Friday, December 09, 2011

Mehane Yehouda (Jerusalem) 12/2011

This restaurant is so popular that when we rang for a booking at 9.00 pm there was no space available on four successive nights. Only through the intervention of a personal friend of the chef did we get a table. Before we got through the door we were struck by the pulsating music. After negotiating a smoke filled enclosed verandah we were shown to a table. There were diners at the bar and in front of the small kitchen and others in a sort of loft area upstairs. Hyperkinetic young attractive waiters and waitresses almost danced between joining with tables clapping to the music. Half the room is indistinguishable from a fruiterers with boxes of vegetables in shelves. Furniture could have come from a garage sale. A couple of tea towels and cutlery were left on the centre of our table. A couple of slices of bread were in a paper bag. Salt comes in a little carton and pepper in a small bowl. Perhaps foolishly we opted for the chef's five course dinner, a meal that he cooks with whatever he has around the place. There is no menu for this and even the waiters struggle to know what ingredients make up some of the dishes! The first course, actually three small entrees arrived on a silver platter. A mundane presentation we were hit with very strong flavours dominated by lemon in every part of this dish.There was a small sashimi with lemon flavoured salad, two prawns in a gentle lemon flavoured salad, and a lemon flavoured salad with a smear of tahina. Next we were presented with a large gnocchi with herbs in a silver bowl. It was followed by a tray of food on a pink sheet of paper made up of a small piece of sirloin with salad, some kibbeh with mince and spices, and a few slices of beef carpachio. Not exactly a test of a chef's cooking. A small preserve jar filled with pollenta with four bit of asparagus, one too tough to eat, had four kinds of mushrooms, cheese and was finished with truffle oil. The cheese was dominating but this was probably the best dish they served. A black rice risotto with muscles, cheese prawns and nuts, served in the pan it was cooked in, was the last dish we ate. It was not the classical arborio rice risotto and had a different character to risotto but was quite interesting. After all what's in a name.They were still preparing another dish or two but we begged off at this point and went on to dessert. This came in three connected tin pots, one above the other, to reveal three different sweets. Unfortunately I can no longer identify them but there outstanding characteristic was sweetness rather than refinement. Just why this is such a popular restaurant defies my imagination. It's popping with noise and activity. No one we saw looked more than 35. Everyone is jumping around. The food is a mish mash of flavours lacking structure and finesse and it's expensive. We paid about A$175 (NIS630) to the best of my memory.

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