A journey from a love affair with processed foods to a love affair with cheese.
There’s been a lot of change on Emek Refaim recently. A Waffle Bar is moving into what was until this summer Buffalo (and before that Pizza Meter, alav hashalom), one can only hope this means that the Waffle Bar at the other end of the street (occupying what used to be Selena) will become something else, Village Green has moved to Big Apple Pizza, Big Apple Pizza moved further down the street, a new cafe is coming to Village Green (previously Pituyim), and most pertinent to the post at hand, Caffit moved across the street to what used to be Olive, and the new incarnation of Focaccia moved into Caffit’s space.
I was really excited about this. I had been to the non-kosher Focaccia back in 2001, and I remember it as being amazing. This memory was corroborated by many others, who began talking about how good the established Focaccia was ever since rumors began to float of a kosher version on Emek Refaim. Then, last week a friend mentioned that she had translated their menu for them and everything sounded special and good. So, I had high expectations.
I must admit, my dining experience last night did not quite meet my expectations. Nothing was bad and I’d go back, but I certainly don’t feel as though I’ve discovered another gem. I’d say Focaccia occupies the same niche as Roza and Moshava 54 (by which I mean non-ethnic like Marbad Haksamim or La Boca), the two other reasonably priced generic meat restaurants in the neighborhood. The prices are actually slightly higher, and the food is probably half a level more interesting. I’d definitely choose Focaccia over Joy any day, which is supposedly the quality meat restaurant on Emek Refaim. Joy isn’t bad, but it definitely isn’t worth the inflated cost. But anyway, this is meant to be a review of Focaccia, so…
Let’s start with atmosphere. Definitely trying to be hip and fit into a city that is not this one (this is not a bad thing). The lights were dimmed and the music pounded. The space was just as crowded as when it was Caffit, but some of the tables had blue couch-like chairs. There was a bar with seating in one corner, and the back of the restaurant was dedicated to an open area with a brick oven and stacks of vegetables and other ingredients. The dishes and glasses were particularly cool.
Next, the service: pretty bad. I almost feel bad denigrating service in Israeli restaurants because it’s almost always terrible, but it bears noting nonetheless. We were seated with menus right away, but it took a long time for anyone to take our order. I wanted to see the English menu since my friend translated it, but by the time someone came to take our order I was tired of waiting so we just ordered. I asked to see the English menu anyway, but it never came. Once we ordered the food came fairly quickly, but they brought out our appetizers before they brought our cocktails (perhaps a pet peeve, but something that always bothers me). Once we had our appetizers, waitstaff repeatedly came over to ask if we were ok. Then they brought out AB’s main about ten minutes before they brought mine. Once they brought it they checked up on us again, but when we were ready to go it took a while to flag someone down to ask for the bill. Alas.
Now, the menu. The menu actually looked really good. It is divided into starters, focaccias, salads, pastas, sandwiches (by which they mean things like hamburgers too), and mains. The focaccias include classic (olive oil and rosemary), dips, potato, roast beef, kebab, and others. The salads all looked interesting, and the mains included steak, kebabs, roast beef, mixed grill, and many types of fish, among others. In the end we ordered beef carpaccio (appetizer), kebab focaccia, roast beef salad for AB, and a hamburger for me. AB got a glass of wine (their selections by the glass were not plentiful), and I got a giant mojito. We definitely over ordered. Each portion was enormous. This restaurant does not bill itself as family-style, but perhaps it should. Next time I go I think it will be with many people of the type who like to share.
Out of our four dishes, the carpaccio was by far the best. The meat was super fresh and super thin, sprinkled with restraint with olive oil, balsamic, and pepper. Our focaccia, also enormous, turned out to be bread serving as a base for roasted onions, a roasted tomato, kebabs, a hot pepper, and green tehina. I think we were expecting these items to be more integrated with one another and then spread evenly over the bread. It was ok for what it was, but they were a little too liberal with the tehina, and I think next time we’ll stick to a more classic focaccia.
AB’s roast beef salad contained lots of goodies: roast beef, lettuce, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and roasted pepper with some sort of mustard-mayonnaise dressing, which again, there might have been too much of. My hamburger was cooked just as I requested – I asked for medium and a received a burger with a crusty outside and juicy interior. This does not often happen – usually when I ask for medium I get either rare or well-done, so good job Focaccia. However, it didn’t have too much flavor beyond ground meat. It did come with fries (perfectly crispy) and homemade panko-crusted onion rings, which are just about my favorite things.
We were way too stuffed to even contemplate dessert. Our total bill came to just over 250 NIS, which is a pretty average meal for us.
And after dinner, AB bought me rose even though we don’t believe in Valentine’s Day. And then I fell asleep at 9:30. It was a good night.