If you happen to be in Jerusalem on a Saturday afternoon and are looking for a bite to eat, the old city and its surrounding neighborhoods are great places to start. Every Saturday dozens of vegetable peddlers, dealers selling shoes, toys and clothing, as well as street food vendors offering falafel, humus, grilled meats, freshly squeezed juices, sweets and more, set up shop and create a lively colorful marketplace.
After receiving a couple of recommendations I decided to stop by the Alayed Restaurant and see what they have to offer. Established in 1984, Alayed is situated on 2 Haneviim Street, just opposite the Damascus gate. The menu includes a very wide variety of dishes from breakfast specials to Asian-style stir fried dishes and an array of traditional Palestinian and Middle Eastern dishes. At Alayed, diners can either sit in the upstairs closed balcony overlooking the walls of the old city or, if there happens to be a table vacant downstairs, sit by the grill and watch the dishes arrive from the kitchen.
We decided to keep it as traditional and local as possible, starting off with the vegetable soup and an assortment of fresh colorful salads. Our favorites were the eggplant salad and the tabouleh. Trying to decide what to order for our main courses was tough; we were debating between some twelve items from the menu but ended up settling for three and a half. First came a platter of grilled skewered meat, chicken breast, lamb meat and kebab; all were generously seasoned and prepared on a charcoal grill, giving the meat smokey aromas and flavors.
Next to arrive was a massive dish of lamb neck stuffed with rice, ground beef, fresh herbs and pine nuts. After cooking for several hours, the meat was tender, literally falling off the bone at the touch of a fork. The rice used for filling was also prepared well and absorbed the flavors from the fatty lamb meat. At NIS 60 a plate, this is probably one of the best deals in town.
After a quick consult with our friendly waiter, we ordered two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, rice from the maklubeh and one order of musakhan. Maklubeh is a traditional Bedouin casserole dish made of colorful layers of vegetables, saffron infused rice and either beef or chicken. Once the dish is ready, the pot is then turned up side down on a large serving platter and served to the table family style. Similar to the rice used to fill the lamb, the rice from the maklubeh is very flavorful and moist.
The musakhan is another traditional dish comprised of grilled chicken served on fresh pita bread all topped with sautéed onions and seasoned with sumac and a generous drizzle of olive oil. This dish can easily serve as a full meal on its own. The tangy sumac really goes well with the grilled chicken and also gave the dish its unique red color.
Although the food was delicious, we unfortunately left no room for dessert. We had to simply satisfy ourselves with a couple of cups of strong black coffee and set out to make our way back to the car.