Tmol Shilshom – as good as ever

I’ve felt that I was a little too old for Tmol Shilshom. It was for “young people,” I always thought. I am happy to say that I was wrong.

Tmol Shilshom – as good as ever (photo credit: ETTI NAMIR)
Tmol Shilshom – as good as ever
(photo credit: ETTI NAMIR)
I remember Tmol Shilshom from when it first opened 25 years ago. It was a place to meet friends for a coffee or a milkshake or to sit and read a book. But in the past few years, I’ve felt that I was a little too old for Tmol Shilshom. It was for “young people,” I always thought. I am happy to say that I was wrong.
The decor feels like a rich person’s living room. The tables and wooden chairs are cozy, the walls are covered with carpets, which cut down the noise, and the music is kept low enough that you can enjoy a conversation. If you are dining solo, the walls are covered with bookshelves, and you can borrow a book to read during your meal.
Tmol Shilshom still has a lot of young people. When I visited recently on a cold rainy Jerusalem night with my own young companion (my daughter Rafaella, who is a university student) a young religious couple came in beaming. The waiter said, “Mazel tov!” Vered, 20, and Amitai, 22, had their first date at Tmol Shilshom a month and a half ago. Now they were back to celebrate their engagement. This happens often, the staff told us, and there is even a book called The Love Book of Tmol Shilshom published in 2008 and listing all of the couples who met at the cozy restaurant. “When I came in and saw how well she fit into the place, I knew I had someone special here,” Amitai told me. “Isn’t she fantastic?” What is also fantastic is the food on the new menu. The menu is still being finalized, but it is divided into several sections: Starters, On the Way, Main Courses and Desserts.
FROM THE On the Way section, we shared the Ein Kerem Focaccia (NIS 48) – pears, blue cheese, nuts, honey and thyme. It was hot, fresh and delicious. We also shared a trio of soups (NIS 40) served in small drinking glasses. The three together made a nicesized portion. There was a sweet potato soup (that I think had a hint of truffle oil), a slightly spicy green spinach soup, and a lentil and carrot soup. Of the three, I found the lentil soup a little bland, but the others were delicious.
From the Main Courses, Noa, the affable waitress, suggested The Old Man And The Sea (I loved the Hemingway reference), a fish special that changes daily (NIS 126). It was a pink trout fresh from the Golan Heights, served stuffed with wild rice on a bed of greens and spinach. It was topped with toasted almonds and was in an almond cream sauce. It was a dish that would have been at home at any top-scale fish restaurant in Israel.
My foodie daughter chose the Sweet Corn Polenta (NIS 68), a decadent dish with mushroom, truffle puree, thyme, poached egg and a shaving of manchego cheese. She described it as “a twist on a traditional polenta because it’s made with fresh corn, and balanced between the sweet corn and savory toppings of the mushrooms and the cheese.”
To accompany our main courses I chose a glass of the 2016 Judean Hills from Tzora Vineyards (NIS 44), a lovely blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. I’m a bit of a wine snob, and I asked when the bottle had been opened, saying that if it was more than 24 hours, I’d prefer to choose something else. It had been opened just that day, and the wine was lovely. My daughter asked for the sangria, but they were out of it, so she settled for hot apple cider with red wine. It was a little sweet for my taste.
The menu has symbols next to each dish that signify either that it can be made in a vegan version, or that it can be served gluten-free. They even offer gluten-free bread for a slight extra charge. For dessert we shared a “Crack Pie” (NIS 36), a sweet and salty caramel pie. I found it too sweet for my taste. We also shared a special dessert – not on the menu – of bread pudding that was excellent. The restaurant is housed in a 100-year-old building which is charming but also challenging. To get to the bathroom, I had to leave the warm, cozy restaurant and go out in the rain and down a flight of steps.
Speaking of steps, it is not handicapped-accessible, and since the restaurant is in a protected building, it can’t put in an elevator. In one case last summer, the staff said, when a customer arrived in a wheelchair, they carried a table downstairs and set it up under a tree. It is that kind of caring, along with a fun vibe, that has kept Tmol Shilshom going for 25 years.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Tmol Shilshom
5 Yoel Moshe Solomon Street, Nahalat Shiva
Kosher. All vegetables are Gush Katif, and all dairy products are halav Yisrael.