After working as a sous chef at Tel Aviv’s Catit restaurant and spending a couple of years in New York interning at some the city’s top restaurants, Chef Oren Yerushalmi 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, adjacent to the new Mamila shopping plaza, 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 all of which create a warm, clean and very stylish décor. The "see through" wine cellar is also very impressive, relying entirely on Israeli vinos (except for a couple of French Champagnes). The ‘cellar’ is actually a massive wine shelf covering an entire wall at the far end of the restaurant and facing out to diners who can have a peak at the bottles.
Recently, I was invited to partake in a launching of Scala's winter menu. We enjoyed a tasting menu prepared by the chef which included (among others): baked veal sweetbreads & seared porcini mushrooms on a Jerusalem artichoke puree, goose liver with cubed green apples topped with a veal stock sauce, home made sausages, potato gnocchi in a wild mushroom sauce, chicken stuffed with smoked goose breast, a stew of lamb tongue and meat with various beans and beef "short ribs" alongside caramelized root vegetables.
I was also more than happy when I noticed the two wines selected to accompany the meal. Yarden, Katzrin, Chardonnay, 05 and the Yarden, Katzrin. 03. The latter, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc offers concentrated aromas of various berry fruits, spices and herbs and should develop nicely in the next few years. A couple of months ago, the Golan Heights Winery released the Katzrin, Chardonnay, 06. This rich white is showing appealing aromas and flavors of toasty oak, pears, ripe apples, butter and vanilla all leading to a long and pleasant finish.
Back to the food, Yerushalmi’s plating skills are quite impressive, the combination of vibrant colors and meticulous attention to detail often resulting in true works of art. Oren is a master when it comes to innards and legumes – both the sweetbreads and the tongue were delicious and from the black lentils through to the black eyed peas accompanying several of the dishes, all were cooked to perfection. While I found the sausages quite nice, I would have added a bit more seasoning. We also enjoyed the melt in your mouth "short ribs" with caramelized vegetables and the stuffed chicken with smoked goose breast. Using smoked meats can be tricky; Scala's smoked goose breast was very tasty and did not overpower the dish.
Time for dessert! Served with the Yarden, "Heights Wine", one of Israel's top dessert wines and a play on words on "Ice Wine", Yerushlami's desserts are a real treat. My favorite was a celebration of chocolate and citrus. A rich marquise on one end of the plate and a delicious macaroon filled with chocolate ganache and sugared orange peels on the other, what more can you ask for.
Scala offers a real fine dining experience. While in some dishes the lack of butter and cream is evident, overall the chef does an excellent job dealing with the limitations of the laws of kashrut. So next time you feel like treating yourself to a night out or if you just fancy sitting on the bar and enjoying excellent desserts, Scala is a good choice.
7 King David st, David Citadel Hotel