Monday, January 16, 2006

Laughing all the way to the Souk

A friend / reader recently left me a message on my ansaphone the other night asking me to recommend a decent meat restaraunt. I was suitably flattered that anyone should think of me as an authority but I reckon that I have written quite a few entries on places around Jerusalem where one can be well fed and watered, hence the request.

Far be it from me to disappoint or keep you waiting for the results of last night's foray therefore. My brother and sister-in-law, now safely esconced in their own home, but who spent their first two weeks as Olim in our spare room, had offered to take us out for a meal as soon as Mrs G had a spare evening.

I had been wanting to try out Tzachko for a while. Hidden away in the Iraqi souk in Machane Yehuda, it is owned by the same people who run "Hakol Le'Ofeh vegam Cafe" - "Everything for the baker and also coffee" where you can buy any product which you could possibly want to bake with and have a decent cup of coffee whilst watching the world rushing by. To survive so far off the beaten trail, you have to be able to offer up something special and it certainly proved to be the case with a couple of minor gripes.

Tzachko does not look like a gourmet place - it's small, with an enclosed outdoor section and a small indoors. It's not particularly grand looking and certainly can't offer the atmosphere of Lugar or Limonim; the heating could have done with a little work and the waitresses were not dressed as elegantly as you might expect. The menu more than makes up for these details though.

Looking down an extensive and imaginative list of starters, we opted to order 2 dishes between the 4 of us and to save our appetites for the main fare. As we made our choices we munched on the simply superb olives and fresh bread with coriander which were brought to our table within seconds of our taking our seats. We opted for an order of spicy caramelized wings and tapas served on a lafa. The wings were plentiful and delicious with an excellent sauce and the tapas proved to be a series of spreads; olive, sun-dried tomato, pickled lemon, pesto and a cherry tomato jam - all excellent with the pickled lemon proving particularly special. The lafa (flat bread) on which they were served was hot from the oven.

For the main event, the specials menu was nearly as long as the regular one and we really felt spoiled for choice. Mrs G and my brother both opted for the Sirloin with smoked goose breast, served with baked garlic, pearl onions and potatoes. It was a dish that looked as perfect as it tasted, served medium rare. My sister-in-law also opted for Sirloin, served with mashed potatoes in a wine and fruit based sauce. The meat was perfectly pink on the inside and I would have happily mopped up the sauce. My order of fillet of beef wrapped in leeks was just as I like it - still mooing and incredibly tender. We washed all this down with a Golan Cabernet Sauvignon which went well with the beef.

We still had room for dessert, my brother and I opting for sinfully rich chocolate souffles whilst the girls shared a chocolate platter; mini souffle, a choice of pralines and chocolate dipped strawberries.

Our bill was relatively steep but the prices of the various courses range quite widely to the extent that you can pay between NIS 55 and NIS 160 for a main dish. Conceivably, this is a restaraunt that you could come to for both a reasonably priced meal (starters around NIS 30, mains NIS 60) or for a special treat when the family is visiting (starters NIS 50 - 60, mains NIS 90 - 120). What is for certain is that we will return to try some more of the extensive menu (which we're told changes according to the best produce the Souk can offer) - we will probably wait until it's a little warmer however.

Tzachko, Iraqi Souk, Machane Yehuda. Tel: 02 623 4916.


Seth said...

It seems misleading to call it a 'souk' instead of a 'shuk.' For all those people who do not live near a Shuk, calling it a 'souk' may give you the wrong impression. It's pronounced shook. Don't show up in Israel asking where the ssssoouwwk is.

so british

Gilly said...

I'm a stickler for correctness - I also punctuate my text messages. It may be pronounced "shuk" but it's spelled "souk"!

tafka PP said...

"Still Mooing"!

Seth said...

haha like i said

sooo british

Gilly said...

Seth - I take that as a huge compliment.

Seth said...

you should. just like if someone told me that I'm so American, i would take it as a compliment. just kidding, i would get embarrassed.

"So british" is a step up though. Only because you have a better accent.

Mrs. G said...

You'd be embarassed if someone said you were "sooo American"?! For shame! Be proud of who you are, and just remember, the British have never really recovered from the thrashing they received in 1776...

Seth said...

haha, I can't think of when "so American" could be a compliment.
Like "wow, you eat so much, you are soooo American." Or "You really like to buy stuff, that's pretty American." "You don't own a passport? Man, that's so American."

But I guess it could also be used like "your country supports Israel? That's really American of you guys."

Gilly said...

Mrs G always drags up 1776 (American tea still tastes like it's been dunked in the harbour). She always manages to forget the wars that the British have saved America in since - very selective memory!!