We arrived at our hotel exhausted at 7pm after a long journey, but our first diner was going to be a special surprise just a 10-minute walk away at M25 in the Carmel Market, where Chef Jonathan Borowitz holds court over a truly simple affair of exposed pipes and walls, benches outside, simple tables and chairs and a huge glass fronted butcher-store style fridge filled with all kinds of meats for sale. There were no menus to pass out, just a blackboard on one wall with everything written in Hebrew (which I struggled through with no vowels!), but Chef greeted us, seated us and along with our server, Noor, began to explain it all. It was not a lot, but we were overwhelmed and he agreed to just send out a selection. There is no wine list and three bottles (1 white & 2 reds) stood on the meat fridge and I immediately chose the Masi 2012 Campofiorin which came to the table sweating from the chiller making me worry it was too cold. Wrong! It was about 60degrees and perfct for the 80degree muggy evening and the meats loaded with flavors.
First came three large kebabs grilled on metal skewers: Skirt steak, Onglet (hanger steak) and Lamb(shoulder), which each one of us had a favorite. Samuel had been saying he was going to try and be vegetarian on this trip; that lasted about 5 minutes. A small bag was delivered filled with miniature pita "pies" stuffed with minced lamb and spices which were also grilled (I think everything was) and bursting with flavor. Photos are on my FB page and must be seen to be believed as we had just seen Sweeney Todd this week at Glimmerglass opera and these indeed were the true incarnation of the meat pie-Israeli style. Sweeney Todd--we ate your heart out!
Salads came and these were truly awesome with a Greek Salad of gorgeous greens, sliced thin kohlrabi and more in a superb lemony vinaigrette, every leaf looking like it was just picked minutes before. The "Israeli" salad comes in many shapes, sizes and combinations and here was tomato, cucumber and jalapeno slices and more over a bed of tahini sauce which was superb with those pita pies. The kick from the chili was just right.
Samuel received a plate of gorgeous grilled eggplant, zucchini, radish and kohlrabi and more and loved it all save for the latter, but then hit the meat and shared his veggies with us.
Grilled tongue with sea salt arrived with mustard and chazeret, which is one of the items on the annual Passover Seder Plate and here was simply grated fresh horseradish which was excellent with the soft subtle meat, but not needed as this was indeed the best tongue I have ever had anywhere. Will tried a small bite, thinking he would hate it, then finished half the plate which also came wit a small salad of scallions.
We were stuffed and tired but could not resist dessert in the form of Crack Pie, which was an out crust similar to graham crackers and a sweet filling with runny whipped cream on the side that was delicious beyond belief, and we had to all fight over the last bites. Chef arrived with a plate of three small spoons filled with Chocolate Mousse that disappeared even faster, with Will declaring it the best chocolate mousse ever.
What a great way to start our first meal in this 3+ week journey through Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel and eternal homeland of the Jewish people, now a top dining destination on earth!