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Le Charolais: Jerusalem’s best non-restaurant

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“This is not a restaurant,” co-owner Leon Abitbol told me as I sat at a small table outside the Charolais.

Um, I thought to myself. “He knows I’m a restaurant critic, doesn’t he?”

“No,” he continued. “It’s a way for our customers to try our meat before they buy it. We want them to come and eat here once or twice and then become regular customers.

Tell that to David Azulai, a veteran Jerusalem taxi driver who was polishing a big steak while his taxi was illegally parked on a nearby sidewalk. The steak was served on a wooden butcher block with a salad of lettuce, tomato and onion in a mustard vinaigrette. Very delicious and very French.

“I have been here at least 10 times since they opened a few months ago,” he said. “It’s a great deal, and the steak is amazing.”

A casual meal at Charolais is indeed one of the best deals in Jerusalem. The Charolais, moreover, is the top level of cows in France, “the Adidas of cows” as Abitol said. I hesitate to write this, fearing that next time I want to go I might not be able to get a table as there are only 12 seats outside this store on the corner of Bethlehem Road and Yehuda Street. It is also a great place for people watching.

A 300 gram entrecote steak or a 250 gram piece of filet mignon costs only 120 NIS. All the meat is aged in the butcher’s shop, in a giant refrigerator open behind the counter. The cold cuts are not homemade but are made according to their specifications.

I took my carnivorous son to dinner at the Charolais. Abitol gave us a charcuterie platter that included roast beef and salami, both very thinly sliced. They were served with crackers, pickled baby onions and pickle pickles (which I love).

For the steak, I asked for my favorite, the filet mignon, cooked to perfection. My son asked for a rib steak, also moderately rare. I received two nice sized pieces of filet mignon, one cooked perfectly medium rare and the other closer to medium rare. They both had a good sear and the steak was one of the best I have had in recent memory. My son’s entrecote steak was delicious too, but he kept biting me bites, which tells you something.

I also heard rave reviews for the roast chicken (79 NIS), although I didn’t taste it. The chicken wings (59 NIS per kilo) had a delicious sauce.

All steaks are dry aged and Abitol pointed out that you can buy as much or as little as you want. The prices are high, but the constant flow of customers seems to indicate that it is worth it. For example, dry-aged sirloin costs NIS 189 per kilogram, entrecote NIS 209 per kilogram, and filet mignon NIS 299 per kilogram. The meat comes either from France or the Golan Heights and is aged for up to 30 days in-house. He also adheres to the strictest standards of kashrut, either halak Beit Yosef or Mahpoud.

There are also dozens of products including wine, olives and crackers from France for sale. On Fridays there is an extensive take out business. There is a nice neighborhood feel to the place. While I was there one of the butchers brought a plate of skewers to the lottery across the street. Abitol says local traders, including the barber and the owner of the eyewear store, eat lunch there almost every day.

The lingua franca, by the way, is either English or French. Abitol, who was born in Israel, grew up in Marseille and spent a lot of time in the United States, says he barely speaks Hebrew these days. If you are looking for a place to practice your French, Le Charolais is for you.

While we were eating, a friend, Renee Atlas Cohen, passed by.

“I really like these guys,” she said of the butchers. “They have a price range and they are happy to serve you whether you buy something expensive or not.”

Le Charolais: Caterer and Butcher

Kosher Halak Beit Yosef and Mahpoud

Bethlehem Road 84

Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 8 am-8pm; Friday, 8 am-3pm

Phone: (02) -644-4966

The writer was the guest of the establishment.


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