Singing the praises of Scala

The restaurant at the David Citadel Hotel opens to the public.

A dish at Scala restaurant (photo credit: DANIEL LAYLA)
A dish at Scala restaurant
(photo credit: DANIEL LAYLA)
The David Citadel is one of Jerusalem’s classiest hotels. It was designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie in 1998 and boasts a restaurant, Scala, which was recently opened to outside diners.
As I perused the menu, it was clear that this was not going to be your traditional Jewish food. For one thing, all the starters were vegetarian. No chopped liver or gefilte fish in sight. Instead, diners were offered a tray of appetizers in the center of the table, all variations on traditional Israeli street food (NIS 48).
These included a bowl of earthy hummus topped with olive oil and warm chick peas; tabbouleh, which was more chopped herbs than grains; smoky aubergine salad; green falafel; lupin beans, rather like butter beans but smaller; and peppery tomato coulis with sides of zhug and ambina. All the salads were wonderfully fresh, and the accompanying Yemenite pita bore an uncanny resemblance to what we Brits know as crumpet. It was perfect for dipping into the salads and made a very welcome change from pita.
For my main course I chose a whole sea bream (Denis) baked with sea salt (NIS 95). It is a brilliant and simple way to cook fish or chicken, surrounding it with coarse salt and nothing else.
The fish was served on top of the salt, which had turned into a rock. Needless to say, it was very fresh, perfectly cooked down to the correct second, with the fish just lifting off the bone and redolent with herb stuffing.
My companion chose his habitual lamb dish, in this case skewers of tender meaty chunks that were pronounced “delectable” (NIS 50). Sides were flavorful basmati rice, majadra made from wheat and lentils, and Israeli salad.
There were three choices on the dessert menu.
The one we didn’t choose was the semolina and coconut cake with spiced syrup. My choice was falooda ice cream (an Indian flavor, apparently), which was supposed to be served with glass noodles, although I could not detect a single noodle. However, the warm spiced honey pistachio sauce was there in abundance, and the marzipan cigar was a winner (NIS 35).
My companion’s fruit salad with blanched almonds in citrus broth (orange juice?) was served in a large ceramic bowl with a lid, which would have been perfect for Lancashire hot-pot but seemed wrong for a delicate fruit salad studded with tiny meringues (NIS 35).
During our meal, we were honored by a visit from sous-chef Nassin Qutteneh and food and beverages manager Oren Zidki to check that all was well.
Altogether it was a delightful evening, with courteous and attentive service in homey yet elegant surroundings.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Scala Kosher David Citadel Hotel 7 King David St., Jerusalem Tel: (02) 621-2030 Sunday to Thursday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.