Bon appetit

Simone is a tiny, unpretentious French restaurant with gourmet food that will delight your palate.

Cod with citrus sauce (food) 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cod with citrus sauce (food) 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Walking down the busy street of Derech Hebron in Jerusalem with cars rushing by, you could easily pass by Simone’s small storefront with its hand-painted sign. As far as curb appeal goes, there is very little that would intrigue the passer-by. But once you walk through the gate on the side, you enter a charming courtyard with a pergola that Claude, the owner, built himself. 
There were a few small tables and chairs set up, and then Claude took us to the back and up a set of stairs to their garden, where they play bocce ball and set up tables for special events and their Friday brunches.
The atmosphere within the tiny restaurant itself is artsy and eclectic,with hand-painted orange walls and small wooden tables. Despite beingFrench and everything that connotes, Simone is hip without beingpretentious. The restaurant exudes charm, and it is clear that theowners are not just creating a restaurant but a destination, withregulars who come in as much for the warmth and friendship as for thefood.  The dairy restaurant is kosher le’mehadrin because the ownerswant to have an environment where everyone is welcome to come and eat.
Andeat there you must! Claude and his wife, Simone, the restaurant’s chef,came to Israel from France 30 years ago, bringing with them their loveof great French food from Provence and the skill needed to prepare theregion’s specialty dishes.
We started our meal with the Saladede Provence (NIS 59). This was a large dish with green salad andartichoke hearts in the center and small dips around the outside. Whilenot all strictly French, the dips were a nice change from the standardIsraeli salatim. The dips included pesto, walnutcheese dip and a delicious sardine salad. We also had a small bowl ofchestnut soup, which had a full-bodied, earthy taste, topped with creamand parsley.
To clear our palates, we were served trou-normand(NIS 49), an apple sorbet with calvados, an apple brandy from theNormandy region of France. The sorbet was light and sweet, and thecalvados gave just the slightest kick, leaving us refreshed and readyto continue our meal.
Next we had the pièce de résistance – alarge steaming bowl of bouillabaisse (NIS 109). Simone is the onlyplace that I have ever seen in Israel that serves a kosher version ofthis French fish soup. While Claude admits that there are sacrificesthat need to be made because you cannot use shellfish, he assures methat their bouillabaisse is a favorite at the French Embassy, wherethey cater events. The flavors of the fish were artfully blended tocreate a full but light broth.  Pieces of fish, both large and small,shimmered in the soup and gently broke apart at the touch of my spoon.
Notto be outdone, the next course we had was cod with citrus sauce (NIS89). While the name may be underwhelming, the dish itself was adelight. The cod was moist and tender, but the real surprise was thecitrus sauce. It was creamy and thick but not heavy, with a citrusflavor that was strong but not tart. I asked Simone if she would tellme more about it. Unfortunately, the recipe is top secret, and Icouldn’t even squeeze a clue out of her.
My dining partner isa meat and potatoes kind of guy but remarked that this was the firsttime that he ever felt full from fish alone. I enjoyed the meal becausealthough I was totally satiated, the food was light enough that I couldtaste everything without leaving the table feeling heavy or weigheddown.
When dessert was brought out, I wanted to politelydecline. It looked fabulous but I didn’t want anything to interferewith the myriad of flavors that I had just experienced. Thankfully, mydining partner was game, so we had a slice of lemon meringue pie (NIS32) and a piece of chocolate espresso mousse cake (NIS 32). As it turnsout, along with being a superb cook, Simone is also a formidable pastrychef.
Topping off the meal with a shot of espresso (NIS 8), mydining companion and I agreed that we would be back because one visitwas just not enough.
Simone, Rehov Derech Hebron 49, Jerusalem. (02) 672-9950. Kosher le’mehadrin.