Satisfying all the palates at Roza’s

Despite the dark-wood sedate furnishings, the restaurant atmosphere was cheerful, which suits its name. Roza’s is named for the song performed by Yehoram Gaon from the 1974 musical film Kazablan.

Roza’s Bistro Bar, Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy)
Roza’s Bistro Bar, Jerusalem
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you’re seeking a consistently good, reasonably priced kosher restaurant where you can experience the new Israeli culinary creativity without worrying that there won’t be anything to eat for the less adventurous members of your party, book a table at Roza’s Bistro Bar in the German Colony. But don’t ask for the recipe for the focaccia. The moist and light round, baked bread, one of the trademarks of the restaurant, is a secret, says the menu. And make sure you book ahead, because Roza is popular with students, tourists and locals.
On a regular Tuesday night my companion and I arrived at 6:30, on the early side for most Middle Eastern diners. Nonetheless, every seat was taken. A large group of high-ranking IDF officers was feasting in a separate room. At least three tables were occupied by American yeshiva students indulging in Israeli food before heading back to the US for the Passover break. An eclectic large Israeli family, from toddler to octogenarian, was celebrating a birthday.
Despite the dark-wood sedate furnishings, the restaurant atmosphere was cheerful, which suits its name. Roza’s is named for the well-known song performed by Yehoram Gaon from the 1974 musical film Kazablan. Hero Kaza serenades the matronly Jaffa bistro owner Roza amid dancing and singing minions. Kazablan is a takeoff of Romeo and Juliet. Moroccan Kaza in love with Polish Rachel. She invites him to dinner, and her mother serves homemade gefilte fish. Used to eating chraime, he slips the gefilte to the dog.
Both Kaza and Rachel – and also Roza – would be delighted at Roza’s Bistro Bar, which offers a large enough variety of food to please tourists unfamiliar with Middle Eastern spices as well as those seeking a more savory local flavor.
The maître d’ wisely insisted that we choose Roza’s Tasting Menu (NIS 230, including all courses) to get the widest exposure to the restaurant’s updated menu.
The tasting begins with a meze of dips and starters together with the secret and delicious focaccia. Amid the plethora of aromatic tastes, our favorites are an eggplant aioli that is slightly sweet, pesto strewn with the tiniest peanuts, grated fresh beets seasoned with citrus. Each is served in a frying-pan shaped dish that allows you to have more than the usual forkful, and offers a flavorful twist and upgrade of the salads that often inaugurate a meal in the Middle East.
With the dips came portions of white sea panfish, delicate red drum in a salad dressed with fresh olive oil, crisp fish cigars in tehina, and a bowl of perfect homemade hummus, falafel and hard-boiled egg. I admire the trend in Israeli restaurants in creating signature tomato salads that build on flavorsome local produce. Ours was the delicious so-called Nervous Salad, with red onions, radishes, hot peppers and thin-sliced tomatoes in a zaatar vinaigrette. Zesty and refreshing. Chef Lior Dorani trained locally at different restaurants and describes his style simply as Middle Eastern.
As we sipped our Cabernet Sauvignon (NIS 50 a glass) between courses, in the convivial atmosphere, we elicited opinions from nearby tables. Three Brooklyn-born students from the Mir Yeshiva were with gusto enjoying prime rib (NIS 45 per 100 grams) served on a wooden platter. They insisted it ranked with the best they’d ever had. The twentysomething Sabra couple in jeans raved about the submarine sandwich-sized steak sandwich (NIS 69) and generous bowl of pasta bolognese (NIS 68).
When we were ready, our tasting spree continued with lightly spiced beef kababs on a bed of tehina mixed with eggplant, which is a popular Israeli combination and delicious.
I’m always a little worried when ordering “spring chicken breast,” because it’s often an uninspiring choice. Not so here. The grilled breasts were brushed with spices to enhance the natural flavor, and were soft and juicy, as was the filet of beef that followed it, equally delectable. The bed of rice has so many tiny herbs chopped in, it could almost qualify as a vegetable.
And speaking of fresh herbs, chef Dorani uses them throughout, particularly parsley.
Dessert was a plate of petits fours, and macarons, the sweet meringue-based confection made popular by the new waves of French olim. Just enough.
At Roza’s you get to sample new Israeli cuisine and familiar favorites at the same table. Don’t forget to book ahead – and no focaccia recipes!
Roza’s Bistro Bar
2 Rahel Imenu
German Colony, Jerusalem
Tel. (02) 563-8000
Kashrut: Rav Machpud Mehadrin
Sunday-Thursday, 12 noon until the last customer.
After Shabbat till last customer. Closed Shabbat.