I was staying at the King David, a historical hotel in Jerusalem. On Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, the city basically shuts down for respect of the Jewish Sabbath. It is very difficult to find a good restaurant that remains open during these hours. Obviously, the restaurants that are open are not kosher – which suits us just fine. Our concierge recommended a good place within walking distance of our hotel, called Rina and Alice. It was a good 10-minute walk away from the hotel, I would say. It is located at Karen Hayesod 38, on the corner of Jabotinsky. Rina and Alice are two young chefs who are also partners in life. They decided to open a non-kosher restaurant in the capital, and not too far from the city center, and we are glad that they did.
The restaurant had an “American” style feel to it. It is modern and cozy, with a rustic chic decor. Dimly lit, there are glass fixtures suspended from the high ceilings and glass floor to ceiling windows. Reds, greens, blacks and lots of wood make up the colour palette. When we went, American contemporary music was playing loudly. The crowd was mostly a young and trendy. There is plenty of table seating or you could grab a seat by the bar and watch the chefs cook in the open kitchen. They serve a Mediterranean inspired menu with original cocktails and a small wine selection. The food was mostly delicious, with lots to choose from. Great salads, appetizers, pizza cooked in a wood fire oven, pasta, fish, seafood and meat. There is also a small kids section on the menu and we did see many young families eating here as well. We went during lunch and were dining as a large group so we were able to try many dishes. The roasted eggplant served with tahini, date honey, herbs and a touch of chili was delicious and the roasted cauliflower coated in a mixture of garlic, herbs, and tahini and roasted in a clay oven, called a “taboon” – divine. The ceviche of the day, some type of white fish with fruit, onion and coriander had a nice acid and sweet balance. The macaroni and cheese was great too. Another fan favourite was the fresh corn polenta with shrimps. We also had the grilled shrimp in a curry and cream sauce which was quite good.
We tried a pizza special that was unbelievable. It had crispy matchstick potatoes on top, and it came hot from the oven. There wasn’t a slice left on the plate. We also had some homemade focaccia bread cooked in the taboon with a variety of dips. For salads, we tried the fattoush, which has cucumbers, onions, red peppers, capers, torn focaccia bread, feta cheese in an olive oil, lemon and sumac dressing. I enjoyed the green salad, which is no ordinary green salad. It comes tossed with roasted zucchini, steamed asparagus, steamed green beans, peas and cucumber in a lemon mint vinaigrette dressing and topped with a touch of candied pecans. It is out of this world. The homemade gnocchi was our one disappointment. It is made from sweet potatoes and potatoes, peas and beets. While sounding good in theory it was very gluey.
One thing they could improve on was service. Most young people in Israel can speak English, but here there was only one waiter who could understand some of what we were saying. Thank goodness they had English menus and we could point. But it was difficult to order a coke or cocktails, the servers looked confused. The servers were friendly but not quite up to the standards of other establishments.
All-in-all, everyone was pleased with their meal. The chefs have created a tasty and inventive menu using good ingredients. We were happy to have this option on a Saturday afternoon in Jerusalem.