Canela is just the kind of restaurant Jerusalem's downtown has long craved.
The moment you walk into this new kosher eatery you know the place is run by skilled professionals. The d'cor is remarkable, with an impressive chandelier hung above a cozy bar at the entrance, interesting flower arrangements everywhere and a pianist playing jazz at just the right volume. The dining room is very comfortable and might appeal to those who are tired of the noisy, minimalist restaurants that are so trendy at the moment. Mahogany tables and dark leather chairs match the stately wallpaper, and a collection of oil paintings adorns the walls.
An elegant private room is located on the restaurant's upper floor, where up to 15 people can dine around a large table. Equipped with a video screen, Internet connection and telephone lines for conference calls, the room is the perfect setting for businessman to close a deal. But it's priced for a VIP crowd, with five of its seven main courses over NIS 85.
Chef Ronnen Dovrat Bloch of Eilat's successful Jolson and Lawrence restaurants is Canela's culinary advisor, while Lior Hafzadi serves as executive chef. Together they cook vividly herbed and spicy modern Mediterranean dishes. The menu is simple but impressive, so whether your tastes tend toward the plain or adventurous, you'll be pleased when your order arrives.
We started with a succulent filet of sea bream on a bed of smooth potato puree garnished with cumin seeds and walnut oil. The portion was big, and could easily make a main course.
We also had a dish of foie gras with hazelnut brioche. It looked amazing, served in a rectangular dish with delicate grape marmalade on the side, but to my taste it was a little sweet for an appetizer.
For the main course I chose a filet of sea bass with tomato confit in olive oil. The fish had an excellent texture and was well complemented by a fine potato puree.
My companion opted for an inventive vegetarian dish of tortellini tipped with beet that gave it a rose-pink hue. It was stuffed with Swiss chard and pistachio, which created a wonderful mix of flavors. Together with some asparagus and green beans, it was fantastic for the eye and for the palate.
The restaurant takes pride in having its own pastry shop on the upper floor, though why we had to wait a long time for our desserts remained a mystery. A pear and saffron salad with dates and chestnut puree had rather a soggy texture, and was the only thing we ate that wasn't particularly memorable.
A word about service: it can make or break a good dinner. Canela has gotten that right too. The restaurant manager is observant and on hand to see that things run smoothly, and it was good to note that every table received the same measure of attention.
A meal similar to what we had is NIS 370, and a bottle of wine of Petit Castel added NIS 150 to the bill. Canela offers a two-course business lunch for NIS 78 per person, with a variety of dishes such as tomato gazpacho with pesto and pistachio; fillet of red mullet with sweet potatoes gratin; or goose leg confit with shallot confiture, to name a few.
Canela. 8 Shlomzion Hamalka St. Jerusalem. Open Sunday to Thursday 12 noon to 4 p.m. for lunch and 6 p.m. to midnight for dinner. Friday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday after Shabbat. (Kosher)
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