Sunday, December 17, 2017

Arabesque Restaurant at the American Colony Jerusalem

Located in the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem in a historic arched shaped high-ceiling building that is dated back to the 19th century, Arabesque is a European-Arab restaurant fusing west and east. Situated on the border between Eastern and Western Jerusalem it attracts Palestinians, Jews and foreigners, often ministers of both sides, diplomats and the International press. The décor and ambience is elegant and the service is impeccable.


Arabesque’s menu is not very broad but it includes a variety of food from European to Arabic cuisine – from fillet mignon to Shushbarak, and includes beef, chicken, lamb, fish, seafood, and some unusual dishes such as pigeon - an interesting blend. I was told that the hotel is often the only decent place for the Eastern Jerusalem aristocracy to hang out, and a meeting place for Israeli diplomats, the press and International celebrities. Therefore, they try to make an International menu with a medley of dishes to suit everyone’s palate.
As we sat down at the table, which was laid with a spotless white tablecloth in true elegant hotel style, we were served a bowl of pita breads and olive oil. The breads were the Palestinian type of thin dough but very fresh; half white and half whole wheat and slightly sweet.
The waiter who was fluent in English, Arabic and Hebrew, offered us drinks and was very meticulous with details - he confirmed whether we wanted still water or sparkling, showed impressive knowledge in the characteristics of the never-ending wine list that was available and inquired how we preferred our meat done.
The list of wines is impressive, there is a very large selection of Israeli and foreign wines of all types (white, red and rose). However, the selection of wines by the glass or in a smaller bottle is somewhat limited. We decided to take a bottle of a local wine from Tulip Winery called Just Cabernet 2016 (NIS 190). It is a Galilee wine, aged only six months. We found it to be round and pleasant and it suited our meat dinner.
We started with a salad and soup. I had a salad of caramelized Rosemarie, roasted sweet potato with pumpkin, oyster mushrooms, chickpeas and tahini vinaigrette (NIS 55). I got an attractive bowl with a mix of fresh arugula, watercress and romaine lettuce with roasted potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and oyster mushrooms in a white dressing.  However, the chickpeas were missing, which was actually a plus for me since I planned to ask for them to be omitted anyway. The greens were very fresh and mixed with vegetables and mushrooms at room temperature with a light layer of dressing. The vegetables were firm and not overcooked, just like they should be. The dressing of vinaigrette and tahini was extremely tasty! Its consistency resembled mayonnaise with a hint of tahini, not too overpowering.

My partner ate spinach and chickpea soup in a clear broth (NIS 35). The soup consisted of fresh spinach and although clear, it was very rich in flavor but at the same time mild.  He enjoyed it very much.
Our choice for the main course was Chateaubriand for two (NIS 380) described in the menu as thick tenderloin with a red wine demi-glace served with seasonal vegetables, french fries, and a pepper or mushroom sauce. It was served in a warm saucepan encircled by roasted vegetables of all colors – green, red, orange and yellow: roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, braised broccoli and flat greens. Alongside it came a bowl with standard French fries and two sauces – cream of mushroom and pepper sauce.

The meat arrived exactly as ordered – medium red-pink inside. The meat was very tender and delicious with the sauces. I liked the mushroom sauce and my partner preferred the pepper sauce, which contained a decent amount of white pepper (this was the only item that was not mild). The vegetables were wonderful, crisp greens and firm potatoes.

The chateaubriand was a very large portion, and our appetite had been more than satisfied by the time we got to the dessert. The dessert menu was not very extensive, and I was a bit surprised that I could not find any classic Arab desserts, yet there was a good selection of chocolate, fruit, and dairy desserts. We took the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream (NIS 35). The pie had a thin crusty dough and an ample amount of warm cinnamon flavored apples which went well with the cold ice cream. 

A very good ending to a wonderful meal.
If you are interested in more information about the American Colony hotel read "The American Colony Hotel" and "Christmas at the American Colony Jerusalem"
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Information: Arabesque, American Colony Hotel, 1 Louis Vincent st. Jerusalem, www.americancolony.com

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