TEL AVIV - The main problem you’ll have after visiting “1868” in Jerusalem will be getting home.
You’ll need both hands free. So get yourself a driver to take you. Lean back in your seat and start to clap your hands all the way to Tel Aviv. The applause is for the young and brilliant restaurateur who opened “1868,” and for its incredibly talented chef, Aviv Levi.
Other views of 1868:
There are good restaurants, and there are very good restaurants, and then there are those very few places that are simply a total culinary experience.
Many far better than I have compared a good meal to a sensual game in which the food holds your senses captive.
And “1868” is one of those few restaurants that manage to withstand this test: Are you willing to get up and walk away from the dish you have been served in favor of your temptress wife (assuming you are alone) - or would you stay with the dish (and hope that at some point, someone will pick you up and take you home). Most of you would choose the food here.
I always recommend looking for a restaurant in which just finding it is an experience. “1868” is housed in an old stone house (built in “1868”- hence the name), and one of the first homes built by Jews outside of the Old City walls in the 19th century.
To walk the streets of the Mahane Israel quarter in Jerusalem is an appetizer in and of itself. An experienced waiter greets you at the courtyard of the restaurant and tells you a little about the history of the place. The inside is simply but tastefully furnished with a respectful nod to the ancient stones and 19th century decoration.
Despite all that, the beginning made us worry a bit. Appetizers were set upon the table; olive oil, garlic spread and… eggplant spread. The dissonance took hold of us immediately. What’s with the appetizers that look like all those other pretentious pseudo-gourmet restaurants tables? And who still dares to put out eggplant spread?
My wife was squirming in her seat, and I could already hear the refrain I would hear all the way back to Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the waiter Assaf began to tell us about the various entrees, which included a careful and laudable delineation of the different ingredients.
Such an excited rendition of the ingredients drew us back into the experience, and we were once again believers. We gave in to Assaf readily and ordered just about every appetizer on the menu, if he could just bring it already, please.
First we had the “marrow bones with butcher cuts and caramelized carrots” (NIS 75, USD 16.50). Beware! This dish can cause marital tension. First, because of the price, and second, because it is worth every shekel.
The problem is that your wife will know this immediately as well, because you will refuse (for the first time in your life) to let her have a taste.
The marrow bones cook slowly in gravy for hours. When served with the excellent sauce and sugar caramelized carrots, you will simply rip off a piece of fresh bread, and with the special little spoon you are given, dig out the marrow and spread a bit on your bread. A dash of coarse salt, a strip of meat, those carrots - and you will be transported back to that very first time you became a man.
Then came the “ballotin of goose liver in a mushroom truffle sauce” (NIS 95/USD 21), which did the same thing for my wife. I loved the warm version of goose liver so much that I ordered the “goose liver with grand apples spiced with cider.” (NIS 70/USD 15). The combination of apples on the bottom and the cider absorbed by the liver gave the dish a level of perfection.
If there is one thing that represents the genius of this place it is the “endives in croutons, walnuts and celery leaves,” whose roots
We went on to the “veal scallops in a crunchy basket of potatoes” (NIS 75/NIS 16.50). The taste and look were so refined and artistic (really!) that you soon forget the prices altogether. We ended the first part with ceviche in sweet potatoes and green chili (NIS 70), a dish constructed of three types of fish: sea bass, Dennis and the third I’ve forgotten. Anyway, it’s a perfect dish whose freshness can be tasted.
At this point you can sit back, revel in the stories about the place and enjoy the refresher sorbet sent over by the chef.
For our main course we chose the steak filet with chicken livers and sweet potato rings. (NIS 105/USD 23) And then a miracle happened: The liver was absolutely inedible. It was burnt and sat on a bed that was too bland. A grating screech in the symphony of dishes coming out of the kitchen. I breathed a sigh of relief.
But then the kitchen quickly restored the original impression as I received the special of the day: a “chateaubriand with smoked goose breast (smoking done on premises) in a mushroom sauce” (NIS 180/USD 40). The meat was perfectly crisp and tender, a perfect medium. The smoking was just right as well, and it revved up the natural taste of the meat. On the side was a tri-flavored puree. Try them all. The puree with the mushroom truffle sauce? Ask for more.
We tried all the desserts. Again, the combination of excellent products (chocolate, for example, imported from Belgium) - along with a creative presentation gives you just one impression: perfection. The icing on the cake? The restaurant is even kosher for Pesach. (Jerusalem Rabbinate supervision).
"1868": 10 King David Street, Jerusalem, T: 972.2.622.2312