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Most visitors would agree that a handful of days in the historically important and exciting city of Jerusalem is not enough time – there is simply too much to absorb – and as I found – too much to eat! Sure, I expected falafel and hummus, but while there was introduced to tasty new dishes like Shakshuka – a spicy tomato and onion based casserole served with eggs, and the dessert, Halva – the sweet and dense confection made with sesame seed paste. During my short time there – I also discovered that Israel is becoming a respectable international food destination.
Nir Elkayam is the executive chef at Jerusalem’s popular Inbal Hotel, located just blocks from the walls of the old City. They have been serving a variety of guests for decades – from heads of state to common visitors like us. He refers to the Israeli kitchen as a “baby” that has just been born. Most recently, the Inbal has taken advantage of the pop-up restaurant concept. This ever changing venue allows them to serve – in addition to traditional fare – new and exciting dishes they’ve invented from Israel’s cornucopia of cultural influences.
Chef Nir created a dish based on the Italian Melanzana – a layered dish we know better as Eggplant Parmigiana. His local contribution is Kataifi – shredded fillo dough. You’ve probably seen it at middle eastern bakeries, or tasted it at Lebanese restaurants where its served for dessert with honey, walnuts, and ground pistachios. He calls this Roman Baklava and it was delicious. The Kataifi provided a nice texture that complimented the cheese and eggplant.
I was impressed with this fusion– but was still curious about the traditional dishes they offer each week for Shabbat – the Jewish holiday observed between Sundown on Friday to Sundown on Saturday. Chef Nir explained that demand is very high for chopped liver and the infamous gefilte fish – the Polish/German tradition rendered by grinding bones as well as flesh of a fish. He joked that he calls such cooking “Fifty shades of grey.”
Chef Nir held a Soup Festival recently at the Inbal Hotel offering hot bowls of traditional- based inventions as well as multi-culture inspired recipes. For more information about the cuisine they offer, visit Savory Road.com. There you’ll find photos of Chef Nir’s Roman Baklava that we tried, as well as other Israeli dishes.
A hearty thank you goes out to Chef Nir, Yaniv Shoshany -Sales Manager of the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel and Ariella Steinreich from Steinreich Communications. Meeting Chef Nir was one of the highlights of our trip and our hotel tour and dinner were memorable.
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