The inconspicuous-looking Asian market in the heart of Baka in Jerusalem doesn’t look like much from the outside. Even upon entering the shop, you are greeted by a cashier and rows of seaweed, soy, and hoisin sauce, and walls of rice vinegar and Mirin. Look closer, however, and you’ll find a secret door to a culinary wonderland of Modern Asian cuisine with a Jewish twist.
It started as an offshoot of the Kurdish restaurant Jacko’s Street, it was a secret bar known as “Jacko’s Son”. Now it’s a secret restaurant serving unique Asian fusion under the facade of a functioning Asian supermarket.
Upon entering the secret pathway, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sleek and elegant design and decor of the restaurant. A large island bar sits at the center, allowing a view of where the magic happens. Guy Ben Amo, the manager and mixologist of the restaurant, has crafted a short but unique cocktail and wine menu. The inspired cocktails are all unique, each with its own special twist, some incorporating za’atar and others utilizing the flavors of truffles, saffron, and kefir lime to craft mind-melting flavor combinations that have won awards worldwide.
The owner of the restaurant also added his own personal touch to the wine menu where, in addition to the selection of Israeli reds, whites, and blends, there is a special rosé. Made as a 10th-anniversary gift to his wife and named after their shared nickname Dubi (hebrew for teddy bear). The rosé is velvety, refreshing, and the perfect way to begin a meal, and becomes all the more special as it’s exclusive to Super Hamizrach.
Part of what makes Super HaMizrach not your average Israeli Asian spot is its Yakitori. Yakitori, not to be confused with any old kabobs, is the ancient Japanese art of cooking skewers, using three charcoal grills at different temperatures this method gives off a smoky, woody flavor to the fish, vegetables or meat cooked on it, leaving it with a succulent and moist interior. Super HaMizrach is one of the only restaurants in Israel that offer Yakitori made in its traditional method, the chefs discovered the idea when traveling the world, tasting and seeking inspiration in the unlikeliest of places.
From trips to Budapest and Thailand, they learned from the most acclaimed chefs in the world how to adapt classic Asian cuisine to modern palates. The head chef explains that the goal of the menu was “not to pander to Israeli palates with Israeli twists on Asian classics.” He says. “You won’t find Chraime Sashimi or Za’atar Nigiri on our menu, we try to make meals that remain authentic to their Asian roots but include a bit of personality to make us stand out.”
Take the homemade bao buns. In contrast with many of the Asian restaurants that simply steam frozen buns, this restaurant makes them from scratch, imbuing them with flavors like sesame, caraway, and anise combined with their delightful pillowy texture. Inside the baos is where the staff gets creative, with one of the fillings being a smashed kebab, creating the perfect marriage between Asian cuisine and Israeli food.
The fish all comes in daily. When served a plate of sashimi, we learned that the intias (yellowtail) in front of our eyes was “still swimming in the Mediterranean last night.” The same goes for their over-the-top makis. One of their fan-favorite specialty rolls, a large futomaki wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber packed with intias, salmon, watercress, avocado, beetroot, and topped with lemon teriyaki, is more than a mouthful but manages to pack so many unique flavors into one bite.
Another highlight on the menu is the Foie Gras Nigiri with Sirloin steak served on spicy rice. When served, you are instructed to flip the nigiri so that the meat melts on your tongue. While I’m a vegetarian myself, this dish seemed outrageously good and my brother was nearly speechless after enjoying it.
Despite the restaurant’s primary focus being on fresh fish and meats, there are plenty of great options for vegans too. The seasonal vegetable yakitori, which this winter consisted of leeks and Jerusalem artichokes brushed with a miso glaze, somehow achieved the same smokiness of the fish and meat yakitori.
You can’t forget about dessert, which is why Super HaMizrach serves three unique dishes. Their best-selling dessert is a caramelized banana served with toffee sauce, banana ice cream, and crunchy cashews. Their coconut panna cotta is also highly recommended.
The Miseducation of the Israeli Culinary World
Super Hamizrach opened in November 2023 under the fog of war. Ben Amo explained the importance of opening now, more than ever. “I wasn’t called up for the reserves, and this is what I know how to do best,” Ben Amo explained. “We give people two hours of an escape with no news and just a chance to enjoy.”
When speaking with the head chef, Oran Ben Moyal, a kosher observant Jew, he explained his motivation for opening this restaurant. “Kosher taste buds have changed, and people can tell the difference.” He goes on, “People don’t want to overpay for mediocre food, and they know better food is out there.”
That doesn’t mean they don’t get customers who come in asking for “a burger and fries or a vodka and Red Bull,” but this is all part of the culinary reeducation Ben Moyal feels is necessary to bring high-quality fine-dining to the Kosher world in Israel.
The perfectionist attitude he brings to the kitchen doesn’t go unnoticed. Each dish had been fine-tooled and perfected before being added to the menu. For Ben Moyal, it was important that his restaurant was affordable without sacrificing quality ($40-50 USD per person). He explained how he searched all over Japan for the best rice money could buy and imported it directly from Tokyo.
After working at Jacko Street and serving as a head chef at Uran’s (a sushi restaurant that has closed), Ben Moyal has come up with inspired dishes and recipes that are sure to blow your mind. The restaurant may look like a supermarket from the outside, but inside, it’s a super tasty intersection of far-eastern and middle-eastern cuisines complimenting each other perfectly. With fresh fish, and creative dishes it’s hard to go wrong, as long as you can find the secret entrance.