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Lavan
Lavan Yonatan Sternberg
The people at Lavan were probably unaware of my fungi weakness, but when I noticed that they were offering a special mushroom based menu (served through October and November), I knew that I had to pay a visit.

"The winter has arrived!" was the headline on the weather websites - rain, hail, wind and even thunderstorms in the Northern parts of the country. As a person who used to visit Canada on a regular basis, our winter pales in comparison to the Canadian version- not that I am complaining. Another indicator that proves that the seasons are changing is the fact that many restaurants are offering various winter specials, from soups, stews and other treats. Among my favorite winter ingredients are root vegetables and mushrooms, all kinds of mushrooms. There is something about the earthy smell and concentrated flavors that just make me want to throw them all in a pot and sit at home, bundled up with a bowl of rich soup or stew. The people at Lavan were probably unaware of my fungi weakness, but when I noticed that they were offering a special mushroom based menu (served through October and November), I knew that I had to pay a visit.

Lavan is situated in the Jerusalem Sinimatec complex with its balcony overlooking the walls the old city. As soon as we walked in we noticed the rich aroma of various types of fungi, from the meaty Portobello mushrooms to the decadent black truffle that is worth more than its weight in gold. Starters for the evening were a mix and match from both the regular and specials menu – asparagus in tomato butter and polenta which was cooked to perfection, leaving the asparagus vivid green and with a nice crunch. I was disappointed to hear that they were out of the Manchego-mushroom ravioli in truffle oil and ordered the mushroom ragu which was comprised of an assortment of rich mushroom and cooked with a soy-mushroom stock, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, sautéed halumi cheeses and again a side of polenta. The dish was very generous and the polenta absorbed the sauce with the halumi adding texture and flavor. We also sampled the mushroom tart which was made with an assortment of mushrooms, goat cheese and moist dates which gave the dish an interesting twist. The chef opted to use filo dough rather than prepare a proper tart base, leaving the filo a bit on the soggy side but the filling was delicious and the combination of the sweet, savory and earthiness from the mushrooms went well together. The waitress suggested that I try a glass of Barkan's Carignan Reserve and see how it pairs with the mushroom dishes. I enjoyed the wine very much and found that it went very well with the mushroom flavors and aromas. Two of the most popular main courses at Lavan are the beef fillet and the white pizza – naturally we tasted both. The melt in your mouth fillet was topped with a cream of tarragon and peppercorn sauce and served with a serving of buttery mashed potatoes. The potato mash absorbed the tasty sauce and the dish was devoured in no time, this too went well with the Caringan. The white pizza was also tasty – paper thin crispy crust, artichoke hearts, sliced potatoes, Gorgonzola and ricotta all topped with an olive oil drizzle – some pizzas just don’t need tomato sauce and kudos to Lavan for the off-the-beaten track pie. For dessert we also decided to stick to the 'wintery' dishes. Berry and apple crumble and a warm chocolate tart – two very comforting and tasty ways to end a meal. If you are a fungi lover like me hurry over to Lavan while the mushroom festival lasts, if you don't make it in time, just wait to see what they have up their sleeve come spring time.

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