HaMikdash is like no other kosher restaurant that you have ever been to, in Israel and maybe anywhere else. We've been around and we know.
Hamikdash is a shrine to meat lovers. But this meat restaurant has no grill, no stovetop, no pitot, no kebabs, hamburgers or shnitzels. Meat is prepared in smokers or using sous vide and molecular techniques. The kitchen is clean and quiet, without a crackling fire and a lot of grease and the results are amazing.
Hamikdash was originally a non-kosher restaurant. When Chef Lior Blue and his father brought the restaurant into the kosher world it raised some eyebrows. Not just eyebrows, Chef Lior has also raised the level, bringing touches from the Asian kitchen that he knows so well from time spent in Japan.
Our Visit To HaMikdash
We took seats on the long banquette against the wall of the rustic restaurant and perused the menu. With some guidance from the staff,
I chose to begin dinner with the popular Beef Tongue Salad. It was hard to find the salad amidst all the meat. The base of the salad is red and yellow cherry tomatoes with miniature pearl red onions and a touch of coriander. The star of this dish is the generous amount of slow-cooked, caramelized tongue. I immediately understood why this salad is so popular. The combination of flavors is amazing, and the freshness and crispiness of the vegetables with the smoky flavor to the tongue is something to savor.
Make no mistake. Hamikdash is definitely a meat restaurant. Even the salad is meaty.
When we asked what they have at the restaurant for people who don't eat meat, Lior answered "The door."
The friendly reception and the good humor contribute to the great time at this restaurant.
My companion who does not eat meat and is sqeamish about non cooked food, agreed to the Tuna Sashimi starter. The tuna is cold-smoked and served on a bed of quinoa popcorn topped with mint and tequila beads. These are small bubbles of tequila that are stabilized in a molecular process. In a dramatic gesture, the server poured a cup of cucumber sauce over the attractive bowl of fish and grains. I was totally surprised that my fastidious companion would eat sashimi, but a little food theater never hurt anyone and she pronounced it delicious.
How does he do it?
Lior uses a variety of sophisticated techniques to achieve the amazing effects. Meat is prepared in smokers, in sous vide cooking baths and in conventional ovens. The meats take days to age or to smoke, and many hours in the sous vide bath. Sous vide is a process where meat of fish is in sealed in vacuum bags and cooked in warm water at temperatures between 60 and 90-degrees. This process softens the meat slowly but thoroughly so that it can be cooked conventionally for just a few minutes before serving. Here's a tip: Don't try this at home. It is for professionals only.
Meat that is slow cooked using these techniques is ready at different times. So each day Lior reviews the status of the meats and composes the menu for that day. This requires that he print a new menu daily, and sometimes more than once a day, depending on what is ready. Most dishes are served ready to eat, but the most unusual are the ones that you cook yourself on a hot stone at your table. Chef Lior picked this up in Japan, where he observed the technique of cooking at the table. This is great fun and a delicious way to eat.
Our Main Dishes:
Most of the dishes on the menu have been prepared using one of Lior's magical techniques, and are served ready to eat.
About 25% of the main dishes on the menu on any given day are cook-it-yourself dishes on a hot stone block. The meat is brought out raw, as in the butcher’s cut, or partially cooked, as in the sinta (sirloin) and asado (thinly cut flank steak). A tray with a hot volcanic basalt block that has been heated to 600 degrees in the oven, is placed on your table, and you become the cook.
Rub a bit of goose fat on the block with the tongs provided, so that the meat does not stick. Place the meat on the hot stone, and watch it cook. Leave it on for as long as you like, turn it over, take it off, or put it back. Flavor with sea salt if you wish – you are the cook. You’ll get the hang of it. Eat slowly and savor the flavors.
While I was having a grand time cooking, tasting and "patchkaing" with my meat, my companion had with her standard salmon fillet. There is nothing standard at Hamikdash. The fish was soft, having been Sous Vided for hours. It was served over a bed of freekeh, roasted durum wheat. The fish was soft and moist, but well cooked, and the grain was a mechayeh.
Chef Lior and his charming father Dudu run the restaurant. They are garrulous and friendly people, with good humor. Lior will be happy to explain the cooking techniques, and we even got a tour of the kitchen, from the window looking in. The waitresses are friendly and solicitous, and they explain the cuts of meat that are served, making dining at HaMidash a very nice experience.
Getting There: Hamikdash is on the street level courtyard of the Oshiland Mall on Atir Yeda street. The restaurant is one of several facing the picturesque outdoor fountain. A little bridge takes you to restaurant row from the street. Waze will bring you to the Paz gas station next to the Oshiland center, where you can enter the Oshiland underground garage. There is also an outdoor unpaved parking lot just a bit further down the street, past the center.
From the Menu: Beef Tongue Salad, NIS 52; Sashimi Tuna, NIS 62; Sous Vide Salmon, NIS 88; Sinta steak on hot stone, NIS 135; Entrecote on hot stone, NIS 49/100 gm; tasting menu for two including two starters, two glasses of wine, 700 grams of mixed meats with hot stone, and desert, NIS 350