A journey from a love affair with processed foods to a love affair with cheese.
In the nearly ten (!) years that I’ve lived in Jerusalem, the city has improved in pretty much every way, especially in the areas of leisure and food. One obvious example of the city stepping it up in the realm of public space is the new Tachana, which turned one about a month ago. It’s been a year in which it’s tried to find its footing, with stores, restaurants, kiosks, carts, stands, and entertainment coming and going (though mostly staying, aside from the food stands outside and within the Culinary Baazar.) But here’s the thing, while I love the Tachana, to the extent that the route I’ve chosen for my walk home every day goes through it, I don’t think that the food offerings in it are all that good (with the notable exception of the cheese stand in the Culinary Baazar and the organic farm stand). Such is the testament to my love of the space and its use that I don’t even care that the food there isn’t superior.
That said, I never give up hope that a truly good restaurant will move in. To clarify the facts on the ground, my preferences, and my opinions, here’s a quick breakdown of the restaurants (not bars and stands, we’ll get to that another time) what’s there, before I get to the actual review:
So, a few weeks ago AB and I decided to check out Station 9, a new Asian place that recently opened. Asain food in Jerusalem is not usually the best (it all tastes kind of generically “Asian”), but we had hopes. When we got there, the restaurant was pretty much empty, and we decided to sit outside. Nobody offered to seat us, but we informed a waiter that we were sitting outside and could we please have menus. The menus eventually came, and we had ample time to peruse them. They were laid out in a very confusing manner, with sections of drinks interspersed between sections of food (so it went something like appetizers, tea, soup, cocktails, salads, red wine, etc). The food looked relatively interesting and decently priced, but after 20 minutes went by with nary a waitstaff coming by, we got up and left. That would’ve been that, but some days later, some very discerning friends ate there and said the food and service were excellent, so we decided to give it another try.
Last night we went back. This time, a hostess greeted us right away and told us to choose a table. Since it was approximately 2 million degrees yesterday, we sat inside. You can tell they invested a little in the decor, with a fun ceiling and pretty dishes and flatware, but nothing above and beyond. We got menus right away, and after just a few minutes a waitress came by to take our order. We weren’t even ready yet!
They re-did the menus, so now all the food is on the front and the drinks on the back, though the drinks were still divided up weirdly (a whole section on something non-wine related sat between the white wines and red wines, and the cava was listed under the section entitled sake.) In any case, we were not as blown away by the options as our friends led us to believe we would be, but there was a varied and interesting selection. Appetizers included dim sum (which they were out of), gioza, fish carpaccio, beef tataki, and more; they offered four soups including tom yom and ramen; there were some nice salad options like papaya salad, tea chicken salad, and seaweed salad; and the main included things like pad thai, green thai noodles, and pad king as well as Asianly cooked beef, wings, ribs, and whole fish.
I was at first most intersted in appetizer that was described as rice cubes with asparagus and salmon, but it turned out that the salmon in question was raw, not cooked, so I passed. In the end we decided to split gioza, Suinamese lumpia, soy pickled sirloin, and two mini burgers – one beef and one duck.
Our food came immediately and all at once. We ordered the chicken gioza (vegetable was also an option), which arrived laid out very pretty but drowned in soy sauce, which was a shame because it masked the flavor the the gioza itself. The lumpia turned out be regular old eggrolls (we ordered vegetarian but chicken was an option) served with a delicious hot and sour bbq sauce .
The other food was a bit more interesting. The soly-pickled sirloin sturned out to be strips of very thinly sliced, rare pieces of meat served atop a salad of shredded carrots, beets, cabbage, cucumber, and kohlrabi dressed in a very sharp ginger vinagrette. It was very good and unlike what you generally see on menus in these parts. The meat was cooked just the right amount, the vegetables were very fresh, and the sauce flavorful but not too overpowering.
Finally, the burgers. Burgers come in small or regular (the menu sets it up like you’d get a deal if you order two small instead of 1 small, but actually it’s exactly double the price, same as 1 big) are are served on a steamed bun (the same dough dumplings are made from, says AB, who ate many such dumplings when he was in Hong Kong). The burgers and their buns were so good, worth the second chance we gave the restaurant. The beef burger was practically raw (I realize this might not be everyone’s cup of tea) and came with some thai pickles, sauce, and hot pepper slices. The duck burger was strips of duck with more or less the same fixins, plus cilantro, which was a shame. The duck itself was very good through – not fatty at all.
Our total bill came to around 150 NIS, which was very reasonable. I have a feeling that if the restaurant is successful, in a few months prices will go up.
Overall, I’m glad we gave it a second chance, as we had an enjoyable meal and good service, but I can’t say I was blown away.
Kosher, mid-range prices, suitable for both fish-eating and non-fish-eating vegetarians as well gluten-free eaters, though the soy sauce might be a problem.
Coming soon: Where we ate that time we couldn’t get served at Station 9.