Last week, I called up a friend and told him to meet me in Nachalat Shiva' because I knew the perfect place for dinner: Tmol Shilshom. This café is truly a one of its kind in the Jerusalem, if not on the entire Israeli culinary scene. A combination of book and poetry club, book store, café, restaurant and a true center for the art of writing, Tmol Shilshom was first established in 1994 and is named after Nobel prize winner, Shmuel Yosef Agnon's (commonly known by the acronym S.Y Agnon) famous novel of the same name.
The café is situated in an old Jerusalemite residential structure constructed some 130 years ago. Nothing is left to chance at Tmol Shilshom, the menus, place mats, cups and plates all carry a somewhat literary motif. The menus are designed as classic novels, which most of us have read at some point in our lives. I received Yigal Mosinzon's Hasamb’a and my friend was presented with a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. The different categories within the menu are also true to the overall theme: the preface – which includes a variety of salads soups and other starters, the plot – pasta and baked goods, the plot thickens – several different fish dishes and, of course, the epilogue – I suggest try their rich creamy homemade cheesecake.
Our friendly waitress suggested that we sample a couple of Tmol Shilshom's unique starters – seasoned patties of cod served with grilled eggplant and a side salad as well as a dish of fried Swiss chard "pancakes" served with mint yogurt and maple syrup. The fish patties, while small, were cooked to perfection and went well with the eggplant and a dash of spicy harissa.
Since we were happy with our starters, we once again asked the waitress to recommend a couple dishes for entrees. ‘Salmon fillet with white wine and fig sauce and the Pear-Roquefort Ravioli’, she replied without hesitation. The pear and Roquefort cheese ravioli consisted of tasty uniform dumplings of fresh (though not homemade) pasta dough filled with sweet pear puree and potent blue cheese lightly covered with a butter and sage coating. As a big fan of the moldy French cheese, I asked for a bit more on the side and sprinkled the cheese over the pasta. The salmon, considered by many as the house specialty, was tasty as well, the fish was nice and moist and the sweet fig sauce went surprisingly well with it.
I was planning on ordering my usual double espresso to finish the meal, when I noticed that Tmol Shilshom also offers a wide variety of special warm beverages. We decided to try the Sinai Sachlab and the dulce de latte – milk, coffee, Irish cream and dulce de leche all topped with whipped cream – how could you go wrong. The sachlab was delicious and featured slices of banana, coconut and nuts. The drinks were very rich and could easily serve as a desert on their own.
Tmol Shilshom also hosts regular poetry readings and lectures (see the website’s homepage for further information and schedule) and will also be open during Passover (kosher for Passover - and kitniyot - grains and legumes). It doesn't matter if you're coming for the coffee, food, company or an intellectually stimulating poetry reading, one thing is for sure, Tmol Shilshom offers a total one-of-a-kind experience.
5 Solomon St., Jerusalem