A tapas bar to remember

A few months ago, I took a trip to Andalusia in southern Spain. Because I keep kosher, I wasn’t able to eat most of the delicious-looking tapas on offer. But at Andalucia, a kosher cocktail and tapas bar in downtown Jerusalem, I could (and did) taste almost everything.

Tapas are small plates. In Europe, they sell for a few euros a plate, and are even offered free during happy hour. At Jerusalem’s Andalucia they sell for NIS 36-NIS 62 each and are the size of an appetizer at a conventional restaurant.

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Andalucia is located in a historic building in Kikar Hamusica, slated for preservation. Therefore, the owner of Andalucia can’t change the architecture; but in an inspired idea, the building’s cistern is the wine cellar. There are three floors, although only two are currently open. The decor is sophisticated with Spanish and Moroccan influences.

The attractive bar is on the second floor, and you can choose to sit at the bar and watch the action, or at one of the four tables on the second floor. There are more tables on the ground floor. The third floor has yet to open, and the manager promises a “surprise” when it does.

There is a creative cocktail menu, but the bartenders also like to improvise. We put our trust in bartender Yuval Dagan’s hands. At only 26, Dagan has been mixing cocktails for a few years already, and clearly loves what he does.

After asking for our preferences, he served me Libby’s Clover Club with egg white, berry and flower syrup, lemon juice and Bombay Sapphire gin. The egg white makes a foam on top, which Dagan used as a canvas to decorate with angostura bitters. Simply one of the best cocktails I’ve had in my life.

My companion (my 24-year-old daughter) asked for something not on the menu. He gave her the Brooklyn night, based on aged rum, which she described as “fresh and refreshing, just sweet enough, with perfectly combined mint and honey notes, the perfect treat for a summer night.”

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For our second round of cocktails (all except one are NIS 52), I had the Dulcinea, served in a tall glass with Lady in Red tea syrup, ginger syrup, apple and beetroot juice, lemon juice, and Tequila Reposado. It was like a health drink with a nice gingery kick. My adventurous daughter asked Dagan to invent something on the spot, and he did: whiskey, bourbon, maple syrup, pineapple puree, hot chili, fresh apple, lemon juice and lime sherbet.

In all of these cases, the cocktails were shaken and stirred with panache and beautifully decorated.

Now for the food. We shared four tapas. Portions are not large, so order two or three per person. For the first round, we shared the spring roll carpaccio (NIS 52) and the red tuna tataki (NIS 45). The carpaccio was three rolls of thinly sliced sirloin rolled around arugula, red onions (which I asked them to leave out), chestnuts and balsamic vinegar, served on toasted brioche. My daughter had the winner of the night, the red tuna tataki with a sesame crust, kalamata olives, olive oil and jalapeno aioli, also on toasted brioche. Both dishes were well executed, but the aioli gave the tataki a unique taste.

The charming waiter, Elad, then brought us a surprise, the Pastilla (NIS 36) – two rolls of phyllo pastry stuffed with spring chicken, raisins and nuts, and for our last tapas we shared the mini burgers (NIS 62), two sliders made of rib eye with thick-cut fries. We were satisfied but not stuffed.

My one complaint is the rest rooms. On the ground floor, there was no sign and no light in the hallway. I wandered around opening doors at random until I found the right place.

Overall, the vibe of Andalucia is chilled out and relaxed. The minimum age for entry is 24. Next to us at the bar was a snuggly young couple celebrating their first anniversary. A group of young women in their twenties enjoyed cocktails at a nearby table. Also at the bar were Natalie and Shlomo Friedman, a couple from Modi’in in their late 30s with five daughters, who came on a date night.
“We are celebrating life,” Natalie said, when asked if she came for a special occasion.

That’s a perfect way of describing an evening at Andalucia.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Andalucia Cocktails and Tapas Bar
Kashrut Jerusalem mehuderet
Kikar Hamusica

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