Picture this: it’s 2012, a woman is sitting in Café Rimon, gazing intensely into her coffee cup (OK so you’re all too young to get the Golden Girls reference.  What can I do.).  She’s feeling somewhat hungry but not hungry enough to do much about it.   Or perhaps not hungry enough to spend any money on it.  Whatever.

Yes, I was the coffee cup gazer.  And as I tried to tell my gastronomic future from the dregs, I remembered that the menu had mentioned something called mini-foccacia.  I remembered that it cost 13 shekel.  I remembered that I had a while to go till I’d get home to do some desultory cooking.  I ordered.

Let me tell you what I was expecting.  The “mini” in the title made me think of something roughly the size of a small kippa – something a German friend of mine used to call a “vogelsheisser”, roughly the size of… ok, perhaps inappropriate when translated into English and connected with food but you get the idea.  I expected a small pastry round with a few bits and pieces on top of it vaguely resembling herbs or vegetables, perhaps with a knob of butter on the side if I begged hard enough.

My mouth fell open and my laptop snapped shut as the waitress brought a large plate to the table.  On this large plate was a large, yeasty, bready thing with vegetables and herbs that looked absolutely delicious (and was), together with three little glasses filled with spreads.  One was pesto, the second tapenade, and the third something sharp that I wasn’t able to identify but had clearly been adapted to the Ashkenazi palate.   This and service with a smile for NIS 13.  I was impressed.

Looking through Rimon’s large windows, I noticed Apple pizza across the way.  I could have spent the same amount at Apple’s, demolishing one slice of fairly good pizza, sitting on a dusty red plastic chair in the dusty street.  Instead, here I was, sitting in a comfortable chair, enjoying airconditioning, café sounds and a stark décor that was oddly soothing, enjoying a simple but delicious treat (if you like that kind of thing) for not much more money.

My relationship with Café Rimon goes back a long way – till before it got its first name (yes, I meant the “Café” bit, do I have to explain everything?).  When I came to Israel for a year in my late teens, an Israeli friend who prided himself on knowing the best hidden treasures Jerusalem had to offer, dragged me off one wintry night to taste the best hummous in Jerusalem.  “You have to try Rimon”, he insisted, “you’ll like it.”  It was late, off season, and hardly anyone else was on the street.  He pulled me into a huge, cavernous (and largely empty) dining hall, and we sat down to eat plates of hummous mopped up with fresh pitta.  Oddly enough, I’d never eaten anything like it at Blooms back home on Golders Green Road…

Since that time Café Rimon has gone through many changes.  It has become the eating place of note for those looking for the most stringent kashrut certification in town, and some see it as an eating establishment exclusively tailored for the ultra-orthodox community.  However,  I’ve also come to acknowledge that the food is usually pretty good and reasonably priced too.  The décor has come a long way from the dusty velvet drapes and cloth tablecloths I seem to remember from my brief visit so many years ago.  Rimon redecorated fairly recently, changing the look and style of the place from “homey” or just plain “kosher-restaurant-style” to stark, clean and modern lines.  At first I hated it.  However, I must admit I’ve come to appreciate the peace an uncluttered environment can bring to the soul.  Huge, slatted wooden doors allow entry and exit.  Black, white, wood and mirrors predominate.  The cream-colored walls, for the most part empty of pictures or murals, are great for gazing at when seeking inspiration (or falling asleep).

So congratulations to Café Rimon, masters of reinvention.  Live long and prosper.

Some info:
I went to the Cafe Rimon in the center of town, on Lunz Street. I was not a guest of the establishment.
Their website is on http://www.caferimon.co.il/