Had I not put my foot in my mouth with the last restaurant I reviewed , declaring that if I had a restaurant, that is how it would look, Tmol Shlshom would be the restaurant I wish I had. Indeed, who wouldn't? Any restaurant named after the classic work, Tmol Shilshom, (Only Yesterday by S.Y. Agnon, our own Israeli Nobel Laureate,) immediately makes one feel "smarter" if not down right intellectual just by the choice.
Only Yesterday is replete with food quotes, but the one that gives Tmol Shilshom , its name, is a perfect description, if not the model for this bookstore café.
"The entire living area, consisted of two rooms, one for eating and drinking and one for reading. One is not careful about reading and eating and drinking in different places. One eats and reads, and another eats and drinks, and others come and go."
For those who haven't surmised yet, Tmol Shilshom is a bookstore café, the kind you may remember from your college days. The books and food complement each other. The books make a wonderful backdrop for this literary salon, which hosts readings almost every day of the week.(Check their delightful website at www.tmol-shilshom.co.il)
Though you can sit all day and read or work on your laptop undisturbed, over a cup of coffee, the main attraction here is the food. I doubt if you will find a better or more comprehensive dairy menu in town.
This may be the most romantic restaurant in town (book ahead for the one table on the balcony overlooking Yoel Solomon St.), and many dates will attest to this. If it wasn't for the great food, this would just be another café.. Much effort and creativity has gone into making this menu interesting, readable and fun. The sections are appropriately called "Intro", "The plot thickens" and "conclusion" . Some of the dishes have names like Blue Mountain Salad, for, you guessed it, a blue cheese salad, Madame Bovary for a particularly sinful passion fruit creation, and I will leave Wuthering Heights to your imagination.
The restaurant has two distinct rooms, one for smokers and one for non-smokers. Conveniently, this allows for one room to be used for readings or private parties. The décor will remind you of your grandparent's house with furniture gleaned from yesterday. The undisputed best seat in the house is a cozy corner with a winged back chair, lit by a floor lamp where the poet Yehuda Amichai is reputed to have sat and wrote, and, in later years, held readings. Another famous writer who got his start here is Nathan Englander (For the Sake of Unbearable Urges). Who knows? Perhaps the muse will inspire you here, as well.
Along with the regular café fare, there are many special dishes and drinks here.
Soup and bread or soup and salad (39sh) are perennial favorites. Choose from creamy carrot, sweet potato, or cold gazpacho. The bread is made in house and is crunchy and chewy and comes with various house spreads or butter for the purists.
There are also fish dishes (65-71sh) which are very special. We tasted the salmon baked in a white wine sauce with dried figs.
Since figs are in season, we couldn't resist ordering one of the daily specials of fettuccine in a blue cheese sauce, garnished with baked fresh figs, wrapped in salmon. Sounds impossible, but the combinations worked!
There is a very full alcohol list and many exotic and original cocktails, some with names I would be embarrassed to order with my mother or children present! But just to give you an idea it contained Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cram and more Cream! Now you give it a name! We also like the Chill Out—espresso with vanilla ice cream. There is also a full range of milk shakes with added liquors. Other drinks worth a mention are hot chocolate made with real melting chocolate (16sh) and sachlab, which is a hot orchid flavored thickened Middle Eastern drink, topped with raisins, coconut and chocolate syrup—both real comfort foods.
Always leave room for dessert, or eat dessert first. Dessert here range in price from 21-29 sh. There is apple pie like our mothers made/or didn't but the way Americans like it. There are some amazing chocolate confections and Ben and Jerry's ice cream to add to anything.
Go for the atmosphere but stay for the food. And while you are there, peruse the books—they are all for sale. If nothing else they will trigger conversation. David Ehrlich and Dan Goldberg have put together an eclectic, alternative and classic collection.
is in an historical building in a quaint courtyard in Nachalat Shivah. Just getting there will give you a tour of the neighborhood. It is off Zion Square, the first turn to the left coming from Jaffa Rd. If coming from Hillel St, where you are more likely to find parking, it is the third turn on the right, between the ceramics gallery and Bet Knesset. If you are willing to walk a little, there is free parking for three hours in the new Mamilla Mall, about a ten minute walk away.