Whimsical Jerusalem

From Mahane Yehuda market to Machneyuda, two stops to be made while in the Holy Land

11-03-2013
The Machneyuda restaurant in Jerusalem, Israel, 10

The Machneyuda restaurant in Jerusalem, Israel, 10 beit yaakov 10 street, tel. +972.053.8094897. Run by 3 young chefs, it’s a "market restaurant": dishes are prepared directly on the table with the early produce from the nearby Mahane Yehuda market

Jerusalem is the typical religious tourist destination, a compulsory one for all those who are in search of history, sacred places, faith, with a multitude of people who stand in front of the Wailing Wall or who walk in silence, charmed by the immense spaces of the Holy Sepulchre. These tourists are certainly less preoccupied with the purely gastronomic facet which for us at Identità Golose, while travelling in the land of Israel though without wishing to confuse the sacred with the profane, cannot be put on the back burner.

While Tel Aviv, by the sea, is the centre of the most modern and young Judaism, of beach fun, surfing and wild nights in a thousand bars, Jerusalem offers its visitors a decisively more self-controlled and serious image. This said, some elements of great interest, when it comes to food and local produce, aren’t missing. You can immediately notice it while visiting the excellent Mahane Yehuda market (in the homonymous neighbourhood), in a fun area of the city where ethnic groups, as well as spices, fruits and vegetables, are put together mixing all at once echoes of Kurdish, Jewish, Arab, Lebanese and more generally Middle-Eastern flavours and aromas, but with lots of North African influences.

Halva

Halva

In the space of a few metres you move from the paradise of Halva (one of the most well known shops in the market) to ginger and saffron; from dates to marzipan cakes, from falafel to hummus. Lively, fun, divided on the basis of the ethnic group, almost like what happens in Jerusalem’s old city, it is cut into four areas “occupied” by Christians, Jews, Muslims and Armenians: Mahane Yehuda is a world apart, a coloured and fun cross-section of daily life. It is also a place in which, among a thousand stalls, one can find culinary excellent products from all over the world. Need a piece of Brie or Parmigiano? No problem, there’s a shop supplied with as many cheeses as the best western shops (if not more).

Close to the market you cannot miss the chance to attend the show offered by the kitchen of the Machneyuda restaurant, run by three creative, fun and young chefs: Uri Navon (previously at the starred L’Escargot in London), Yossi Elad (an Italian cuisine fanatic and an expert baker) and Asaf Granit (a globetrotter chef with a touch of France in his soul). The result is a market restaurant where in one corner fruits and vegetables are sold, like in a shop, and in the other there’s the kitchen, overlooking the dining room and offering the show of the continuous bustle of the chefs. A large table allows to set up the dishes straight on the table and this is how these preparations, destined to become totally improvised culinary artworks, are created. The chefs get out of the kitchen and assemble the dish right in front of the clients, while the music encourages to dance at the centre of the room.

Fish carpaccio with pomegranates

Fish carpaccio with pomegranates

The dish is created right in front of the eyes of the guest and the pleasure of sharing the dish, together with the good food with a Middle-Eastern mark, though mediated by the many international experiences of the three chefs, creates a charming and fascinating blend, with excellent fish and meat dishes, sauces and Pollock-style drippings. Theirs is a well deserved success, as demonstrated by the lunchtime crowd with lots of young, curious, dynamic clients sitting happily at the tables. It’s an unmissable melting pot for those in search of the most multi-ethnical side of Jerusalem.


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