A journey from a love affair with processed foods to a love affair with cheese.
This is perhaps a misleading title: Touro is not that new (it opened several months ago), is definitely not a kid in terms of maturity, and isn’t really on a block – it’s at the bottom of Yemin Moshe overlooking the Old City, sharing a space with the Jerusalem Press Club. But in any case, its arrival on the scene is quite welcome.
For my birthday, my parents bought us an eLuna voucher that could be used at any restaurant on the eLuna site. To say we agonized over where to use it would not be an understatement. We deliberated possibly returning to a favorite we know we like so as to be certain we’d get a good meal. In the end we decided to try something new. That of course left us with a host of options, but after a few hours of careful internet research we decided, with a bit of confidence, on Touro. This turned out to be an excellent decision and a great use of my parents’ money (thanks, parents!).
We knew that Touro would be beautiful because it’s located in one of Jerusalem’s nicest neighborhoods with that famous Old City view. And also, because we saw pictures. The building is gorgeous with a spacious dining room (plus a large covered outdoor space). When we arrived at 7:30, it was mostly empty – there was a group of about 15, and that was it. I asked the hostess if we could sit at a fourtop next to the window, but she said it was going to fill up so we needed to choose one of the two-person tables that were in the center of the room. We complied, but I remarked to AB that I would be mighty annoyed if those tables didn’t fill by the time we left. Luckily, when the sommelier/manager (unclear his role, but something with authority and a knowledge of wine) came by he offered to move us next to the window, which we happily accepted. We were there for at least an hour before anyone else showed up. By the time we left at around 10, the restaurant was filling up but was not yet crowded.
Once we got the menus (and heard the specials), we agreed that the appetizers sounded more exciting than the mains, so we decided to order four appetizers and one main. The appetizer offerings are a nice mix of vegetable dishes and meats, including, among others, tomato salad, roasted artichoke, roasted eggplant, mushroom carpaccio, liver, goose cigars, sirloin carpaccio, and beef tartare. It was really hard to choose, but ultimately we settled on roasted artichoke, leek and potato latkes, goose cigars, and carpaccio. The mains are divided into pastas (gnocchi with fillet, veggie gnocchi, artichoke risotto), fish (bouillabaise, chreimeh, ceviche, salmon, and more), and meat (goose confit, short rib casserole, pargit, fillet, chicken breast, siniya, and mixed grill). I should mention that each of these comes in and with a lovely assortment of flavors and vegetables. That said, the daily special of spareribs sounded the best, so spareribs it was.
The wine list was also very impressive, with some of Israel’s finest wineries represented – Bravdo, Tanya, and Gvaot, to name a few. We decided on a bottle of Yarden Malbec, since we like Malbec and it’s unusual for Israeli wineries. (The only other one we know of is Teperberg’s). We were pleased with our choice – it was a quite complex, somewhat fruity wine.
When we ordered, the waitress asked if we wanted bread, and I said yes, not realizing we’d be charged for it (18 NIS). AB did realize though, and it was written on the menu, so I won’t call foul here. In any case, it was a delicious, perfectly soft sourdough served with a roasted pepper spread and a cilantro pesto.
The roasted artichokes turned out to be artichokes in a salad that included capers and tomatoes served on a tehina. It was almost, but not quite, too capery for me, definitely with a vinegar taste. It was good but overshadowed by the rest of our food.
The leek-potato latkes were actually deep fried balls that were crispy on the outside and so soft and flavorful on the inside, served over a dill aoli. These were amazing and I would eat them every day if I could.
The goose cigars were also excellent. They straddled the border of dry/moist on their own, but they transformed when dipped into the accompanying sweet pomegranate sauce.
And then there was the best dish of all – sirloin carpaccio. The meat was sliced so thinly and and was so tender. Unlike other carpaccios I’ve had recently, the balasmic vinegar acted as a complement and didn’t overshadow the whole dish, and the croutons were so tiny AB almost didn’t even realize they were there. If we go back, I might just order two plates of carpaccio and call it a night.
By the time we were done with all this, we were stuffed, but the pinnacle of the meal was yet to come. We rallied, though, and were ready for our steaming pan of spareribs when they came. The ribs came with Jerusalem artichokes, mangold, and lots and lots of garlic confit in a sweet sauce. The flavor was great, but to be honest, the ribs were way, way too fatty for me. Probably about two-thirds fat, and I can only tolerate lean meat. The meat I was able to get to was in fact delicious and tender, but I was turned off by the time I got there. AB loved it though and thought it was the best part of the whole meal.
Finally, because it was a celebration, we decided to order dessert. At first glace the desserts didn’t look too exciting – the standard chocolate souffle you can get anywhere and some stuff I’m not interested in (coconut pastry, almond malbi). On second glace, though, I noticed the ginger lemongrass brule, which the more I thought about it, the better it sounded. It came with mango sorbet and was so good. No hints of being non-dairy at all.
At the end of the night, we needed to be rolled home, compliments to the chef.
The service throughout the evening (aside from the issue with the hostess and the seating) was very good. Our meal was well-paced, we were brought water and refill water without having to beg, and the waitress attentively topped off our wine glasses throughout the meal.
Our meal, including a 220 NIS bottle of wine, bread, four appetizers, spareribs, and dessert, came to just over 600 NIS which isn’t terrible for a special night out. I do think a restaurant of this caliber should serve bread gratis, but that’s a small complaint all things considered.
Appetizers: 38-58 NIS; Mains: 68-156 NIS; Suitable for a vegetarian in a meat-eating crowd.