Saturday, September 29, 2007



This past week - just before Succot - there was a special issue in one of our newspapers in honor of the holiday. One of the articles talked about a new cookbook which takes the readers on a "fabulous culinary and cultural journey to the land of milk and honey".

The author of the article states that before the late 80s one would be hard-pressed to find a wealth of restaurants in Israel - or, indeed, any place other than some hummus restaurant in the Old City or an Israeli breakfast at some mediocre hotel. He writes "Up until the late 1980s, if you were on a visit to Israel searching for a hearty meal, you had to stay at the house of relatives or a good friend whose mother happened to be an outstanding cook".

And here is where the "Rashomon" comes in. Remember the film "Rashomon" - a film wherein an event is witnessed by several people - who each, afterward, have a different interpretation of that event?

I came to live in Jerusalem in the fall of 1975. My husband and I were inveterate restaurant-goers and ate in all manner of restaurants - simple hummus places, late-night bars and cafes where we went to eat a bowl of onion soup when most restaurants were closed, fancy and elegant places for special occasions - and when all else failed we went to the shuk where we stood in the middle of the street and ate meiurav - that wonderful grilled and spicy mixture of innards and onions placed in a pita with a pickle on top.

So it was with no small sense of amazament that I read his statement. In no time at all I came up with a list of thirty-some-odd restaurants. And after speaking with my two other restaurant-knowledgeable friends - Myra and Marallyn - the list grew to more than forty - and I'm sure I've left some out.

They're in no special order. For those of you from Jerusalem - or those of you who visited Israel before 1990 - I'm sure you'll recognize at least some on this list.

Leah's Restaurant Rehavia (where I went on my first date with my soon-to-be-husband), Chez Simon, Alla Gondola, Entrecote, Fink's (the best goulash soup ever), Fefferberg's, Four Seasons, Mandarin, Michael Cohen's (arguably the very best memoulaim - stuffed things - I have ever eaten), Mishkenot Sha'ananim (the place to go for that very special occasion) , Caravan in Abu Gosh, Goulash Inn, Lotus, Sea Dolphin, Golden Chicken, City Restaurant, Philadelphia, La Pasta, Venezia, Katy's, Rotisserie at Notre Dame, the Chinese restaurants in the gas stations at Ramat Denya and Kyriat Yovel, the Duck restaurant in the gas station near Nofim (we were big on reataurants in gas stations in those days), Heppner's, Steakiat Hatzot (where we ate meiurav), Off the Square, Cheesecake, Norman's, Ocean, Gilly's, Inn at Ein Karem, Select, Au Sahara, Shemesh, Cafe Atara (onion soup at night), Abu Seif (the second-best memoulaim), Eddie's, Hamsa Grill at the old Hilton, Phoenix and Da La Thien.

And in Tel Aviv - where we didn't go too often because it was a hegira to get there in those days before the highway - Yunis,Touton, Alhambra and Versailles (good food but probaly the most pretentious restaurant ever with gold frames around the wall air-conditioners!!).

Most of those restaurants don't exist today - but they were in business for many years. I would venture to say that thirty-two years on most restaurants in other cities in the world don't exist either. Of course, there are always exceptions - and there are restaurants that go on and on - just as there are here.

True - restaurants are different today. Israelis - as people from other countries - are better travelled. Today there are all manner of foodstuffs available that we could only dream about then - if we even knew they existed. Our palates are more sophisticated.

BUT - there were definitely restaurants in Israel before the 90s - and very good ones, too. Whatever can he have been thinking? This is really a "Rashomon" moment.

If you remember any restaurants that I've left out - let me know.

Yalla, Bye

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