It is hard not to notice the changes that took place on Ben Shahatch St. in Jerusalem over the past few years. From a street that’s main attraction was the Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute) building and a couple of good eateries, today almost every door or opening facing street level has been transformed into a restaurant, café, bar or other culinary attraction. I am not sure if the credit should go to the current Mayor or the business owners (or both) but one thing is certain, walking up Ben Shatach St. on a warm summer evening, and looking at the light fixtures, cobblestone pavement, dozens of tables with wine glasses and pleasant music coming from the different sound systems, comes together to offer a true European feel.
Walking up from Nachalat Shivaa, just past the established seafood eatery Dolphin Yam and the Gabriel Restaurant, one will find Gabriela – a mehadrin Kosher dairy Restaurant with a wide variety of dishes and options to choose from. First, just in case you were wondering about the resemblances of the names of the two adjacent restaurants. Initially Gabriel and Gabriela were owned and operated by the same management. Today they operate separately while maintaining good neighborly relations.
Veteran chef and restaurateur, Jack Dayan (Jacksy, Gabriel and others) is at the helm and when speaking with him about dining culture and restaurants in Israel, it is evident that he is very passionate about his work: “when people decide to go out and spend their money, we have to make sure that we offer a well rounded and worthwhile experience. From the service, to the food, dishes, lighting, music and more, everything has to be 100%. Even when I am not in the kitchen, it is important for me to greet the guests and make sure that everything is to their likings. The menu at Gabriela incorporates classic dishes while using local ingredients and different cooking styles.”
We pulled up a chair on the outdoor patio and began reviewing the menu. A friendly waiter with a Latin accent greeted us and brought us two glasses of vino dela casa (house wine). Some twelve minutes later, our starters arrived. Nice and crispy Balkan foccacia with feta cheese, tomatoes and grilled eggplant was quite tasty. The sea bream & asparagus ceviche that followed was simply excellent – colorful, very good balance between flavors and textures and fresh ingredients. We also enjoyed a dish which does not appear on the menu and is simply referred to as the Chef’s Treat. Roasted peppers and vegetables, different kinds of goat cheese and nuts all wrapped in phylo dough and baked to a crisp. This is then placed atop a delicate sweet puree based on peaches and champagne. Aside from the presentation which was beautiful, again, good balance of flavors, the nuts really complement the cheese and the sweetness from the grilled peppers as well as the puree give the dish an extra oomph.
For our main courses we ordered one dish from the pasta section on the menu and one “from the sea.” The papardella with salmon and basil-cream sauce was prepared well. The wide noodles (not sure if fresh but of very high quality) were cooked al-dente just as they should be with the generous amount of sautéed fresh salmon cubes and gentle cream sauce complementing the pasta. The trout sounded interesting and definitely a dish that I would not attempt to make at home. Fresh trout, filled with feta cheese and spring onions, covered with flakey dough and served with grilled tomatoes, zucchini, kalamata olive and a basil- salsa rosa sauce. Sounds a bit “crowded” when reading off the menu and not sure how classic this dish is, but this too turned out to be an interesting and tasty choice. The fish was cooked to perfection, literally falling apart at the touch of a fork, with the other ingredients each contributing to the overall presentation and flavor profile.
As you can probably imagine, we were rather full at the end of this round and decided to share a crème brulee and a couple of double espressos before calling it a night. Overall, Gabriela offers a well rounded dinning experience and considering its location, professional service, selection of dishes and the fact that it is mehadrin kosher, all make the restaurant an excellent option for anything ranging from a family dinner to a romantic candle lit evening. Enjoy!