Serenade to a Chef

“And so it began: blady eggplant, garlic bread, mushroom and camembert empanadas, artichoke with red-tuna tartar…” Nadav Avidan tried to convince Kobi Martziano, the chef at Jerusalem’s Sol restaurant, to move in to his flat and cook for him every day. He failed. Jerusalemites – his loss is your gain.

As a resident of Tel Aviv (for the past year), and even prior to being one, I consider Jerusalem to be an overlooked city on my part. I love the atmosphere it offers and enjoy walking in her streets, but somehow I hardly ever manage to make it over there. My love of this city is mainly based on distant memories of this trip or that (or of she whom I once dated and who lived there, but that is a tale for another time). Therefore, when I read in the paper about the 40-year Jubilee (marking the re-unification of Jerusalem), the project meant to shine the spotlight on this city, I realized that I should no longer postpone my next visit. The time had come to form a fresh memory of the place. Luckily for me, Shirley, whom I wanted to accompany me, shared my sentiments, and so it was decided – a date in Jerusalem. From previous conversations on restaurants, I knew that Shirley really loves restaurants of the Spanish variety - tapas, and the like. So, as befitting a romantic and loveable partner, I inquired as to whether a Jerusalem restaurant existed which suited her wishes. One place that fit the bill: Sol, a Jerusalem tapas bar, which, as I would come to learn, has long since become well-known in this city. I reserved a table for two, cleared my schedule, memorized the driving directions, and off we went.

Jerusalem is really close to Tel Aviv! Within 40 minutes from our departure, we were already parked. From the moment we entered the restaurant, the Jerusalem charm (combined with the charms of Sol, itself) began to take effect. The d?cor is simple and warm, with dominant colors of wood and red, inviting you to order wine before the start of the meal. On the whole, the restaurant seems to have been lifted straight out of a romantic Spanish film, with an Almod?var-like atmosphere of impulse, passion, and love. I almost felt like proposing marriage, but decided that it would probably be best to get to know one another a bit further, and to withhold the big surprises on what was only our second date…

Then the moment of truth – a quick glance at the menu revealed that Sol offers a large, and I mean large, variety of tapas. A closer look revealed that each tapas on the menu, read like we were going to completely fall in love with it. What to do? Luckily for us, Lena, our charming waitress, suggested that we simply inform her of what foods we typically like and don’t like, and the chef will choose our tapas for us. We agreed so as to avoid eternal guilty feelings for having chosen one tapas over another.

And so it began: blady eggplant (grilled eggplant over yoghurt, raw tehina, pomegranate sauce, and olive-oil), garlic bread (accompanied by olive-oil, balsamic mushroom spread, and Aubergine salad), mushroom and camembert empanadas, artichoke with red-tuna tartar… I should probably stop here for a second, and explain how this works. Around two courses arrive at the table at a given time, we eat them, determine that they are the tastiest dishes we have eaten in our lifetimes, and the process is repeated…

Sol’s food is one of a kind. Delicious, interesting, challenging – all nice words and all true in this case, but believe me when I say that they are not enough. Like us, you too will try to convince Kobi Martziano, the wonderful chef, to come and live near you, or even with you, all so you could eat his food every day.

So we continue the food parade: glazed shrimp in caramel on artichoke puree; Andalusia sea-bream fillet; calamari stuffed with feta cheese, mushrooms, and spinach; crab bisque with star anise, chicken liver in shallot preserves, beef filet medallions, and smoked breast of duck accompanied by Dijon mustard… In case you have forgotten, you can go back to the paragraph describing the continuous arrival of dishes – increasingly enjoyable. A true culinary miracle.

Of course, with food like this, one can’t get too full too soon, and so we moved on to the entr?es: Shirley ordered the Jumbo