It was cold and still raining as I rushed up Carlibach Street towards Metuka. I was late for a dinner meeting with a new colleague – not the best first impression. As I darted inside (15 minutes later than I should have) I was overwhelmed by the number of occupied tables at 8:45 on a Wednesday night – how would I find Orit!? Aha – the magic of the cell phone. Before long we were seated, acquainted, sipping warm beverages and perusing Metuka’s new menu.
Café, bakery, catering service, and from what the broad new menu reveals (mezes, a weekly special from the new chef, a house wine - Hermon Cab-Petite Syrah 2008 -with the Metuka logo), Metuka seems to have incarnated as a restaurant as well.
Upon recommendation, we decided to start with a few of the new mezes, served in little round dishes: small cubes of sweet potato in coconut milk and finely diced candied pecans, larger cubes of eggplant (baked, not fried) topped with labane and herring with red onion. With the mezes came slices of assorted bread and a fresh herb butter (I detected chives, dill and maybe even some basil). The herring was outstanding – even Orit, who claimed she wasn’t a fan of the fatty Eastern European fish, indulged in the rich, not overly salty pieces bursting with flavour. The eggplant with labane – a classic combination in Israel – held a surprise in its non-greasy appeal. One could even return for 3rd, 4th and 5th bites without the tummy ache regrets that fried eggplant often inspires. The sweet potato was an interesting dish, with the candied pecans adding a welcome alternative sweetness and nuttiness.
After lingering on the mezes for quite some time, we decided to play it light at that late hour and share the Dada Wrap and the Mushroom Salad for our mains. The wrap arrived hot and toasty, bursting with grilled veggies and melted kashkaval cheese and accompanied by the odd choice of pickled ginger and Japanese style spicy mayonnaise. Strangely, the ginger and mayo somehow worked with the wrap, and, along with the large salad, it was the perfect size for sharing. The salad, large though it was, proved even more impressive in its ratio of teriyaki sweetened assorted sautéed mushrooms to lettuce. No one’s skimping on the mushrooms here, and I especially like the toasted cashew topping.
Little did we know, as we continued snacking past the point of satiation, that we should have been saving more room for dessert. Metuka (meaning ‘Sweet’ or ‘Sweetie’, in Hebrew) is known for its pastry. Along with the cakes, cookies and various other baked good displayed for purchase, there are also a few specialties not available for take-away. The enormous molten chocolate soufflé is one of them. It arrived promptly, exactly 15 minutes after ordering, as we were told it would. Thick, smooth, chocolaty, and slightly under-baked – it was everything a chocolate soufflé ought to be. It was also incredibly large and we gave up just past the halfway point.
A second espresso and some additional work talk later, and our meeting was as done as our dinner. As we parted ways at the end of the still wet and glistening street we vowed to do this again sometime soon. Whether we were referring to the work meeting or soufflé was purposefully left vague…
2 Haarbaa Street