Dining: Trattoria Haba

There is many a tasty treat at Trattoria Haba.

Trattoria Haba restaurant (photo credit: PR)
Trattoria Haba restaurant
(photo credit: PR)
One of the nice things about shopping at the Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem is that after a hectic stint of hustling and haggling at the shuk, you can pop in right next door to Trattoria Haba and have a tasty, tranquil meal prepared by chef Michael Katz from the market’s freshest produce. But then again, you don’t have to go to the shuk at all to partake of the many delights the café-cum-bakery has to offer.
With a menu that ranges from appetizers, salads and pasta to fish dishes, quiches, freshly squeezed juices and homemade desserts, the bright, clean, modern, two-story café offers patrons a wide selection for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
On a recent visit to Trattoria Haba with a dining companion one evening, the chef offered us a diverse array of dishes to sample.
While we waited, seated inside near the picture window at one of the restaurant’s many round white marble tables, we had a full view of the parade of pedestrian traffic on busy Jaffa Road. Thankfully, the trattoria is situated on the route of the light rail, so there are no fumes or honking horns from vehicular traffic to mar the indoor or outdoor dining experience. The only sound you hear from the street is the pleasant intermittent clanging of the train as it glides by.
We began our dinner with a glass of tangy and refreshing gazpacho made with tomato, feta cheese, red onion and watermelon. Sounds like a strange combination, I know, but it worked very well.
Next up was my favorite – pizza.
I’m glad to report that the crust on the small sampler was soft, crisp and chewy the way it should be, and the cheese, tomato and thinly sliced onion topping was very flavorful.
Next up was a dish of cheese croquettes (NIS 39): coated fried nuggets of Pecorino, Gouda, Camembert and Bechamel, served with a sweet sauce of jam and tomato and a small salad. Yum.
Similarly, the crispy ricotta gnocchi were very tasty as were the potato and leek fritters, served with wild rice (NIS 54).
For the main dish I wanted to try the sea kebab (NIS 62), which sounded intriguing. And indeed it was. The tasty trio of batter-fried mullet (bouri), tilapia (amnon) and cod was served with a spicy side of small roasted tomatoes.
As Trattoria Haba is also a wellknown bakery, we wanted to leave enough room to sample the tantalizing desserts (NIS 22 to NIS 34). In addition to the two desserts that were brought to us, I ordered two of my favorites – an éclair and a mille-feuille (what Americans call a Napoleon).
For starters, the cheesecake was delicious: thick, rich and creamy, the way cheesecake should be.
The chocolate tart looked beautiful, with a hard thin crust, a deep, dark chocolate glaze garnished with edible gold leaf, and a creamy chocolate and coffee filling, spiced with cardamom (hel).
However, the éclair and the mille-feuille were not quite what I was expecting. The éclair was a hard, crunchy little log served with caramel sauce. Although I liked the texture – even though it was not the soft, creamy delicacy I was anticipating – it was much too salty. And the mille-feuille was not made with the flaky layers of filo dough I was looking forward to. Rather, three layers of hard cookie dough covered the layers of custard filling.
But fear not. The wide assortment of oven-fresh cakes and pastries on display at the counter will keep me going back for more, especially if I actually see what I am ordering.
Overall, Trattoria Haba is lovely, lively place to have a satisfying meal or sit and relax with a cup of freshly brewed coffee – and cake.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Trattoria Haba
Kosher Mehadrin
119 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 623-3379
Weekdays from 7 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., Friday until 3 p.m.