On April 1st (no, this is not an April Fool's joke), one of my closest friends turned 27. For the past ten years we have been celebrating our birthdays by taking each other out and indulging on the finest cuisine we can afford.
This year I decided that we deserved a real treat; I was searching for a quiet comfortable place where two old friends could get together, catch up on old times and, of course, enjoy a great meal (preferably including meat), good music and a glass of wine.
Since both of us live in the Jerusalem area and since my friend keeps kosher, our options were somewhat narrow. After making several phone calls and receiving warm recommendations regarding Hachatzer, I immediately called to make a reservation.
Unfortunately Hachatzer was booked solid on the days prior to the Passover holiday, and we were forced to wait ten days. Normally, I would just search online for an alternative but after hearing the reviews we both agreed that we should be patient and call back a week later – this was probably one of my best culinary decisions of the year.
Situated in the old train station compound, Hachatzer’s decor is warm and modern while maintaining a homey atmosphere. Additionally, the restaurant has a large event garden which can accommodate some 300 guests.
After completing his studies at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia and working in several restaurants around the world, Chef Moti Ochana decided to return to his homeland and demonstrate his cooking skills. Two years ago Moti (and partners) opened up Hachatzer, offering an impressive selection of quality fresh salads, meat, fish, stews and even several pasta dishes.
It is also important to note the Hachatzer’s wine menu offers a good selection of fine Israeli wine at some of the cheapest prices that I’ve seen on any wine menu.
Moti’s cooking philosophy is quite admirable, he insists on using fresh local ingredients and emphasizes the importance of seasonality while never compromising on quality. It is evident that Moti is influenced by local Mediterranean; Moroccan, Asian, French and Italian cuisine while adding his own twists to the dishes.
After browsing the menu we ordered Hachatzer’s tasting menu, basically this puts us in the hands of the chef who selects an assortment of dishes which are brought gradually to the table. We started off with the beef fillet carpaccio in truffle oil (delicious), a unique Asian style fish and cucumber tartar and a dish including eggplant and tahina. Moti elevates this third, rather common dish to new levels adding sautéed cubes of beef fillet, green tahina and a list of secret ingredients.
These were followed by a platter of veal sweetbreads which were grilled to perfection and Moti’s version of a lamb burger. A delicious lamb patty, cooked medium and placed gracefully between slices of grilled eggplant and tomato and then topped with a raw tahina drizzle, my friend stated that this was the best burger he’s had in years.
After resting for a few minutes, the next courses arrived – a platter including chunks of a unique flank steak and hash browns was brought to the table followed by the veal asado in a homemade BBQ sauce. To those carnivores who aren’t familiar with the flank steak – this dish is a must. The melt in your mouth asado was also delicious, after roasting in the oven for over 8 HOURS, Moti carves the cut, dividing it into generous individual portions.
Even the parve deserts were tasty – a chocolate – chestnut tart, home made Ice cream with a raw tahina and grape honey (dibas) drizzle – two hot cups of espresso – this is one birthday that we won’t forget for a while.
On Friday afternoons Hachatzer offers a special homey Shabbat menu, offering a full 3 course meal for NIS 78 per person.
7 Derech Beit Lechem, Jerusalem