Agua in Ein Karem

Although last Sunday was a most unfriendly night to be out and about, a jaunt to Ein Karem proved a culinary delight. Yonatan Sternberg tells of his worthy adventures out into the cold and rain to visit Agua.

This past Sunday was probably the worst day I could have chosen to go out for dinner. The wind was blazing and the rain was pouring; the idea of staying home curled up on the couch with a bowl of soup or a cup of hot cocoa never sounded better! But, a date is a date, and at 20:30 I found myself slowly steering my way down the dark slippery slopes leading to Ein Karem.

Several minutes later we arrived at Agua (Spanish for water), a café-bar-restaurant situated in a beautiful old Arab home on the neighborhood's main drag. The structure itself is impressive with very high ceilings and massive stone arches. Visitors can choose between three different seating areas: outdoor tables overlooking the street and alleyways of Ein Karem, downstairs offering more of a restaurant feel or the upstairs bar, which by the way is also the designated smoking area.

The menu at Agua offers a wide variety of dishes, including salads, wraps, light starters, fish & seafood and meat. They also have daily specials and a business lunch menu for the daytime crowd to enjoy.

A glass of Barkan's Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve helped us warm up a bit and by the time the first course was served, we were ready to get down to business. We started off with the cured sirloin, chicken liver paté and house bread. The dishes were presented nicely and were quite tasty. The beef consisted of thin slices of sirloin in a balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey dressing. The dish is very similar to classic beef carpaccio dishes; the difference in Agua's version lies in the fact that they allow longer contact between the liquid and beef, allowing the vinegar to slightly cure the meat. The paté was rich and creamy and the warm slices of toast and sweet onion marmalade came together in a delicious flavor encounter.

Time for our main courses - here we decided to mix and match ordering the entrecote (rib eye) steak and the shrimp Mojito cocktail. The meat was cooked to perfection, displaying uniform grill marks on the outside and juicy inside. Needless to say, I was content. The shrimp cocktail dish consisted of about a dozen plus pieces of shrimp sautéed with a Mujito, a fresh herb based glaze. We also sampled the chicken liver in red wine sauce, a real treat, again cooked just right, slightly charred on the outside yet soft and moist just as they should be on the inside.

With just enough room to split a dessert, we ordered the chocolate - banana (type of fruit used in the pie varies according to the season) pie and a couple of warm drinks that really hit the spot. It was time to bundle up before heading back out to the cold Jerusalemite winter evening. In retrospect, going out to dinner turned out to be a pretty good choice that evening, despite the weather.