Friday, December 09, 2011

Arcadia (Jerusalem) 12/2011

Please forgive a number of failed photographs in this review.
Ezra Kedem, the owner/chef of this restaurant, is regarded by some as the finest chef in Israel. His restaurant, Arcadia, is in an old Jerusalem stone house in an alley. We were there at night and it was not a time to eat outside but, in or out the place is totally charming. The entrance is via a courtyard featuring some antique columns and protected by an electrically operated gate. It is quite small, as far as we could see, with a couple of rooms. The floor was on a moderate slope and so was our table, which I found disconcerting. There is an a la carte menu but a much better deal for the hungrier patron is the set price menu (NIS330) which consists of a series of preliminary dishes followed by a choice of any entree, any main and a dessert. We tried both. We were offered a glass of delicious soup before our meal. Before her entree Sandra got a small meal of garden salad, olives, rolls, home made bread rolls, an outstanding warm crisp ciabata and other goodies. Unfortunately I did not notice I had my camera on the wrong setting for these pic's.They kept bringing us extras which were not on the menu including an Arak and fruit juice cocktail which I loved, and drank Sandra's too, a pan of burghal wheat with fresh herbs, spices and some greens,a cevicheand a sea food bisque with a milk foam which spread out and became part of the soup diluting it's initially fine character. and three or four other small dishes, and an unusual palate cleansing herb mixture of herbs on a spoon.Sandra opted for a seafood dinner and started with an oven roasted prawn entree.After a palate cleanser this was followed by a Mediteranean mixed seafood grill made with calamari, octopus, fish, prawns and a whole small crab from which the carapace had been removed, with tomatoes, olive oil, lemon, garlic, parsley and capers. This was presented with cutlery but no shell cracker or pick. On inquiring we were told that we were not the first to ask for these instruments and that they were 'thinking about it'. This was a very good and tasty course. The sauce was mild and the sea food so fresh it was almost jumping from the plate. It would have been much better if the prawns had been peeled and the crab presented in a condition that was easy to eat. I had a ravioli entree and a beef steak both were distinguished by a soft touch in preparation with well balanced seasoning and fresh herbs. There is a very small range of wines by the glass but we were offered one not usually available which was quite excellent.I can readily understand that responses to a restaurant like this can be greatly varied. The ingredients are extremely fresh and local where ever possible. Many of the vegetables and herbs are grown in Kedem's own farm. The Mehane Yehouda market is also close by.
The cooking is modern without being fussy. Dishes that appear to be simple actually combine complex combinations of herbs in a balanced way that only excellent chefs can achieve which I suspect that many diners would not appreciate. Coming because of it's reputation they may be disappointed and simply find this to be an expensive restaurant. For us it was an interesting meal with generous serves of a great variety of well prepared food, presented in a gorgeous old Jerusalem environment.
The dessert was a deconstructed kataif with pears, a rose water couli crushed nuts and a scoop of ice cream. The cinnamon stick was definitely solely for decoration.
An Aside.
There was, at the bottom of the menu, a special dish for Euro220, about NIS1200 or A$320. What was it? Caviar.
Incidentally, apart from a variety of fish roe substitutes there are a variety of vegetarian substitutes these include one from eggplant and another from beans. Israeli's also developed a method of making an artificial caviar from sea weed which we both found remarkably similar to the real thing in taste but the texture was finer and the caviar 'skin' more delicate. Here 50 gm of the best quality Ossetra caviar is served with a variety of the traditional side dishes. An option that we considered for only a moment.
Score: 15.5/20

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