A Feast of White

“The Jerusalem salad is a true mystery. I could never explain how such a simple salad, one in which the vegetables are chopped thin - with mint, parsley, pine-nuts, and spring onion - could be so precise in its flavor…” Amir Ben Naim discovered the essence of fusion in the coffee-house/restaurant “Lavan BaCinematheque” (“White at the Cinematheque”)

The Jerusalem Cinematheque underwent a face-lift of sorts in 2007, which included the renovation and reopening under a new name and ownership of its restcafe. Knowing who the owner of the establishment was, as well as the identity of the head chef, we were sure we would be in good hands that night. After all, he who headed the restaurant “Adom” (“Red”) and the restaurant-bar “Koloni” knows exactly what he is doing. Brimming with anticipation to see the new face of the restcafe, we hurried along on the cold Jerusalem evening towards the warm space of “Lavan BaCinematheque.” The place is quite known, and it is often frequented by those who are soon to see or have just finished seeing a film in the Cinematheque, and especially by those who arrive just to enjoy the food.

As its name suggests, this Jerusalem restaurant-caf? is white, and features warm, soft lighting. It boasts a large window that affords a generous view into the modern kitchen, which will prepare dairy-based Italian-style meals for you. The restcafe offers a unique view on the walls of the old city and the valley of Ben-Hinnom, where the Sultan Pool Amphitheatre is located. Balcony seats promise a unique vantage point and a pleasant atmosphere, one more relaxed than that of the inside, so you can choose for yourselves the location most befitting your mood and purpose of your meeting. Likewise, the menu is designed to be enjoyed by one and all, be it a person on a random stopover for a bite, a couple on a romantic date, or a nice classy dinner. “We wanted to offer a rich menu that would cater to those seeking casual dining, as well as to those seeking more elegant fare,” Assaf, one of the owners of the establishment, explained. “But above all, we took great care to provide generous portions, fresh quality ingredients, and, at the same time, affordable prices.”

After struggling with the decision of where to sit, we opted for the balcony. The walls of the old city were lit in gold and the darkness which was spread over the Ben-Hinnom valley accentuated the vista’s charm. After being seated, a bottle of “Tavor” vineyard was uncorked for us. The wine, a cabernet-sauvignon terra-rosa, warmed our hearts put us in the mood for what was to come. For the first courses we chose endive leaves with seasonal fruit (pear), which was served with an impressive slice of bleu cheese, and baladi eggplant with raw tahini and yoghurt. Imagine a meaty baladi eggplant, soft and slightly warm, resting on the plate, surrounded by wonderful raw tahini and yoghurt, with a bit of olive oil. How delicious…

Out of the various focaccia breads offered on the menu, we were served the sabich-focaccia, which is a celebration all on its own(!) - Roasted eggplants, feta cheese, raw tahini, and hard-boiled egg, all on a hot and fresh focaccia. We enjoyed breaking off bit after bite and letting the tahini drip off slowly. The herb and Jerusalem salads which arrived left us astonished. The herb salad contains parsley, coriander, mint, roquette, basil, bulgur, tomatoes, cranberries, walnuts, and almonds with lemon and olive-oil. One comes to realize just how special and palatable it is when one realizes that you can’t stop taking bites of it. The Jerusalem salad is a true mystery. I could never explain how such a simple salad, one in which the vegetables are chopped thin - with mint, parsley, pine-nuts, and spring onion - could be so precise in its flavor. Of course, the feta cheese and raw tahini which accompany it make their own contributions, but still, its quality is enigmatic.

The entr?es arrived with fish cutlets in pepper casserole, tomatoes, and coriander leading the charge. The cutlets were airy and juicy, on their own and also thanks to the delicious tomato sauce. The risotto zucca with squash, yams, parmesan, cream, and pine-nuts made for one of the best choices of the delightful night. The only negative side to each bite of the risotto is the increased kno