With 4 years under his belt at the helm of Canela, a gourmet kosher restaurant in downtown Jerusalem, bright-eyed Chef Lior Haszadi decided it’s time to celebrate. And celebrate he’s doing – treating customers to a new winter menu inspired by, well, the ingredients that inspire him: fresh nutritious products direct from mother nature.
I recently had the pleasure of being invited to a tasting of said menu, and how better to judge new winter dishes than on a archetypal Jerusalem winter night – cold, blustering and pouring rain to boot!
Upon being welcomed into the chic, elegant and modern space, we were immediately served glasses of warm spiced red wine. The flavorful beverage proved too spicy for some – but I adored the swift kick of black pepper and star anise and asked for a second belly-warming glass.
We then embarked on the meal. Following baskets of still warm in-house baked bread (served with 3 tasty dips in place of butter – charred eggplant cream, pumpkin and sweet pepper harissa, and zucchini and cumin) came the starters. First a rich and creamy fresh truffle risotto with white wine and shallots, then gnocchi in coconut milk and chestnut sauce, another amazingly rich and flavorful dish, despite the lack of dairy. So far the vegetarians were faring exceedingly well for a kosher meat restaurant!
Then it was time for the carnivores to take a front seat as Goose liver terrine with brioche and plum marmalade and seared veal brain in beef stock with porcini mushroom aioli were delivered. The small slices of toasted brioche were lovely and creamy (oh the miracles of modern kitchen science) and the goose liver, though not my cup of tea, was perfectly cooked and very popular with fans of the genre. As for the brain – well, apparently it wasn’t anyone’s cup of tea, with only a couple of us brave enough to taste. Compounded with my personal dislike of glutinous brain, I found the accompanying aioli a bit too rich.
Next came the raw course: sashimi (salmon and amberjack) with fresh za’atar (hyssop), shallots, coriander, radish and pine nuts – fresh and delightful – and a beef fillet carpaccio with green onions and chimichurri which had the table buzzing with curiosity over the appealing grilled slices of smoky and flavorful meat topping the filet – turned out not to be smoked goose breast, as some suspected, but seared veal tongue, an interesting selection.
The final appetizers on our tasting menu brought things back over to team vegetarian with a dish called ‘Mother Nature’: assorted mushroom (enoki, shimagi, shitake and Portobello) and Jerusalem artichoke salad with balsamic vinegar and sesame oil. Some found the dish a bit sweet for their liking (in fact, this was the first of a few sweet dishes to come from Chef Haszadi), but I don’t mind sweet with my savory and adored the dominant taste of the strong earthy (and locally grown) mushrooms. Finally, Canela's sabich on a plate (eggplant, tomatoes, tahini, homemade harrissa and quail egg on fresh focaccia) provided additional meat-free excitement.
So far, so balanced and so delicious. With a short break before mains, we all curiously wondered what was in store for the mains, not to mention desserts, which had been touted as some of the best in the city – despite the no-dairy edict.
Tune in next week to discover what else Canela and Chef Haszadi have in store this winter…
8 Shlomtzion St, Jerusalem