Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Lion's Den - Another Great Review

From the Jerusalem Post's Billboard:-

A lion in Zion

Hagov can satisfy sports spectators’ viewing needs and their hungry stomachs.

It’s been hundreds of years since any lions lived in Israel, but a few months ago a new lion’s den opened in the region. Hagov (The Lion’s Den) is a sports bar in downtown Jerusalem, and its goal is to serve an entire cross-section of the city.

Luckily, with the ability to show eight different sporting events simultaneously, Hagov is able to cater to all of the types in the capital (those who don’t like sports don’t actually have to watch). And when I say cater, I include the food sense of the word. The bar is fully stocked with all types of alcohol, as would be expected, including five different beers on tap. But in addition to the booze, Hagov has an enticing menu that combines bar staples like Buffalo wings and burgers with options like carpaccio and salad.

While chatting with one of the owners, he mentioned that the Hagov team had put special effort into the menu. I’d heard from acquaintances that the kitchen got off to a rocky start, but judging by what I sampled on two separate visits, that culinary effort paid off.

The bar is long and somewhat narrow, like many of the older buildings in Jerusalem. There are seating areas at individual tables, along the bar, and out back where there is a massive screen. The wait staff is bilingual, which emphasizes the Anglo-friendliness of Hagov. The background music is also all in English, and the English menu is actually intelligible.

From that menu, my dining partner and I ordered beers on draft: 400 ml. Carlsbergs and Tuborgs (NIS 22 each). I also put the whiskey sour (NIS 32) to the test, and I’d give it a B. To go with the drinks, we tried the Buffalo wings (NIS 43 for 24 pieces). They come in three levels of spicy, and we opted for the middle one. I found the beer very useful in dousing the flames on my tongue – that’s not a veiled complaint. Still, my dining partner added Tabasco to his. The wings were crisp on the outside and the flavor unlike most Israeli wing options.

On a subsequent visit, I also sampled (with the help of a friend) the 250 gr. burger (NIS 50), the roast beef platter (NIS 59) and the onion rings (NIS 27 or free with burger). All were presented simply but not haphazardly. The burger tasted like it was actually made of meat, not just some vague ground-up relative of a cow. The bun was toasted and thus more likely to crumble, which made it a bit difficult for it to hold the burger.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of a roast beef platter at a bar – or anywhere, for that matter. It turned out to be a plate with thinly sliced meat and tomato salad, and a second plate with sliced bread and two spreads (sun-dried tomato and tehina). The meat was pink inside and reminded me of the steak my mother used to make, back in the day. Again, that’s not a complaint. I couldn’t quite figure out what the tasteless yellowish sauce on the platter was, though, so I skipped it.

And really, since when can you go wrong with onion rings? The Lion’s Den version is a homemade deal with tempura-battered slices of onion, and they’re good and greasy.

Generally, Hagov is a fun place. The food is tasty, the music is entertaining, and there’s always a game to watch. Wisely, there are hooks under the bar on which to hang a purse, so women know that it’s not a men-only type sports bar. But remember: A sports bar can get rowdy when a critical match is on. With the World Cup fast approaching and the multitude of nationalities in Jerusalem, things in the Lion’s Den just might get wild.

Hagov, Rehov Yoel Moshe Salomon 5, Jerusalem. 052-870-9993. Open Sunday-Thursday, 7 p.m. to the last customer, and Saturday night after Shabbat. Kosher.

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