“Middle Eastern food court.” That’s how one friend described the restaurant, situated in the armpit of a seen-better-days plaza across from Ingram Park Mall.
The outside patio, not terribly inviting in our recent cold spell, is actually quite relaxing in the summer as a place to listen to modern Arabic music, enjoy a hookah or just soak up some of the late-night scene. Right now, go inside where it’s warmer.
It’s warmer largely because the food is so wonderfully good, whether you are sitting in a booth marked by ersatz Arabian Nights molding or at one of the nondescript tables.
Most everything we sampled on a recent visit, even the one dish that drew some reservations, proved to be eye-openers to the friends who had never been there. One even made a return visit at the end of the week with her husband, who also raved.
What impresses the most, I think, is the freshness inherent in the food. In these dark days of winter, anything that tastes of spring or summer comes across as a blessing. And the parsley in the tabbouleh, for example, tasted as if it had just been picked. It’s true, the salad had far more salt than it needed (I even bit into a large cluster of salt crystals), but the brightness of the herb with plenty of lemon juice zing led me to finish off the serving.
It was one of five meze plates that came with the mixed plate for two. This meal is large enough to feed at least three, and is a true bargain at $26.95, because it also comes with three kebabs of your choice, pita bread and a plate of aromatic rice.
Another of the small plates we shared was a knockout baba ghanoush made with a robustly smoky eggplant while the top was sprinkled with a judicious amount of tangy sumac. With a little pita to spread it on, a plate of the creamy dip could have been enough for dinner for me.
But there was more. A fava bean salad was cool and crisp, with plenty of freshly chopped vegetables; a cucumber dill yogurt (this Middle Easter raita, if you know only Indian food); and the Jerusalem Salad, with a lively array of cucumber, onion and surprisingly good tomato in a tart dressing, rounded out our other choices.
And those were only the beginning. We opted for kebabs of beef, chicken and kefta (seasoned ground beef), all of which were moist and tender, with the chicken benefit most from a tart marinade.
Other friends spoke well of the warm fava bean dish, Foul Mudammas ($7.95), with its garlicky dressing; the stuffed grapes leaves on a bounteous vegetarian platter ($9.95) that shared many of the same dishes we had tried; and the crunchy falafel (fried garbanzo bean patties).
If you have any questions, just ask. Our server, who seemed to be the only waiter on duty, took the time to answer all questions and even made a later-than-last-minute substitution as if it were no problem.
A few facts about Jerusalem Grill: The meats are all halal. The menu says that diets, low-carb and low-fat, can be taken into account, so talk with your server beforehand. And the restaurant welcomes you to bring your own wine; you might want to bring your own glasses, too.
3259 Wurzbach Road
Open daily for lunch and dinner