In the compound of the old train station in Jerusalem is a uniquely shaped restaurant. HaChatzer is a chef-owned restaurant far from the crowds on Emek Refaim and the center of town that offers a carnivorous feast to its guests. Not any old common grill house, but a meat restaurant worthy of the pilgrimage from wherever you might be in Israel.

This is one of those reviews where I’m only going to be picky about the details, because the meal itself was exceptionally good. We called for a reservation, and they accommodated us without much hassle. The decor of the restaurant is simple and muted. Although we sat in the ‘lower’ windowless area of the restaurant, the view from the ‘upper’ dining room is a parking lot, so nothing crucial was lost.

The meal took two hours, our orders were placed fifteen minutes after we were seated. We ordered from the menu, passing on what looked like interesting enough specials. Our waiter was helpful in Hebrew and English. The house bread was a ciabetta-sized loaf brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, and arrived with three dips: olive oil and vinegar, a parsley gremolata, a roasted red pepper coulis, and what may very well have been house-cured olives [I should have asked].

For appetizers we had both sweetbreads dishes. The pan-seared sweetbreads were served on a bed of arugula and white beans with diced smoked goose breast. The smoky flavor of the goose tasted exactly like deli pastrami and carried through to all of the other elements of the dish. There were some sliced chile peppers hidden in the arugula leaves that helped perk up all of the flavors of the dish. The sweetbreads themselves had a nice sear, but the insides were a little chewier than I like.

The risotto with sweetbreads was layer upon layer of rich, beefy flavor. The sweetbreads themselves were much better prepared, and melted as you chewed them.

After the table was reset for the main dishes, we were presented in quick succession with our entrees.

The veal sirloin main was precisely how sirloin should be cooked. Often the sinta that you get is dryish and stringy. Not this one. A full six centimeters high and evenly pink throughout, seasoned, moist and flavorful.

The beef rib eye although the portion look small in comparison with the other plates, was nevertheless precisely cooked and well-seasoned.

The chicken breast picked up the smoky notes from some more of that delicious goose breast, with tenderly cooked beluga lentils anchoring the dish.

The liver was a bit of a disappointment. They were a bit undercooked, they were underseasoned, and the accompanying chestnuts were overcooked.

The clear star of the meal was the Beef Cheeks Stew, which Iordered. It was a toss up between that and the Oxtail stew, but the waiter recommended the beef cheeks, and for it he should forever be blessed. You should know that it’s a thing among chefs; they like to eat the parts of the animal that don’t get fancy names and do great things with them. Ordering something like beef cheeks is like dropping a hint to the kitchen that someone “in the know” is sitting at the table.

The smell of the meat arrived before the dish itself. The portion itself was practically oversized. The carrots were tender to the point where I wasn’t sure how the chef held them together. Likewise the turnips. Okay, so the beans were a little stringy, or maybe it was just the first one I ate. Hey, it happens.

Dessert was artistically plated, and the chocolate ganache was rich and almost savory in its chocolate depth.

HaChatzer is priced among the higher-end restaurants in Jerusalem, but the quality of the meal can be tasted in every succulent bite.



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