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Jan 6, 2009 11:52 AM

Jerusalem Restaurant Report (Part I)

We spent seven nights in Jerusalem at the Harmony Hotel, a very new reasonably-priced hotel in the Atlas Chain. This was our favorite hotel of our entire trip based on room size, services, and location, location, location.

The Harmony Hotel is situated on Yoel Moshe Salomon Street, a pedestrian street that radiates out from Ben Yehuda at Zion Square. Our Tel Aviv based taxi driver had a horrific time finding the place on the drive from the airport. That experience made us doubt the wisdom of our hotel choice. However, beginning the next day, we had our choice confirmed. Salomon street proved to be an easy walk to the New Gate of the Old City, a modest walk to the Jaffa Gate, and a five -- ten minute walk to great eating.

Dolphin Yam, Adom, and Terra are located 5 minutes away near or on Ben Shetach.

Eucalyptus and Darna are located 10 minutes away in the other direction on Horkanos Street.

I'm going to split my report into two parts: The Ben Shetach restaurants in Part I and the Horkanos restaurants in Part II.

Dolphin Yam (Blue Dolphin) is considered to be the best fish/seafood place in Jerusalem. It is not kosher, a significant fact when looking for a place to eat Friday night dinner in an observant city like Jerusalem. (Saturday dinner is no problem in Jerusalem as long as you're prepared to eat late in summer because of late sunsets. For our winter visit, sunset was quite early -- just before 5:00 p.m. No problem since we were eating between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.)

We ate our first and last meals in Jerusalem at Dolphin. The mezze are wonderful, with our favorite being the vinaigrette cole slaw. In fact, we got seconds on a couple of these so we could have some vegetables with the fish entrees. My husband ordered the mixed fish platter that included a filet of St. Peter's (AKA Tilapia), gray mullet, and Drumfish. I ordered the grilled calamari with Caper and Lemon sauce. His dish was flawlessly executed; the fish were moist and delicious. My dish was marred by too may capers or undrained capers with the result that the sauce was simply too salty. Since the calamari was tender and superbly grilled, I rescued the situation by scraping most of the sauce away and squeezing the generous lemon wedge over the shellfish. Delish.

Our second meal was an unqualified success. Both my husband and I ordered Drumfish. We were offered a choice between two sauces: one that sounded suspiciously like the too-salty sauce I had had previously and a crab and garlic option. When I couldn't make up my mind, our server offered to being me both. In fact, although my husband had ordered the crab sauce, he was given both sauces, too. Incidentally, the crab sauce was more to our taste, although, frankly, the fish was so amazingly fresh and well-cooked that it required no embellishment.

The wait staff was uniformly pleasant and capable. At the end of the second meal, when I asked for recommendations about places to get Israeli jelly-filled doughnuts since it was the first candle of Chanukah, the restaurant surprised us by giving us doughnuts gratis.

Our meal at Adom was good, but nothing more -- certainly not memorable. I can't even recall anything I ate that night. I'm confident it was a fish preparation since I rarely order meat or poultry. I didn't remember my husband's entree either, I found Adom's menu online and recognized his choice: beef stew in black beer over root vegetables. In fact, the dish was served over mashed potatoes only. I would have expected more variety in the vegetable accompaniment given the "root vegetable" label. He enjoyed his meal more than I did. Actually, I do remember one from the meal was the bread. It was extremely good -- a brown bread with a faintly sweet taste.

We dined at Terra restaurant on Friday night. This was a lovely meal. We began by sharing an order consisting of a single large ravioli in tomato sauce and an order of calamari stuffed with seafood and feta. The second dish was exquisite. The filling in the ravioli and the accompanying tomato sauce were both very tasty, but the pasta wrap was very amateurish. The dough was much too thick. I ate one of the daily specials: drumfish filet over a bed of eggplant. Lovely. My husband had a goose dish that he enjoyed.

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  1. It's too bad to hear that your food experience at Adom wasn't memorable - but nice to make a note of at it. The place is more well known amongst my friends as a fun place to go for drinks and maybe dessert and I've always wondered if the food was worth bothering with. That whole alley is a fun spot for food though. While I understand why tourists wouldn't necessarily seek out sushi in Jerusalem, living here I get terribly lonely for Japanese food and Sakura is a great nonkosher option.

    ps not to be picky, but Dolphin Yam translates to sea dolphin. not sure how many lake dolphins there are - but there it is.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cresyd

      As for Dolphin Yam, I think I had garbled research. The notes I assembled before we went had both the names Blue Dolphin and Dolphin Yam -- along with two addresses -- for what I assumed were two branches of the same restaurant with both the English and Hebrew names supplied. (One address was for Shimon Hazadik and the other was for Ben Shetach.) When we asked the desk clerk at our hotel about a dinner recommendation, her immediate recommendation was for Dolphin Yam. When I showed her my notes, she wrinkled up her face in confusion over the Shimon Hazadik address. I now wonder if some independent restauranteur has a restaurant named Blue Dolphin and I simply made an incorrect linkage. At any rate, thanks for the correct translation. Now, I know another Hebrew word to add to the list of words I supply when the security folks go through their drill at the airport!

      As for our experience at Adom, I don't want to leave the impression that the food was bad. I used the word "memorable" deliberately. Dining experiences can be memorable for negative reasons. Nothing about our evening at Adom even remotely approached that level.

      Looking now at the posted menu at Adom's web site, I wonder if my reaction isn't against the heavier, richer food preparations they feature no matter how well executed. I remember having looked with interest at Adom's appetizer described as "Wild mushroom ragu and grilled sweet potato with soft polenta, smoked duck breast and parmesan." Then, I ruled it out because of the combination of two starches, the rich duck breast, and the cheese. In fact, as I look over the menu now, I'm ruling out option after option. Chicken livers with maple syrup on mashed potatoes. No thanks. My husband, who likes heavier, richer food, in fact, found two things that appealed to him: the beef stew he ordered and the lamb osso bucco.

      If you look at the choices my husband and I made at Terra, you can see what I'm talking about. His goose dish was heavier and richer than my fish choice. At Terra, I simply had more appealing options.

      1. re: Indy 67

        I don't usually seek out seafood in Jerusalem - so I have no clue if there is a Blue Dolphin and Sea Dolphin, but II wouldn't be surprised if there was. I don't actually know the hebrew for Dolphin - but it's a word that ends up in a lot of restaurants and other establishments.

        In general, I don't find Israeli interpretation of 'heavy' food very good. They thrive more on lighter food served in obscene qualities. That being said, most people I know who go to Adom prefer to do so for the night life (ps that means red while we're expanding vocabulary). If you go further down Jaffa from that alley towards the Old City - there's an Ethiopian restaurant that I really love. Excellent bread.

        1. re: Indy 67

          On the Blue Dolphin/Sea Dolphin front - they are in fact two different restaurants and I have plans to eat at the Blue Dolphin this weekend with some friends. One of the reasons your hotel may have not been familiar with the Blue Dolphin is if they cater to tourists not as interested in East Jerusalem. The Blue Dolphin is located in Sheik Jarrah which is the neighborhood just south of the Hyatt in Mount Scopus/French Hill. And I would assume the two restaurants are definitely not connected as one is Palestinian owned.

          1. re: cresyd

            Thanks for the follow-up. Fascinating. Hopefully, you'll find a moment to post a bit about your meal at Blue Dolphin.

            1. re: Indy 67

              The Blue Dolphin (also called the New Dolphin) is ok. If you've been living in Jerusalem for a while and are not feeling terribly picky about your nonkosher shellfish, it'll do. But I wouldn't recommend it for the food. It does have a great ambiance, and to sit and sip drinks, smoke on a shishah, and have some fairly amazing fried calamari - it's very nice. But even for nonkosher Jerusalem seafood - you can do a lot better.