Refuel: Little Jerusalem * * * *
3 Wynnfield Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6. Telephone: 01 4126912
There used to be columnist named Bob Levey in The Washington Post, and once a month he wrote a column about neologisms. A neologism, in case you don't know, is a newly coined word that hasn't yet entered common usage -- or the dictionary.
Neologisms (similar to Béarlachas in the Irish language) are often humorous and self-explanatory. The term ignoranus, for example, is a neologism that describes somebody who is an idiot and an asshole.
Bob ran a monthly contest where readers would suggest neologisms for scenarios he cooked up. He might, for instance, ask you to coin a phrase for the way crazy ladies talk to their cats as if they were babies. I entered that one, but was beaten by a lady from Vermont named Lynette, who came up with 'petois'.
One of my own most recent inventions is 'mombie' -- it describes what women turn into when they have a child who will not sleep, so they spend all day pushing it around in a pram. Mombies wear dark glasses and drink take-out coffee. They hate rain and they hiss whenever somebody beeps a horn. I know this because I am a mombie.
I have a 90-minute mombie circuit that I follow while His Lordship sucks on a Chupa Chup. There's not much to look at when you're walking the backstreets, but one day I came upon a Middle Eastern café in the lane between Slattery's pub and the St Louis convent in Rathmines.
My first experience of Jerusalem Café was a take-away falafel, which was tricky to eat while steering a pram, but delicious nonetheless. So delicious, in fact, that the next day I deposited His Lordship in the nursery and went back for lunch with the Posh Blonde. On closer inspection it became clear that, despite the lamb shawarma on a spit, this is not just another kebab joint. The menu is split into shorpat (soups) and traditional mezza such as hummus, manakeesh, and Lebanese bread stuffed with minced lamb, onions, garlic and tomatoes. The main courses are mostly chicken and lamb, although there is one rabbit and one fish option. Vegetarians are also well-catered for.
We kicked off by sharing some fatayer: pastry parcels filled with lightly spiced lamb, cheese and potato. These were perfectly proportioned, and the filo pastry casing was crisp and delicate. It came with a duo of dipping sauces: garlic, which was creamy, and chilli, which was sweet.
Posh ordered the vegetarian mezza, which showcases a lot of the starter menu. The crunchy outside, fluffy inside falafel made a brief reappearance -- she devoured it before I got a look in. There was a salad of cubed feta and some very good mixed olives, dressed in oil and chopped parsley, there was unctuous hummus with a mighty citrus kick, fava beans in spicy tomato sauce, and a giant slab of Lebanese bread. But the star was the babaganoush -- pureed roasted aubergine, so smoky it verged on sultry.
My main course, m'sakhan, was described as " roasted chicken pieces", but it emerged as a plump breast, served on the bone, and was all the more flavoursome for it. It had been roasted with red onion, lemon, and garlic, and came sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, on a flatbread rubbed with sumac.
Albeit new and anonymous, Jerusalem Café has an air of confidence that had me baffled until I saw the owner arrive. It was Ibraham Phelan of the Silk Road Café in the Chester Beatty Library. I know that this piece of information alone will be enough to draw a crowd. It could be said that Jerusalem Café is "more ethnic" than Silk Road, and for that I like it all the more.
With Arabic coffee, mint tea and a couple of very pretty, sweet pastries, our bill came to €34. Jerusalem Café is a genuine find. If you're dining on a budget you won't do better than appetisers that start at €2.70 and mains that range from €7.65 to €14.85. Although they don't sell wine, you can bring your own and corkage is free. Good news for those of us who aren't above drinking down a lane.
THE DAMAGE: €34 for one starter, two mains, one coffee, one tea and two pastries
ON THE STEREO: Lebanese trad
AT THE TABLE: Locals
WHAT TO WEAR: Jeans
DO SAY: BYO
DON’T SAY: This little piggie...