You probably won’t find any gold today but some of the dishes were a real trea
After operating the successful Mala Bar in Ein Karem for years, the owners of this happening joint decided that it was time to branch out and when the opportunity arose, they established the Mala Bistro Bar situated just across the street (literally). Successfully operating one place is difficult enough and I am sure that the proximity makes the task easier, but as we were about to learn, the Mala Bistro Bar lives up to the high standards set by its older sibling while offering good, fresh, varied and also reasonably priced food.
We arrived early on a Thursday night and were escorted to our table inside. The first thing that one notices when walking through the door is the massive old stone house with beautiful arches and very thick walls. They sure don’t build them like they used to. I have heard many stories about this specific building and according to the legend an impressive treasure of gold and ornaments was discovered in the walls after being left there by its previous dwellers. You probably won’t find any gold today but some of the dishes were a real treat.
We started off with the house focaccia served aside an assortment of dips that have become quite popular in Israeli restaurants – black olive tapenade, homemade pesto, grilled eggplant and a sun dried tomato puree. The olive tapenade was OK but as the chef used canned olives it had somewhat of an after taste. The other three dips were delicious and we had to trouble the waitress for a refill. Our starters included a couple of Italian inspired dishes. Mushroom risotto was quite tasty; the rice remained firm and not soggy while absorbing the butter, cream and rich earthy flavors of the mushrooms. A generous dose of parmesan cheese to top it off and the dish was devoured in no time. The second dish is coined “gnocchi shuk” comprising fresh homemade gnocchi, some made from sweet potatoes and some from regular potatoes. The sauce, based on cherry tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs, was light and complemented the fluffy pieces of gnocchi with the sweetness of the offered by the sweet potato gnocchi offered an interesting twist. Before moving on to our main courses, the friendly waitress brought over two glasses of wine. A glass of semi-dry Blue Nun for the lady, and a glass of the Tabor, Adama, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 for me. Over the past couple of years the Tabor Adama label has put forward some pretty good wines and this one, as well as the Sauvignon Blanc 2011 are both worth a try. While sipping on the wine, our main courses arrived - country style chicken with wild rice and veal sweet breads Mahne Yehuda style (as indicated in the menu). The breast and leg were roasted whole, ensuring that the chicken remained tender and juicy within while the skin was nice and crispy. The wild rice side dish cooked in red wine was tasty as well and complemented the chicken. The veal sweet bread dish was delicious – served in a red hot skillet, the sweet breads were cooked to perfection, firm and full of flavor, served atop tehina, charred tomatoes and onions and toasted pita bread. A runny sunny-side-up egg and a dash of amba really took this dish to the next level. At the touch of a fork, the egg yolk coated the sweet breads and some of the grilled vegetables, adding color, texture and flavor. The dish was very generous and personally, I would order it as a starter for two or even three people and this way also sample some of the other dishes on the menu.
Crème brulee and a double espresso were a good way to end the meal and as we walked outside, we were happy to see that both the Mala Bar and the Mala Bistro Bar were quite full. Good food and friendly service, I could understand why.