The very Jerusalem art of dining...

... at the Israel Museum.

Sea bream chreime in a spicy tomato sauce with pickled lemons and crispy chickpeas (photo credit: AVITAL GINSBERG)
Sea bream chreime in a spicy tomato sauce with pickled lemons and crispy chickpeas
(photo credit: AVITAL GINSBERG)
Modern, which from its perch at the Israel Museum overlooks the Valley of the Cross and the Knesset, caters not only to museum guests but also to politicians and media types with its contemporary Jerusalem-style cuisine.
On our visit we were greeted by owner Zafrir Ginsberg, who was extremely hospitable and professional. Ginsberg told us that Modern, which he opened with wife Avital in 2011, is their first restaurant in the capital after having owned successful restaurants in Tel Aviv and Herzliya. The couple is dedicated to presenting high-end, unique versions of native dishes.
We kicked off our first course with Egyptian green falafel. How to make this ubiquitous dish new again? It seems a lot of thought was put into the creation of this falafel, with its blend of herbs and spices providing an added dimension. Perfectly soft and well-seasoned on the inside and crunchy on the outside, it balanced texture and taste.
A tomato and anchovy salad was a pure pleasure, as not only were there different types of tomatoes, but some were charred and some were refreshingly cold, lending a twist in texture. We didn’t know that the workaday tomato could be, well, exciting – bright, juicy and flavorful. Mixed with asparagus, aioli and croutons, while each element was distinct, the dish came together in a fusion of sweet, spicy and citric.
Salmon with beet cubes, dill, basil, lime aioli, ginger foam and soybeans was where Modern’s exquisite presentation became evident. Mesmerized by the colors and the beauty of the dish, we almost didn’t want to spoil it by digging in (though hunger pangs naturally won out). While the salmon was fresh and tasty, this dish seemed to be more about delighting in the experience of being able to play with your food, mixing and matching the different accompaniments with the fish.
Amberjack tartare with onion, coriander, mango, chili and pine nuts was served on chopped toasted eggplant and tehina – and the tartare was one of the freshest we’ve had. We don’t know where they source their fish from, but the quality was exceptional. The flavorful fish was very tender and hardly required chewing.
Main dishes got off to a good start with beef and apricot kebab, well-seasoned and tenderized, on lentils tabbouleh and tehina.
Next came sea bream chreime in a spicy tomato sauce with pickled lemons and crispy chickpeas, accompanied by warm halla. Huge fans of this popular Moroccan fish stew, we weren’t disappointed. The sea bream was soft and flaky and the sauce had a nice kick, coming together in a dish that was clean and simple without distracting bells and whistles.
In a nod to vegetarians, onion tagine consisted of onions stuffed with rice, grains, blackberries, raisins and tomatoes, in a tomato and fennel seed sauce. While it was pleasant, we felt more wowed by other offerings.
One such offering included dumplings, filled with thin rib meat, ginger and nutmeg stew, and served with artichoke, tomato cubes, olive oil and lemon. Smelling of nutty, freshly made pasta, the dumplings were delicious. The meat was so soft, it melted in our mouths. Needless to say, we were tempted to order a second helping.
Dessert became art with the chocolate soufflé board, as accompaniments such as vanilla ice cream and mousse in a hard chocolate shell created an edible version of Van Gogh’s famed “Starry Night.” Well, it was the star of our palates – not only was it beautiful, but scrumptious. We marveled over the fact that it was pareve and would gladly make another visit just to indulge in it again.
In addition to standard seating, communal tables are sprinkled throughout the room and are a fun option for groups or even a quick pre-museum glass of vino. First courses range from NIS 20-55; mains from NIS 65-120.
It is always a joy to visit the Israel Museum; with the addition of Modern, the experience is a feast for the senses.
The writers were guests of the restaurant.
11 Ruppin Road
(02) 648-0862