Revised September 2012
Restaurant fans will remember Eucalyptus restaurant at its last location on Horkanus Street in Jerusalem. Real Jerusalem veterans will remember the restaurant from Safra square and those with an even longer memory will remember the original restaurant in Talpiot, near a Eucalyptus tree, the namesake of the restaurant. The common denominator of all the restaurants is Chef and restaurateur Moshe Basson. Moshe, son Rony, and his team of chefs and managers have resurrected this wonderful restaurant, now in the Artist Colony at Hutzot Hayotzer.
Hutzot Hayotzer is is just west of the Old City, off Hativat Yerushalayim, the main drag that swings around from the Jaffa gate south. It is one of the early neighborhoods built outside the walls of the city, and is in the general area of Yemin Moshe and Mamilla, and a short ride from The German Colony. See directions below.
There is indoor and outdoor seating, rooms for couples, tables for small groups and rooms for parties. The building is authentic Jerusalem stone, the atmosphere is pure Jerusalem. More Yerushalmi than this, you don't get.
The Eucalyptus Dining Experience
The Eucalyptus Eretz Yisraeli menu is the restaurant's calling card and the item that brought it so much fame. The menu focuses on the foods indigenous to the land of Israel, and dishes are made with natural local ingredients including the shivat haminim, the seven species that characterize the land of Israel.
The Eretz Yisrael dishes are the most authentic and the most enduring dishes on the menu. But don't come just for the specialty foods. In addition to the Eretz Yisrael menu the restaurant has many other favorite dishes.
We started our dinner with rolls and three spreads: tehina, sun-dried tomato and squash with crushed walnuts, accompanied by a flute of bubbly wineThis was anice welcome to the restaurant. I had a cauliflower appetizer that was truly excellent.
My companion sampled the minute steak and the moulard (duck). Minute steak ( steak daka in Hebrew) is relatively new in Israel; I haven't run into it here before, although I remember it well from the old country. It is a thin slice of beef steak that is seared on each side for about a minute, hence the name. It came to the table well done but juicey. It was a very flavorful steak, served with thin slices of apple, mushrooms and leaves of endive. The healthy combination of fruit and vegetables, with no starchy potatoes or rice, is characteristic of dishes at Eucalyptus.
The moulard dish consisted of several slices of well-done dark meat with a coating of fat to enhance the flavor. It would have been easy to separate the fat from the meat, but one has to live some time. The meat was served on a bed of semi-sweet wine gravy with cooked grapes and dates.
Dining at Eucalyptus is not just a culinary experience. It is also entertaining. Part of the experience is the show. One of the favorites is the Ma'aluba ceremony, unique to Eucalyptus restaurant. M'aluba is a traditional slow-cooked Middle Eastern casserole. It usually contains some type of meat or chicken on a bed of rice, potatoes and vegetables. These are slow-cooked in a pot throughout the day. When it is served the pot is flipped upside down, hence the name maqluba which translates literally as "upside-down". On the menu it also appears as "nahafoch-hu", a reference to the Purim story's many reversals.
At Eucalyptus the Ma'aluba flipping ceremony is performed almost every evening. When the restaurant is filled with evening diners, waiters will announce the ceremony by banging copper trays and pot covers with sticks. Weather permitting, this is performed outside, and diners are encouraged to come out and watch the "flipping." With great fanfare the pot is flipped over on to a tray. One of the lucky diners may be given the honor of lifting the flipped pot off the tray, leaving a tower of rice with embedded chicken and vegetables. A taste of the upside-down chicken and rice casserole is then distributed to each of the diners at the restaurant.
For dessert, we had the Jerusalem semolina cake, served with pear soaked in wine and creamy jell. It was enough for the two of us, and left a sweet taste with us on our way home.
If you have the opportunity, you will enjoy a conversation with founder and celebrity award-winning chef Moshe Basson. Much has been written about Moshe Basson. Just Google his name and you will find hundreds of satisfied customers. People write that he is a "food historian and culinary story teller." That he "understands the energy of food and its relation to the person eating". That if a local Israeli chef can beat Morocco (and every other entrant) in a couscous competition, then you know you are in good hands.
Moshe is not only expert at the foods, but also our traditions and texts. I would not challenge him about the way of the korbanot – ritual sacrifices - in the days of the Temple. He knows whereof he speaks. Couscous, says Basson, dates back to the times of the Beit Hamikdash, and is aptly referred to as "Solet Belula Be'Shemen."
Eucalyptus is a family restaurant with menu items just for the children - chicken breast strips served with French fries.
Do you want to do it really right? Get a group together and ask Moshe to cater (by the way, he regularly travels the world to cater private dinners). He can host a group at Eucalyptus (up to about 50 guests). Moshe is especially well-versed in the Masoret and he has hosted dinners that include exotic meats from kosher animals not usually found on a plate.
Walking directions: On foot from the Jaffa gate, cross Hativat Yerushalayim and walk south for just a few minutes. You'll see a sign for Hutzot Hayotzer. Turn off the main street and walk down about 10 steps and you will be in front of Eucalyptus restaurant.
Driving directions: , From King David Street, turn on Emile Botha Street. This is the small street between the King David Hotel and the gas station. Wind your way down the hill. You must call the restaurant from the car and they will open a barrier. The restaurant has its own parking lot.