The top five restaurants in the German Colony
Say what you will about the disproportionately Western feel of Jerusaem's German Colony, but with gentrification comes good eats. Emek Refaim Street, this chi-chi neighborhood's main thoroughfare, has for decades been a center of cafe culture in Jerusalem, but as Israeli tastes develop and as foreigners move in, the street and the surrounding neighborhood have become more and more of a draw for its beloved restaurants. These include prime specimens of the ever-evolving Jerusalemite concept bistro and the oh-so-trendy pan-Asian fusion kitchen.
The name "German Colony" exudes a subtle sort of irony - walk down this chi-chi neighborhood's main thoroughfare, Emek Refaim Street, and your inner anthropologist might feel he'd discovered the American Colony (which is, of course, actually a few miles away, and likewise misleadingly named). Despite being founded by German Templers (a humorless sect of millenarian German protestants eventually expelled by British Mandatory authorities for being too cozy with the Nazi regime in the old country), the verdant garden neighborhood is today heavily populated by well-heeled English-speaking immigrants and short-term residents.
So don't fret about your Hebrew - it won't be a problem - and get ready to book a table at one of our picks for the top five restaurants in the German Colony.
We weren't kidding about that pan-Asian thing. Despite being a Western outpost on the Eastern continent, Jerusalem has historically had a somewhat mixed record of success when it came to replicating the flavors of the far East (though if limp stir-fry on a baguette sounds up your alley, you should have been here ten years ago), but lately Japanophilic restaurateurs have finally married sushi to the Israeli culinary aesthetic.
In this context, Taiku offers plenty of fresh, creative rolls (sweet potato in sushi? why not?), tasty nigiri and, in its genuflection at the altar of pan-Asian-ness, sambal stir-fries and pad thai.
A true Italian culinary gem in Jerusalem, Luciana serves up authentic Italian fare, with main courses that draw heavily on simple Southern Italian preparations of local fish and a robust lineup of pasta, along with specialty hand-tossed thin crust pizzas and salads. All pizza, pasta, bread and other baked goods are prepared fresh onsite, and, rare among the city's Italian restaurants, Luciana boasts an impressively extensive daily breakfast menu.
The restaurant's design is no less impressive than its menu: elegant lamps shine down on intimate booths and intricately patterned tile floors, a cozy meeting of modernism and classic bistro ambiance. Diners can also sit in a courtyard graced by a 300 year old eucalyptus tree, or on a wooden deck with authentic Italian flooring.
Luciana's brief but impressive wine menu also deserves an honorable mention, featuring both big names in Kosher wine (the Golan Heights Winery) as well as the boutique vintners in the Judean hills.
Although Caffit is technically a cafe and therefore might be excluded from the running here (see explanatory note below), the Emek Refaim institution's menu is so extensive and eclectic that it begs to be considered alongside the best restaurants in town.
The people watching, the coffee house fare, and the breakfast combo deals are all unbeatable here, but the appetizers, nibbles and full meals are also top-notch. These range from classic Tuscan soups to fresh roasted fish dishes to mushroom burgers to asparagus ravioli to leek and cheese cakes to brick oven breads. There's a full bar, and a gated-off, sunny courtyard too.
Named not after the secret disco lair of America's 1870s glamerati, but rather more prosaically after its neighborhood ("The Colony") and street address number, HaMoshava 54 is a sterling relatively recent entry into the aforementioned new Jerusalem bisto category.
Once you get past the chic decor, you'll find a menu equally inspired by Israeli comfort food and European bisto fare, with the occasional South American or Asian twist. Also deep fried mashed potato balls. The business lunch daily is a great deal with prix fixe menus at 34, 44 or 54 NIS.
Joy Grill and Beer
It doesn't quite flow off the tongue like it should in English, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the concepts implied by the name "Joy Grill and Beer." Who doesn't like grills or beer?
Though you might expect a Jerusalem twist on burgers, onion rings and Michelob, that's not really Joy's game - it's really more of a chef-driven brasserie concept, heavy on modern interpretations of meaty Middle Eastern and North African dishes and European bistro ringers, from veal sweetbreads in harissa to local drum fish en papillote. But there are also no-nonsense steaks and burgers, so it's a win-win.
In order to narrow our selections, cafes have been excluded from consideration in this page - we've already covered the best coffee on Emek Refaim elsewhere. With this in mind, honorable mentions also go out to the Japanese cuisine powerhouse that is Sushi Rechavia, the bar-restaurant counterpart to Joy that is Selina, the Italian mastery on offer at Luciana, the Yemenite soul food of Marvad Haksamim, and the patties griddled to perfection at Burgers Bar. We can also head back to Asia with Ryu, which does sushi, true enough, but also trades in an edgy clash of Middle Eastern ingredients with Asian cooking concepts (or vice versa).
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