It was one of those days that I would have loved to skip: stuck at work, late coming home, and the goslings, hungry as ever, were waiting in a rebellious mood. I quickly fixed them their lunch and threw myself down on the bed, lacking the energy to eat something myself. I didn’t had time to do my weekly grocery shopping during the drive home, as I had originally planned. The neighborhood grocer was closed and on vacation, and so I was forced, upon waking, to go to the supermarket. I returned home to realize that my day up until that point was merely but a prologue to the crises ahead: the little one stubbed her toe on the door (“mommy! I’m bleeding!”), the middle one spilled hot water on her hand (“ouch! It burns!”), and the eldest was upset over my failing to buy her something she wanted (“you don’t understand anything!”). That was it, I also wanted my mommy!
“You want to go to Sima’s instead,” my husband chimed in. Sima? What was he on about? “Sima, come on, the restaurant in Jerusalem that you love so much… they just opened a branch in Tel Aviv.” I was really in no mood to get dressed up for going out. “You don’t need to wear anything special for going to Sima. It’s not really going out. Just eat and feel better. Let’s go!” he rallied.
Sometimes it is best to hand over the reigns to someone else. The Tel Aviv incarnation of Sima is of a more modern d?cor than her Jerusalem counterpart, and the menu is upgraded, as well. However, the concept is identical – home-cooking, delicious, and well prepared, which doesn’t try to re-invent the kitchen, and which provides a near-maternal level of service. Jenya the waitress fusses around us nonstop, constantly bringing over plates and clearing the empty ones, refilling the glasses, and rushing over with wet towelettes when some sauce splashes on the clothes. When we compliment her on her pace, she modestly replies: “this is nothing. You should see how fast we dish out the meals during lunchtime when the place is packed.”
To start off, hot pita bread and appetizers land on our table: roasted peppers eggplants, tomatoes and onions, tabouleh, small potatoes in tahini, yams in coriander, burghul, pickled beets, and pickled leeks (quite delicious). We add a plate of hummus, a necessity for starting off such a meal. Our resident humusologist, donning a serious expression, tastes the hummus, of the dense and slightly sour variety, with plenty of warm chickpeas on top, and makes his judgment: “perfectly fine” which is one of the higher scores he is know to give. Jenya recommends another first course: “sirloin fingers.” – A Tel Aviv dish if there ever was one, consisting of rolls of sirloin, stuffed with chives, in a sweet sauce and roasted garlic. An interesting novelty for those seeking a meaty first course, but who have grown tired of the banal carpaccio.
For the entr?es we struggle with the choice between the kitchen concoctions - including “Mandrotta,” a dish of beef and roasted eggplants, and a dish of ground beef with tomatoes, pine-nuts, and tahini, over potato slices – and the grilled dishes. We settle on one from each category: he chooses the croquettes in a tomato and dried fruit sauce, a dish with a slightly sweet taste, and I opt for the famous Jerusalem mixed grill, which is prepared on the same type of grill has its Jerusalem counterpart, and from the same recipe, which amounts to a winning combination of pullets and internal organs, well-spiced, grilled, and so tender that they melt in your mouth.
The entr?e portions are very generous, as are the side items, which arrive in deep bowls – white rice for him and mujaddara with plenty of lentils and fried onions for me. The prices, by the way, are Jerusalem prices: an entr?e with a side dish, together a hearty meal, will set you back around 50-60 NIS for most of the entr?es (unless you opt for a filet or entrecote steak). The lunchtime business specials cost even less.
At this point, I rega