My girlfriend and I deserved a treat. These feelings of entitlement often lead us throughout the country seeking an interesting culinary experience. With the weather as nasty as it was this past week (yes, yes, the rain is a blessing), we decided to limit our voyages to inside the city of Jerusalem.
After hearing excellent reviews from one of my favorite cousins, we reserved a table at the Canela restaurant; situated on Shlomtzion Hamalka Street. Canela (Italian for cinnamon) offers a sophisticated and original menu created by house chef Lior Cheftzadi. Cheftzadi who comes from a family of caterers and restaurateurs is influenced by Italian and French cooking techniques, incorporating high quality local ingredients and giving the dishes a clear Mediterranean twist. The decor is elegant and minimalist, with intimate lighting, wooden floors, warm colors and even a white piano over-looking the entrance.
We sat a table facing the street and began reviewing the menu. It is evident that Cheftzadi is passionate when it comes to food. When asking him for recommendations, his eyes immediately lit up and I knew that we were in good hands. The tuna ceviche with wasabi cream was delicious, definitely one of the best wasabi based sauces I’ve ever tried. We also enjoyed the grilled veal tongue topped with a tangy chimichuri dressing and Canela’s version of “Sabich” – Cheftzadi takes this classic Israeli street food to new levels, substituting the pita for a fresh foccacia, the hard-boiled egg for a quail egg and using grilled baladi eggplants and homemade sauces. The veal sweetbreads were a tad disappointing. Usually one of my favorites, I found the dish to be to crowded, with the thick tahini, grilled tomatoes and okra overpowering the dish. Other recommended starters include the seared veal brain with a mushroom aioli and the foie gras in a Muscat wine and spice reduction garnished with fresh berries – bravo! The liver was cooked to perfection and the sweet yet complex sauce was definitely above par.
Another thing worth mentioning is Canela’s wine list. Canela offers some of Israel’s top vinos as well as a private wine collection that does not appear on the menu. If you want to try something different, order a bottle of the Wadi Katlav 2006, from the Judean Hills based, Katlav Winery.
Cheftzadi loves working with fish and the next dish was a good illustration of the fact. A thick fillet of palamida (a member of the tuna family) was seared accurately and placed on a bed of grilled okra and tomatoes all topped with an olive oil drizzle. I was also eager to try the beef stew with shallots, raisins, pickled lemon and maple syrup. After growing up with maple syrup on pancakes or Belgium waffles, I was interested in seeing if this sauce that always reminded me of breakfast at my grandparent’s house in Canada would go well with beef. Let me tell you, it most certainly does.
Once again we were faced with the usual dilemma – do we have room desert? The chocolate layered treat was very tasty and the fact that Canela uses excellent ingredients shone through. While the parve (non-dairy) ice cream reminded me why I usually don’t order ice cream in kosher restaurants, we enjoyed the lemon tartlet and decided to call it a night.
As we headed back out into the cold Jerusalem night, I was thinking that while Jerusalem may not have an abundance of kosher-gourmet restaurants, at least the ones we have are excellent.
Canela also offers a special degustation menu which changes on a daily basis and includes a full meal for two including a glass of wine for NIS 350. Other specials include business lunches (12:00-15:30) and private events for up to 100 guests, held on the restaurant’s second floor.
8 Shlomtzion St, Jerusalem