Let’s meet at the lobby and eat there too

The lobby of the Orient Hotel is comfortable and calming, and provided great people-watching on a recent rainy evening.

Food from the Orient Hotel  (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Food from the Orient Hotel
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
I love hotel lobbies. They’re great places to people-watch and, even in Jerusalem, make me feel like a tourist. The lobby of the Orient Hotel is comfortable and calming, and provided great people-watching on a recent rainy evening.
There was a large group of people attending an Herbal Life conference, including more than a dozen Israeli Arabs, so I got to practice my Arabic. There was a shidduch date that seemed to be going well. And there were the usual assortment of tourists on their phones.
I had gotten soaked just walking to my car, so warmed up with the most unique cocktail I’ve ever had. Monkey See, Monkey Do (NIS 75) is made of Ketel One vodka infused with bananas, dates, coffee beans, and cloves. It is served hot in a coffee mug and comes with kahlua and steamed milk. I’ll take this over a cappuccino any day.
My husband tried the Winter Mojito (NIS 75) made with Captain Morgan spiced gold rum with mint, lemon, cinnamon and anise. It was much less sweet than most mojitos I’ve tasted, but he enjoyed it.
The menu is not that large and includes salads (NIS 58-69), three appetizers (NIS 44-52), two soups (NIS 45), four “specialties of Jerusalem” (NIS 68-75), three pastas (NIS 70-73), and three fish dishes (NIS 98-118).
All of the staff was excellent, but the real standout was Michal Cohen, 23, a charming post-army maître d’. Cohen had such enthusiasm for the restaurant and knew the menu well. I watched carefully to see if it was just us getting the royal treatment, but I saw her relating to every customer the same way.
We followed her suggestions and ordered one appetizer, one soup and one “specialty of Jerusalem” to start. The appetizer was asparagus Benedict (NIS 52) – steamed asparagus, poached egg, mustard and garlic aioli served on French toast. It was warm and comforting, and the components went together well.
The mushroom soup (NIS 45) was served in a tureen with a lid, on an elegant tray, with small bowls of croutons and grated cheese. It is a combination of several kinds of mushrooms, including shimeji, and was thick and flavorful.
The salmon kanafeh (NIS 75), which was warmly recommended by Cohen, was a unique dish of steamed salmon, poached egg, spinach, feta cheese and aioli on a bed of kanafeh. It was so good I debated refusing to switch with my husband when I had eaten half, but the asparagus looked pretty good, too.
For the main course, my husband ordered the salmon burger (NIS 118) with a fried egg tucked inside the burger, topped with cheese, and fries on the side. He said it was excellent.
I went for the Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi (NIS 70), a large portion of gnocchi stir-fried with fried eggplant, cherry tomatoes, oregano, Kalamata olives and garlic confit. I’m usually not a big fan of cooked olives, but Cohen had so highly recommended the dish that I went for it. It was a combination of unique flavors and not something I would ever make at home.
The restaurant has an extensive wine list, and we had a glass of Yatir Mt. Amasa white (NIS 46). It was, after all, National Drink Wine Day! The wine is a lovely blend of Chenin blanc and Viognier and aged in oak barrels for eight months.
By this time, we were very full, but one of the main reasons to go to a dairy restaurant is for the desserts, of course. We shared a traditional kanafeh, but here it was made with both mozzarella and ricotta, and the sugar syrup was served on the side, making it easier to customize the dish to your preferred level of sweetness.
We then rolled ourselves out into the cold Jerusalem night, where it had finally stopped raining.
Khan at the Orient Hotel
3 Emek Refaim Street
Tel: (02) 569-9090
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, until an hour before Shabbat; Shabbat, open with a limited menu
Kashrut: Jerusalem Rabbinate
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.