A journey from a love affair with processed foods to a love affair with cheese.
This post is long overdue. Way back in the first week of June AB and I went out to celebrate signing the contract to buy our first apartment with a meal at HaMotzi. Now that ten weeks have passed, it’s about time I talk about it, even if the details are a little fuzzy by now.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from HaMotzi, a no-longer-so-new restaurant opened by a former winner of Israeli Master Chef in a tiny alley off Agrippas a few blocks before the shuk (coming from King George). Some have claimed that this is the best restaurant in Jerusalem; others told me they thought it’s totally overrated. Several months ago AB and I walked by on a Friday afternoon and saw diners eating plates of colorful couscous. We asked them what they thought and though they replied positively, I wasn’t totally convinced. Couscous? How could that possibly be the best ever? Still, we had to see for ourselves.
HaMotzi serves North African fare with a gourmet twist – maybe like how someone’s Moroccan grandmother authentically cooked, definitely better than most “Moroccan” food you can get around here (and way better than Darna and probably more authentic even without the costumes that reek too much of Orientalism). The restaurant itself is cute with a semi-open kitchen and all sorts of nooks and crannies, one of which holds giant jars of pickled vegetables.
When we were seated and handed the menu, we debated whether we should get an appetizer, but before we could decide a basket of bread (nothing fancy) and six bowls of salatim arrived, rendering an appetizer completely unnecessary (which I assume is why the menu didn’t offer too many). Unfortunately I can’t remember what they all were (beets, eggplant, maybe some kind of green tehina), but we were pleased.
The menu itself offers a few fish options (fish patties, fish in an Algerian sauce), several chicken choices (among others, pastilla stuffed with pargit, raisins, and nuts), the “HaMotzi mix” of veal, pargit, and other stuff, and some meat options, including what AB and I ordered.
AB, who is the master orderer, got the meatball surprise. This turned out to be a plate of meatballs in a not-too-spicy tomato sauce, some of which were just straight up ground meat, but others of which were containers for foods such as sweet potato, spinach, and best of all, steak meat. I ordered the “Bullet,” which turned out to be a delicious simmering pile of Algerian meatballs hiding amongst a cabbage-onion stew.
We didn’t see any couscous on the menu, which leads me to believe that the lunch and dinner menus are not the same.
Our biggest disappointment probably was that the food was not actually that spicy. Beforehand we’d been warned about the spiciness, so I’m not sure if they toned it down for Ashkenazi-looking people like us, or if we have a higher spice tolerance than others.
So do I think HaMotzi is overrated? By the literal definition, yes. HaMotzi is not o-em-gee the best restaurant I have ever eaten in, so if that’s the rating, it’s overrated. That said, the food was good, and we’ll be back.
Prices totally reasonable (50-70 NIS for most mains); atmosphere casual; not suitable for vegetarians though I’m willing to bet the chef would be able to whip up a special vegetarian something on request. Book ahead.