Rachela is a delightful little restaurant located on Hachavatzelet Street, just off of Yaffo in the center of Jerusalem. It is located far enough from the busy streets that the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. In some cafés you feel rushed as the restaurant tries to service the highest number of people. Not so at Rachela. Chef Rachel and her nephew Shachar carefully prepare everything in the restaurant on premises, and it shows in the taste and presentation.
Modeled after a French Salon, the restaurant is divided into three areas. In front of the large bay windows are a few tables for people who want to see a bit of the hustle of Jerusalem from afar. Inside the room is decorated simply with beautiful dark wood tables, chairs, and countertops that display the fine array of baked goods prepared on site. The music was nice and includes everything from Israeli music to The Beatles. There is more outdoor seating in back with tables arranged neatly around the garden and brick oven that is used primarily to bake Pizzas.
The menu is rather complete with many different choices making Rachela a restaurant for any time of day. There is a full breakfast menu with eggs and salads and a lovely selection of sandwiches, all served on home baked bread. Unique to Rachela are the scones baked fresh daily. It was evening so we had dinner food. How novel! My wife started with the sautéed mushrooms that were served with tomatoes and lettuce. The Mushrooms were warm and soft while the salad was cool and crisp making for a nice contrast of textures. I had what Shachar and Rachel call “Tostinim” and they are just what they sound like. It starts with a crisp green salad on top of which they arrange three slices of Italian Bread with Feta Cheese. Shachar explained that Feta is such that even when warm the cheese does not melt into the bread. It rests on top creamy and delicious. My wife agreed that the “Tostinim” was a lovely dish.
For the main course I had the salmon steak, and my wife chose the mushroom ravioli. The ravioli came in a tomato cream sauce, and was very savory if a bit heavy at times. The salmon was the real star of the night. Perfectly arranged with grilled vegetables and potato wedges on an oval plate, the salmon was perfectly prepared. Crispy and flaky on one side while soft and moist on the other. I loved the way the plate was arranged with all the different colors and they explained the idea to me. Around the plate you have the red fish, yellow lemon, green lettuce, and white potatoes, then all of those colors are represented in the grilled vegetables tastefully arranged with help from a soufflé bowl.
For me a dairy restaurant means one thing for dessert, cheesecake. For my wife it is chocolate mousse, so that is what we had. The mousse was thick rich and delicious. Something I have noticed in Israel is that cheesecake has a tendency to get a little runny. Chef Rachel has addressed this problem perfectly. Served with a little raspberry syrup and sliced plum the cheesecake is firm and thick, the perfect way to end a charming meal. With dessert we ordered from Rachela’s highly touted hot drink menu opting for the fresh brewed teas. It is served in a small personal teapot with a strainer to fill your cup and make sure that none of the sediment gets into your mug. It was a very special presentation.
The success of a restaurant often depends on its management. In this case Rachela is a winner. The owners are delightful people who seem to take great pride in their work, and in the satisfaction of their customers. Shachar pays close attention to all the details of presentation, and is more than happy to talk about food with anyone who enters.
Rachela is a charming little café, and one that we will definitely visit again.
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