There are very few high-end – kosher – gourmet restaurants in Jerusalem. While the city has a lot to offer, it is still light years behind Israel’s culinary capital, Tel Aviv. But at least we have Scala.
After working as a sous chef at Tel Aviv’s renowned Catit restaurant and spending a couple of years in the big apple interning at some of New York’s top restaurants including WD 50, Café Bouley and Grey, Chef Oren Yerushalmi was felt the call back to his homeland to create a menu all his own and serve as head chef at the new Scala restaurant.
Situated in the heart of Jerusalem, on the crossroads between the old and new parts of the city, Scala offers a varied, seasonal menu relying primarily on high quality local ingredients and incorporating classic French and Italian cooking techniques. The restaurant, located on the second floor of the David Citadel Hotel, was designed by the Italian architect Piero Lissoni, combining elements of dark marble, wood and glass creating a warm, clean and very stylish décor.
The menu at Scala may seem a bit confusing at first, with no separation between appetizers and main courses. Most of the dishes are of medium size, offering the diners an opportunity to order and share several different dishes.
After being seated by our lovely waitress and reviewing the menu we began planning our culinary route for the evening. We decided to start off with the veal sweetbreads and the seared red tuna. Yerushalmi’s plating skills are quite impressive, the combination of vibrant colors and meticulous attention to detail often resulting in true works of art. On several occasion I noticed that some of the diners were pulling out their cell phones in order to take pictures before digging in.
While the presentation of both dishes was impressive, I preferred the sweetbreads: cooked to perfection and served on a bed of a lemony cauliflower cream (non-dairy) with several grilled porcini mushrooms, this was one of the best sweetbread dishes I’ve ever had.
We also enjoyed Oren’s interpretation of the classic stuffed onion. The version at Scala includes layers of sweet onions filled with lamb and pine nuts, served atop mounds of a finely diced carrot and lentil ragout and a basil olive oil drizzle.
Following recommendations from our waitress we ordered the entrecote steak and the shpondra (thin rib) and nectarine stew. Both dishes were generous and very tasty. The melt in your mouth shpondra was delicious and the sweet nectarines brought the dish an interesting twist. Served alongside an assortment of sautéed mushrooms and a “molecular” potato puree, the steak was prepared medium just as I requested and again the chef’s attention to detail was noted.
The influences of Catit and WD 50 are evident in Scala’s kitchen, Chef Yerushalmi demonstrates a sophisticated and restrained use of “molecular” cooking techniques, occasionally using them to overcome some of the challenges presented by the laws of kashrut (in the case of this meat restaurant, the total prohibition of dairy).
After a long and deep breath it was time for dessert. A delicious bitter chocolate soufflé and a fresh date tart were brought to the table. The latter is perfect for those who don’t have a very sweet tooth. The tart was light and refreshing and the homemade Turkish delight and almond foam which came with it gave the dish a classic Mediterranean feel. Two cups of espresso coffee and it was time to call a night.
If you fancy going out for a fine dinner, feel like having a drink at the impressive bar or just want to enjoy delicious deserts and a cup of coffee, Scala is the ultimate elegant destination of choice.
Welcome home Chef Yerushalmi!
7 King David St., David Citadel Hotel