Hahatzer is one of many food and drink establishments that have made use of the area by the former Jerusalem train station. This restaurant, in particular, had the privilege of converting the silos once used for water and fuel into the kitchen and secondary dining area. On the walls, one will find replicas of yesteryear's timetables as well as photos of the way things once were, just down the tracks. The deep grays, wood floors and lit candles set the backdrop for a multi-hued meal.
Motti Ochana, chef extraordinaire, suggested the tasting meal (NIS 170 per person) in order to get a full sense of the variety of dishes available at his restaurant. Amit, the head waiter, brought a seemingly endless array of mezze (NIS 54) including outstanding olives and a fennel bulb salad served alongside some fresh, warm Moroccan frena bread. L., my dining partner, and I would have been satiated with the first of seven appetizers, a ceviche in Asian seasoning (NIS 48), as the flavors were divine. However, our curiosity was piqued and we pressed on to see what else was in store. While sipping Carmel Viognier (NIS 78 bottle/22 glass) L. brought my attention to the salt and pepper - of all things.
In recent years, salt has flaunted itself with good PR - a book on its history, culinary events and the great sea salt vs. table salt debate. Hahatzer values even the most common of seasonings with top-of-the-line Peugeot grinders on each table. All I can say is: never underestimate the simple addition of freshly ground salt and pepper to just about any dish.
On the topic of "any dish," I am a foodie but not an adventure seeker, so I was glad that L. was game to try any sweetbreads that graced our plates. Well-versed in Hebrew, she knew immediately what was being served as it was announced. The sweetbreads brochette (NIS 42) appetizer was veal hearts and I tried one before truly knowing what it was. Suffice it to say, it was good, but my preferences leaned toward the beetroots stuffed with lamb and pine nuts in a pomegranate sauce (NIS 42).
My dining partner couldn't resist using "gorgeous," one of her favorite adjectives, on the Kerem Kayumi 2005 Shiraz (NIS 165 bottle) which accompanied the meat and potatoes part of our meal. While every dish was noteworthy, our uber-favorites included the very rare and racy butcher's cut served with cubed potatoes and grilled tomatoes (NIS 116) and the Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle oil (NIS 29), aptly described by L. as, "velvety."
The smooth conclusions were a scoop of vanilla ice cream with tehina, halva strands and silan (date honey), a ramekin of coconut crème brûlée topped with banana, and strawberry soup with Campari and carambola stars, all presented on a rectangular tray. Each dessert was only NIS 29 but of the three, the strawberry soup takes the cake.
Oh, are you still reading this? Really, you should be on the phone making reservations for this very night - unless you're reading this on Friday or Saturday, when they're closed