Chrissy ON Aug 12, 2013 AT 9:04 am

by Chrissy Iley

No one can have missed the fact that Israeli/Levant cuisine is the business right now. Ottolenghi, Nopi and Honey & Co are the restaurants in London where you have to beg to get tables.

They are all about quality ingredients mixed in a palate inspiring and juicily delicious way. Readily the plate absorbs Turkish, Israeli, Arab and North African cuisine.

I like to think it’s a metaphor that somewhere in the world all religions sit happily and harmoniously on one plate. Is that why we all can’t get enough of it? It tastes of happy times, contentment.

There are certain restaurants that have led the campaign across the world. One such pioneer is Machneyuda in Jerusalem.


It’s up a cobbled street near the Machneyuda Market where they get their produce. We arrived 6.30pm on a Monday night. Impossible to get a table in the main restaurant but just about possible in their smaller opposite which is bar stools only. Some on the street, some facing the central cooking area. Both places are vibrant. The décor, modern meets traditional, is paralleled in the food.

We chose plates to share and that way you could say that it was tapas style but the portions which come large or small are all very substantial and not tapas tiny in the least.

We started with fatush salad with brinza cheese, a simple enough dish yet the fresh picked tomatoes and peppers tasted intense and danced with flavour.

The ‘Fruit ninja salad by the ishayoshi – takuan, daikon, black tobiku and cucumbers’ was probably the most amazing salad I’ve ever tasted. Big claim I know, but true. The daikon intensely pickled flavour blended with the slivers of lightly pickled cucumber in a most exciting way.

Next up came their heavenly risotto with asparagus. Creamy but not heavy, we also had chicken lives with drunk onions and mashed potato. This is comfort food and beyond. The creaminess of the mash with the piquancy and richness of the livers was amazing.

There was also the creamiest polenta on the planet which came with wild mushrooms in a gorgeously tasty sauce. And finally their signature dish was eggplant relauche. It looked like a work of art on the plate, an aubergine made undone and done up again.  It came with the creamiest tahini.

They offered Israeli wines but we chose an unoaked French Chardonnay which was delicious. It was somebody’s birthday so we were all given shots of an anise tasting liqueur. Shots between courses can probably only happen in Jerusalem.

For desert they offered the best plum tart in the history of mankind on the menu as ‘You know cheesecake better?’ It appeared in a mini storage jar – a fluffy cheesecake mousse with deconstructed biscuit crumbs and a gorgeous redcurrant compote. Heaven. And possibly the best in the world.

A meal for three that was huge and delicious came to around £90 with wine.

The day before we’d had a feast which was more North African street food in Dr Shakshuka near the famous clock tower in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. You sit mostly outside in an alleyway on long tables that are shared.

We ordered a set meal which was a menu that groaned with food. After the various eggplant salads and tahini dips and a very tasty grill we thought we were finished, but endless couscous, meats, vegetables and spicy stew arrive all accompanied by fresh made lemonade.

Extremely hearty.

Machneyuda, 10 Beit Yaakov St, Jerusalem. Tel: +972-2-533-3442

Dr Shakshuka, 4 Beit Eshel St, Tel Aviv. Tel: +972-3-518-6560

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