Sandler has been a fixture of Jerusalem’s culinary scene for more than seven years, but his current restaurant has been around for only a small fraction of this time. Until six months ago, the premises had been the long-time home of Gabriel, one of the capital’s leading kosher fine-dining establishments.
“Gabriel was too reliant on tourism,” Sandler recalls, a situation that became increasingly more untenable during times of war in the South and heightened security tensions in Jerusalem. As a way of appealing both to overseas visitors and the considerable local Anglo population, the chef hit on the idea of introducing real American BBQ to a city where it would fill a real void.
Harvey’s does barbecue the old-fashioned way, yet in a manner fitting to the Start-Up Nation. The restaurant’s smokers are computerized, and the temperature can be monitored and even adjusted via smartphone app.
The meats that emerge after many hours in smokers fueled by a variety of woods—oak, cherry, mesquite and the like—are then enhanced by proprietary sauces made from scratch. “We make 90% of everything we serve, including our desserts,” says Sandler.
A good way to start a meal at Harvey’s is with one of the restaurant’s creative specialty cocktails. The Mexican Mule, for example, is a potent yet smooth blend of tequila, cinnamon and ginger beer, while the Mango Mojito is the refreshing classic with a fruity splash of tropical fruit.
The extensive bilingual food menu comprises six sections: Starters, Smoked Meats, Sandwiches, Sides, Greens ‘n Things (salads, soup and bread), From the Grill (steaks and salmon), and Desserts. The knowledgeable wait staff will help you build your meal, describing the dishes and guiding diners through the portion sizes.
We began with the popular appetizer that was recommended by Harvey himself: Burnt Ends, cubes of beef seasoned with Kansas City-style dry rub and chili. The flavorful morsels were chewy yet tender, leaving a gentle tingle of heat in the mouth.
The generous serving of beef tips was accompanied by an attractive heap of crispy, curly and tasty yam chips.
The centerpiece of our meal, naturally, was an assortment of selections of the Smoked Meats, which are sold by weight. We decided to sample a bit of each kind of meat, forgoing only the chicken, just because it would have been too much to handle.
Our combination plate consisted of slices of smoked brisket, a saucer of shredded beef, asado on the bone, and a large chorizo sausage. These were served with three very good BBQ sauces: Carolina-style with mustard, and two red ones—one tending to the smoky side, the other a tad spicier.
Our favorite among the smoked beef cuts was, hands down, the brisket. Quite simply, it is the best kosher smoked brisket I have ever tasted, needing no extra sauce to improve it.
In second place was the asado short rib, which was cooked perfectly: fall-off-the-bone tender, with an appetizing crust. Here the fun was experimenting with the various sauces, although most of the flavor comes from the naturally fatty beef itself.
The pulled beef shoulder is a bit drier, and most in need of the condiments. It is also available in one of the restaurant’s limited selection of sandwiches, and I think next time I would try it that way.
The sausage was a little greasy, and we decided to take it home with the rest of our leftovers. I appreciated its zesty bite more the next day.
As a separate main course, we ordered the entrecôte—300 grams of thick, expertly grilled steak. It was served with a rich demi-glace sauce that my companion said boosted the flavor of the already succulent prime beef.
There is a reasonably long list of tempting side dishes, of which we especially enjoyed the coleslaw, slivers of carrot and purple cabbage in a creamy yet tangy dressing; the crunchy onion rings, whose crispy exterior encased the delicate white vegetable within; the unique, herbed cornbread; and the sweet-and-spicy chili yams.
Of the five desserts, we opted for the most American-sounding ones: the apple pie and the pecan pie. Neither one was exactly like the version you would find in the US of A; both were tarts characterized by round pastry shells—the former featured apple chunks on a layer of cream, while the latter was studded with candied nuts and practically devoid of the syrupy sweet filling that often overwhelms traditional pecan pies.
Both were excellent finales to a very substantial—and memorable—meal. The pareve cream in the apple tart was notable for being indistinguishable from a dairy version. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the scoops of unimpressive pareve “ice cream” that crowned the pastries, and which detracted from rather than added to the fine desserts.
Shimon Ben Shetah 7, Jerusalem
Tel. (02) 624-6444