“It’s hard to exaggerate about the incredible quality of these dishes. The sardines were extraordinary, served hot and fresh straight out of the pan…” Near-jaded critic Yuval Blanchovsky goes wild for Paradiso in Jerualem.

The Paradiso café-restaurant is located the prestigious Talbieh neighbourhood, right next to downtown Jerusalem. As is fitting of a respected veteran Jerusalem institution, Paradiso’s regulars come in a range of ages and sorts - from business folk to families to romantic couples - who come to enjoy the atmosphere, the relaxation and the high quality dishes coming out of the kitchen. At the table in front of us there are even a couple of key characters in the Israeli economy having a lively conversation about the last time they spoke with Stanly (you know, that ex-pat American heading the Bank of Israel).

Paradiso’s dishes are suited to a French bistro. They aren’t overly styled or adorned because as great food made of quality ingredients they are a satisfying treat without all the fuss. We decided to order a small dish of herring as an appetizer, which has been cured in-house, along with the polenta. The herring was clearly cured by a master; the thick slices were well paired with thinly sliced cucumber and the sour cream served alongside. The assorted cheese polenta was grilled after being cooked and served with mushrooms and sour cream, which is contrary to how I prefer my polenta – more rustic and chewy, reminiscent of the Romanian mamaliga. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop Rei from falling in love with the reasonably-priced dish (NIS 32). We both agreed that the mushrooms added a lovely aroma and flavour and the portion could easily satisfy someone who didn’t come starving. In general, I believe that Paradiso is one on the café-restaurants that give great value for money.

For main dishes we ordered the fried sardines and goose on a bed of ptitim (Israel couscous). It’s hard to exaggerate about the incredible quality of these dishes. The sardines were extraordinary, served hot and fresh straight out of the oil. The small fish were quite thick and filled with herbs and vegetables. At the bottom of the plate were cubes of tomatoes dressed in an olive oil that really livened up the juiciness of the tomatoes. A bite of Paradiso’s home baked bread, dipped in sauce, was a total experience unto itself. This is probably the place to mention that Paradiso’s bread comes with homemade mustard-seed aioli. Next came another winning dish – goose in red wine cooked for a few long hours until it fully absorbed the flavours of the wine. The bottom of the plate was covered with long ptitim – a pasta-like Israeli invention that doesn’t usually dare show its humble face in a restaurant of this level – but which had turned a wonderful purple as a result of the wine. The meat melted in our mouths and the ptitim absorbed the brightly coloured sauce. This is a magnificent dish created by a true artist.

For dessert we ended the meal with strong black espresso. Café-restaurant Paradiso is worth visiting for the atmosphere, for the service and for the amazing food at reasonable prices. Paradiso also offers business specials in the afternoon and after 10:30 at night, offering any one of a range of starters and a drink for the price of the main dish. Highly recommended.

36 Keren Hayesod St., Jerusalem
Tel: 02-5634805