Jerusalem's top kosher restaurants prepare for Passover
It's that time of year again, when leaven is not to be seen, matza is everywhere and tourists flock the Holy City. Passover may be upon us, but the days when the holiday's strict dietary restrictions made for a week of macaroons, borscht and boxes of stale matza are ancient history. In recent years, ever-increasing numbers of Jerusalem restaurants have been turning over their kitchens and creating Passover-friendly menus, freeing home cooks from the slavery of the kitchen and offering tourists the high-end culinary experience they have come to expect in Jerusalem.
As Adi Talmor, iconic Jerusalem chain Sushi Rechavia's marketing manager, explains the phenomenon to GoJerusalem.com, "We've been kosher for Passover for three years now. It seemed like a natural step - a lot of tourists come to Jerusalem on Passover, and people from across the country come to Jerusalem. Rechavia and the German Colony are especially full during this time."
Moti Ochana, chef at Hachatzer, agrees that tapping into the timely spike in international and domestic tourist clientele is key. "It's an economic choice," he says. Aside from the changeover of kitchen utensils, Jerusalem restaurateurs seems to be downplaying the challenges involved with obtaining kosher-for-Passover certification. "Everything is normal for us - we don't need to do anything really special to remain open," Ochana says. "It's all logistics - changing the plates, silverwear, etc. From the chef's point of view, it's not so difficult."
Menu-wise the trickiness only starts when management makes a decision to serve kitniot or not (Jews descended from Europe - the majority of tourists arriving from the West - refrain from eating ingredients made from legumes and other non-grain but leaven-resembling foodstuffs).
"We haven't finalized the
menu yet," Ochana confesses. "We'll do it closer to the holiday. And we are also not serving kitniot, which in theory posts a bigger challenge, but we're just going to create a menu that's heavy on meat, fish and vegetables." And now that Sushi Rehavia has also made the wise move to serve kitniot, they shouldn't have to alter their menu all that much - soy sauce, rice and tofu, staples of Asian food, are now allowed.
Several Italian-style kosher Jerusalem eateries make matza pasta and matza pizza much better than you do. Check out Luciana or Luigi for a kitniot-free Italian affair. Though more of a café than an Italian restaurant, pasta-serving Emek Refaim mainstay Caffit remains open as well.
For those who can't live without a hamburger, Black Bar N Burger, is open over the holiday - those potato starch rolls are not bad at all. If you want to check out all those out-of-towners while you eat, Joy is gearing up to be open as well. And at the Latin-style meat end of the spectrum, there's always La Boca - which, like Joy, is not serving kitniot.
They may not be cooking like this in France, nut a number of Jerusalem's Mediterranean fusion restaurants are putting away their leaven for the week and opening their doors to the kosher-for-Passover crowd. Beyond Hachatzer, there's 1868, Herzl, Angelica and Gabriel (but not its sister restaurant, the Italian Gabriela) - also trying their hands at fusing international cuisine and kosher-for-Passover kitniot-free cooking. Over at George'z, the Passover menu is set to largely resemble their non-Passover menu - just without Georgian food's signature doughy pastries.
When it comes to menu concepts, kitchen preparation challenges and even economics, though, a Jerusalem restaurant's decision to go kosher-for-Passover often speaks more to community loyalty than to short-term profiteering. "These people are our customer base, and they come with families, with kids, so we saw a need," says Sushi Rechavia's Talmor. "We spend the whole night doing it - it's a process - but as a Jerusalem institution, we feel we need to provide a service to our clients, to provide them with a place to eat on Passover."
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