The Orthodox way of life underlying Israel's culinary rivalry is the outcome of the religious splitting that takes over Jerusalem. This entanglement creates three approaches: kosher, mehadrin-kosher and not kosher at all.
As one who avoids fanaticism, the thought of visiting a mehadrin-kosher restaurant does not usually bring to my mind a fantasy of a corrupted culinary experience. When I visited Noya, my entire attitude was changed.
Noya is situated at the very heart of Jerusalem, between a dark alley and a main road, wide long window shields protecting it from the dark outside. Just here, at the bottom floor of an ancient building, this modern light spot draws the attention of everyone walking by.
One of the restaurant owners Itzik Danieli welcomes us with a calm friendly face. We start our meal immediately with a glass of red wine, poured from a local wine bottle taken from the restaurant's fancy wine wall.
The first thing we tried was a soft homemade focaccia, spice herbs scattered on top, served next to 3 dips and grilled vegetables. After a deep conflict, whether or not we should finish the rest of it or leave room for the next course, salmon tartare came to our table – pinky fish, fresh from Norway, delicately spiced and chopped into small pieces together with cucumber and onions. Surprisingly enough, no butter was used here, it was so delicious with or without the onion dressing it was served with.
In-between dishes, Noya's guests enjoy the modern culinary custom which includes a gentle apple sorbet, made by a special home recipe with tiny fruit pieces that contradict its velvety texture. I got my appetite back, and was prepared for my main order. Drum fish that was served with a tiny salty sardine in a lemon-garlic-olive oil dressing. We also had the juicy entrecote steak that was served with a generous amount of sweet cabernet sauce and shallots, with a decoration of some homemade ravioli hills filled with potato cream.
It was time for the tea ceremony. The waiter inserted 2 pills in a bowl of warm rose water, where they instantly puffed and then turned into moist towellettes floating around the pinky liquid and served to all diners. At this point I couldn't help but realize that my hostility towards kosher restaurants is pointless. And then came desserts.
I could only blame the vanilla ice cream that was served with nuts, date honey and warm tahini for being deceptive, as I would never imagine just by looking at it that it did not contain any dairy at all. The same goes for the fruit sorbet tower, the chocolate fudge cake and the nut pie, all made on the premises.
It turns out that even a mehadrin kosher cuisine could make me happy.