by Sybil Kaplan
Photographs by Barry A, Kaplan
Sunday through Thursday-- 7:30 a.m. to 12 midnight
Friday-- 7:30 a.m. to approximately 4:30 p.m.
Saturday evening-- 1 hour after Shabbat ends to 12 midnight
31 Derech Bet Lechem
Phone 02 673-6365
Kosher- Rabbanut Jerusalem
It's warm and intimate, friendly, with a slightly European feeling, and the decor is definitely eclectic!
It was a family affair when Yaacov ben Elul, nicknamed "Kalo" (meaning light foot) took his years of experience as a bar tender and restaurant worker and opened his own cafe in 1998. His wife, Tami, and his sister, Rachel, created the now extensive menu and Rachel (who trained as an engineer and then had worked in restaurants), became chef.
The restaurant Kalo is busy and popular all of the time--day and night--although it likes to focus on breakfast served all day, brunch and lunch.
Passing by, on busy Derech Bet Lechem, there are always people sitting under the umbrellas at the tables and chairs with the attractive tablecloths, or, on one of the bar stools looking inside to the bar. The tables outside seat about 30.
Inside the first room, of the more than 90-year-old house, there are wood tables to seat 25 and walls covered with antiques. Walk up one step to the bar area with a pastry cabinet and bar stools for 5 and tables for 10.
Contuinue up some steps to a room with seats for 10. The back, curtained windows overlook the garden; antiques are on the window sills. Scattered around the entire cafe are pictures, soda siphon bottles, brass candlesticks, brown glass bottles, brass coffee pots and more.
Off to the side of this room is the kitchen.
The floors throughout are tiles Kalo found in a garage, cleaned and laid in his own design.
Rachel and Tami have made the menu an amazing array of creative, original dishes. For breakfast, there are 10 choices, five are large and available for one (NIS 56-61) or double for two people (NIS 99 and 110). Smaller breakfast foods are NIS 35-51.
The Simple, Lola, Mefaneket, Poached Egg and Delicatessen are the big ones for one or two. Rachel wanted us to try samples from the Mefaneket (to be spoiled)--NIS 61 for one or NIS 110 for two.
And the presentation for each sample and regular-size plate is more beautiful than the one before.
On the Mefaneket were: cream cheese with zatar and olive oil in a beautiful shape; a pickled beet root base with smoked salmon atop it; sliced tomatoes with pesto and mozzarella balls, garnished with two basil leaves; and an unusual tabouleh with nuts, cranberries, cilantro and parsley. Clever pastry sticks from burekas dough with sesame seeds (but no cheese inside) were served standing in a sugar bowl and were delightful dipped in the cream cheese and jam. A taste of muesli was served in a demitasse cup. Finally, there was homemade strawberry jam; olives; and a dark crusty bread with seeds.
Then came sunny-side up eggs and an original version of bruschetta--the dark, crusty bread with sauteed mushrooms, cream cheese and chives on top. My companion was in heaven with his favorite, mushrooms.
This bread comes to Kalo from a private Jerusalem baker, and then the restaurant staff finish it and bake it.
All of the wait staff seem friendly and efficient, running up and down the steps to the kitchen; everything we were served was explained amd served by the waitress, Yarden.
Other items on the menu include: 5 focaccia choices (NIS 39-55); 12 pasta dishes (NIS 49-59); 12 salads (NIS 49-59); 4 toasts (NIS 38-44); and 9 sandwiches, each served with side salad (NIS 37-42).
There are also 5 focaccia choices (NIS 39-55). Rachel sent us one not on the menu--an extraordinary Focaccia Sabich (NIS 62). Traditionally, sabich originated with Iraqi Jews who ate it on the Sabbath when they did not cook. It consisted of pita stuffed with cooked eggplant and hard-boiled eggs.
Rachel's pizza-size focaccia was a work of art! Atop a large piece of focaccia bread, where one side was puffed up high with nothing inside, were small tastes of tchina, micro parsley, eggplant from the oven, hard-boiled eggs which had been dipped in beet juice to make the white outside a fuscia color, radishes and olives.
There are also 15 first courses (NIS 35-61). The one we tried was not on the menu and one of my favorites--with beets. It was a carpaccio with a beet root base (NIS 39). The beet root was in the shape of a flower, sliced very thin, with goat cheese and garlic cloves on top.
Of the 8 main courses (NIS 42-97), perfect for a lunch or dinner, Rachel wanted us to try the Burnt Red Tuna Steak in an Asian sauce served with an Asian root salad (NIS 83). The tuna was soft and moist and served with acompanying baked sweet potato, a large mushroom stuffed with groat and all garnished with a lemon slice, a chili red pepper and baby basil. Anything with mushrooms is perfect for my companion, but when he tasted the groat, he remarked, my grandmother used to fix this all the time in soup and as a side dish. (Rachel sent us home with an extra helping of groat for him to enjoy!)
The accompanying Asian salad (not on the menu) had bean sprouts, green onions, and radishes and was dressed with sesame seed oil.
There is an extensive listing of cold drinks, beers, hot beverages and wines on the menu. For dessert, one can order 12 choices which include cookies and sweets, cakes, sorbet, pies, cookies and, for diabetics, sugar-free, low-fat cake.
For an extraordinary eating experience, especially for breakfast, brunch or lunch (and there are plenty of choices for dinner too), Kalo is a charming choice you'll want to go to often and make a regular eating out place.
The author and photographer were guests of the restaurant.
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't mention before or after eating (Sunday toThursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 2), go next door to Chanuteleh, the special shop owned by Kalo's wife, Tami.
Walking by on Derech Bet Lechem, one always sees antique-type items out on the side walk so follow the path to the back.
Since 2000, Tami and her mother have been designing and sewing a variety of hand-made items, in their tiny workshop, such as clothes, rag rugs, patchwork linens, cloth necklaces, and other cloth items--"things people dream about," says Tami. There are some gifts for children, vintage china, kitchen utensils, linens, mirrors and a large collection of early American-type enamel kitchen ware. This is a great, fun shop to browse and purchase special gifts.