"Our favorites were the London broil with rich meaty flavors and texture, tender beef ribs and entrecote (rib eye) steak" Yonatan Sternberg at Vaqueiro restaurant in Jerusalem
I first visited Vaqueiro a week after the opening. It must have been at least eleven or twelve years ago, my grandmother (May she rest in peace) was visiting from Canada and we were walking through Ben Yehuda St. and getting hungry. A friend told us about a new restaurant on Haneviim St. that served excellent meat dishes “and they even have an 'all you can eat' special that is a treat for any carnivore”, he said. We walked up the Rav Kook St. and entered the beautiful building that housed Vaqueiro. My grandmother ordered the House Burger as she said that the “all you can eat” special would be wasted on her, and I of course decided to go for it. The meal was excellent as was the company but for some reason it took me quite a few years until I returned.
The restaurant has undergone several changes over the years but recently the original owner and founder Stanley Lifshitz, a well-known South African restaurateur is back at the helm. Lifshitz is very passionate when it comes to quality food and beverage, incorporating South American cooking styles alongside South African techniques and dishes. The restaurant is strictly kosher (Rav Machpud) and as such caters to a wide clientele, both local and tourists who come to indulge in meat and wine. We opted to sit on the beautiful outdoor patio and enjoy the cool Jerusalem breeze with Lifshitz leaving the massive indoor grill from time to time, stopping by the tables to ensure that everything was prepared to the diners’ satisfaction.
While Vaqueiro still offers the signature all you can eat special (both for lunch as well as dinner with the number of meat dishes varying) Lifshitz decided to make some changes to the menu and add several of his favorite dishes to the Ala Carte menu. Now visitors can now enjoy homemade gravlax – thin slices of cured salmon with a distinctive sweet-peppery and dill flavor, an excellent way to start any meal. Order a glass of dry or off dry white wine and you are in for a treat. Another dish that is new on the menu is a traditional South African named Bredie which is a tomato and lamb based stew (similar to a Goulash but better said Lifshitz). The salads were generous, and colorful and judging from the speed in which the diners at the table behind us finished the dish were also very tasty, but we opted for the carnivore challenge which at dinner includes between 10-12 grilled, cooked and roasted meat dishes. Lifshitz suggested that we complement the meat with a red vino and Teperberg’s Malbec, Terra, 2010 was the wine of choice. Among the few varietal Malbec wines produced in Israel, it seems that Teperberg really knows how to work with Malbec, originally a French grape varietal later transplanted to Argentina. Concentrated purple in color, this wine is medium bodied with soft tannins, and good balancing acidity, suggesting aromas of various dark berry fruits, purple flowers and young plums with notes of oak in the background – an excellent choice indeed and pairing very well with the meat.
Our favorites were the London broil with rich meaty flavors and texture, tender beef ribs and entrecote (rib eye) steak. I also enjoyed the grilled chicken wings with a sweet and tangy marinade. After receiving samples of all 12 meats, the waiters return offering seconds, thirds and quadruple servings – at Vaqueiro they take the all you can eat business quite seriously. Another dish that was genuinely excellent, and this may sound surprising, was the house salad which is served along with bakes potatoes when ordering the special. Salad is about freshness, variety, balance and seasoning and all four were spot on. The vegetables were crunchy-fresh, cut uniformly and in the right proportions and last but not least topped with Vaqueiro’s secret vinaigrette dressing.
I unbuttoned the top button in my jeans, leaned back and had another sip of wine; it won’t be twelve years before my next visit - this is for sure.