he as a chef, waiter and dishwasher.
How it started
Simone was born in Morocco into a home where they knew good food. “My mother was a very good cook and baker. She loved cooking. We were very well served!” At 17, Simone went to Strasbourg, France, to study classical literature at university, but she became enamored with fine patisserie (French baking that specializes in pastries and sweets). “I started to work by myself, and I said I have to reach that level.”
Simone met Claude, who was studying construction at a technical school. When she met his family members, who were from Algeria, she says, “I discovered another side of food.”
They married in 1978 and lived in several places until they made aliya in 1980. For the next 10 years Simone continued to work, while they had two daughters – now 26 and 21 – and a son, now 24.
In 1990, they opened Lou Pais, a French/Italian restaurant in Rehavia. A year later, they opened Le Moulin near the Rehavia windmill, all the while working with the sous-chef of the King David Hotel.
On the side, Simone began to do catering, In 1993, they closed the restaurants and both took other jobs until, after 13 years, Simone says she got bored. She kept telling herself, “When I retire, I will open something with food.” Then one day she said, “I’m not enjoying my work, it’s not important. I will not wait until I’m old.”
In 2006 they opened a dairy restaurant, Simone, on Derech Hebron.
Last year they decided to change their way of working, and in December they reopened as Moise, a small meat restaurant with great food that is kosher lemehadrin.
The décor
Moise seats 27. The walls are painted orange; there are wood slatted tables and padded slatted wood and metal chairs. A lot of knickknacks adorn the walls. A door opens to a garden for outdoor eating in the summer.
The cuisine
Men are given menus with the prices listed on them, while women receive menus with just the fare but not the cost. Simone says she has received only positive reactions to that outdated ritual. One can order a complete meal or a la carte. The aperitifs are drinks with anise. Kemia, an Arabic word for “hors d’oeuvres” (NIS 29), comprises 12 items including black olives, mini stuffed grape leaves, pesto and herring.
Every day there are three or four soups. Country bread from Teller Bakery is served with oil. There are six to eight plats du jour choices (NIS 99), including boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, couscous and two or three kinds of fish.
Homemade trou Normand (sorbet to cleanse the palate) is available in apple, strawberry, pear or lemon flavors, each with a special liqueur. There are six different desserts such as tarts, chocolate mousse and baklava.
The wine comes from Chemla, a boutique winery.
Most popular dish on the menu
Couscous and bouillabaisse (French fish stew)
Favorite item on the menu
What do you like best about your work?
“As chef, I like to create new dishes. And even if I use a classical recipe, I will change something. I also like the contact with the people; it’s very special. It’s always a pleasure to talk with them and get to know them,” says Simone.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
“When people tell me that the eating experience was very emotional, that it excited them.”
What is the best part of the job?
“To do what I want to do.”
Who cooks at home?
“Me and my daughters.”
What are your plans for the future?
“In the mornings now I teach, and according to orders, I do catering. Because I want to do more catering and less for the restaurant, this summer I am going to Lyon to the Paul Bocuse Culinary Institute.”
Moise is located at Derech Hebron 49. Reservations are recommended (054-546-2851). The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to the last customer; Fridays are available for groups by reservation; on Saturday evenings in the winter, Moise is open one hour after Shabbat ends until the last customer.