Menora's chef came from years of experience in Eilat to "serve fresh, unpretentious and tasty food" in Jerusalem. Yonatan Sternberg visits this quaint kosher restaurant just moments walk from the Wall.
A couple of days ago, I decided to take my younger brother on a walking tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. Starting off at the Damascus gate, we made our way through the vibrant marketplace and Muslim quarter, stopped at the church of the Holy Sepulcher and then headed down towards the Western Wall. After walking around for a couple of hours we were beginning to get hungry and decided look for a place to eat. Since my brother both keeps kosher and is a vegetarian, the wonderful hummous joints and small restaurants serving traditional lamb dishes scattered throughout the Muslim quarter were not an option.
A quick search on line using my brother’s new I-Phone guided us to the Menora restaurant and café. Literally adjacent to the newly renovated “Hachurva” synagogue and just a 5-minute walk from the Western Wall, Menora is a quaint mehadrin kosher dairy restaurant offering a wide range of dishes to choose from. Breakfast specials are served until noon and for lunch or dinner one can order soups, pasta, fish, pizza, salads, home made cakes and baked goods, sandwiches, fresh home made hummous and more. Managed by father and son, Avi and Assaf Banai, Menorah was established some eight years ago and since has been become a home away from home for many tourists and students who come to Israel for yeshiva or seminary studies.
After owning a Lebanese restaurant in Eilat, Avi decided to return to his home town and get into the local culinary scene, “When I moved back to Jerusalem, Menorah was looking for a chef and I began working here”, says Avi Banai, “after a couple of years I bought the place from the previous owner and made some revisions to the menu. At Menora, we serve fresh, unpretentious and tasty food. We host a lot of Bar Mitzva’s and other family events and, as you will see, I am not one of those chefs who prepare fancy dishes in minute portions. I want my clients to get their money’s worth and not walk out of here while still hungry.”
Indeed Avi kept his promise: the spaghetti in cream sauce, Greek salad and the shakshuka that arrived at our table were very generous. The pasta was prepared al dente and covered with a rich fresh mushroom and garlic infused cream sauce. The shakshuka was absolutely delicious. Menora offers several different versions of this traditional egg dish that over the years has become a staple in Israeli cuisine: regular, piquant, shakshuka with feta cheese and olives and even a mushroom and cream shakshuka. Opting for the piquant version, we were very content. Served in a medium sized skillet, the red sauce was very tasty and flavorful. It is quite evident that Avi uses fresh tomatoes rather then tomato paste and adds plenty of herbs and spices.
Looking at my watch, I realized that the time at the parking meter was about to run out. We grabbed our coats, thanked Avi and made our way back to the parking lot. Avi is also thinking about opening a kosher meat restaurant in the area, but until he does so, we will have to visit him at Menora.