Restaurant Review: Tamago Sushi

by Brian on March 21, 2008

in Only in Israel

Several years ago in this column I bemoaned the paucity of sushi bars in holy city. In 10 Reasons I Still Love Jerusalem, I wrote that the only thing lacking in Israel’s capital was good sushi.

No more. Jerusalem has been overrun by sushi establishments in recent months. And unlike Tel Aviv (and the rest of the world), they’re nearly all kosher. There’s Gong, Domo, Yoja, the Sushi Bar on Rehov Aza,  the venerable  Sakura (which years ago used to be kosher but isn’t anymore),  Yakimonotoo at the David Citadel Hotel and the sushi take out at Soya.

And now to add to the plethora, here comes Tamago, a new minimalist kosher sushi restaurant set in a classic Templar building that was formerly an architectural firm on Emek Refaim Street.

I say minimalist because Tamago’s menu contains only two kinds of sushi: salmon and tuna. There are plenty of different combinations: rolls, maki, nigiri, inside out, but no yellowtail, halibut or snapper.

Tamago’s décor is similarly sparse – glossy red tables and black matte chairs with a few plain Japanese mats decorating the walls. It is not a space that encourages boisterous conversation though by the time we ordered our food, the place was filling up with sushi-loving families and contemplative young couples.  

My companion and I started with two bowls of soup – a miso and a bowl of ramen noodles with salmon. Both tasted pretty much the same which is to say fairly bland, though the chunks of salmon in the ramen soup were a surprising addition to a traditional Japanese staple. The miso was fairly standard with chunks of tofu and little scallions.

For the main course, we ordered a variety of sushi: salmon nigiri, inside out tuna teriyaki, and a caterpillar salmon roll which was the most interesting: alternating salmon and avocado wrapped around rice with more salmon and avocado inside.

Despite the spartan offerings, the sushi was quite tasty; the nigiri was particularly fresh and nearly melted in our mouths. There are two cooked fish dishes on the menu – yes, one salmon and one tuna. Vegetable tempura is also available.

Tamago is on the inexpensive side: with plates ranging between NIS 19 ($5.50) and NIS 42 ($12). Our meal for two (not including sake) came to NIS 127 ($37). While not fabulous, the restaurant is certainly convenient to southern Jerusalemites and is the best on the block (beating out Yoja’s sorry sushi and Soya’s straight-from-the-fridge take out).

One more point to note that gives Tamago its own uniqueness: the staff is entirely religious. That’s not so unusual in a city like Jerusalem, but sushi bars have generally been run by secular Israelis with imported Japanese chefs. At Tamago, everyone behind the counters – including the Japanese sushi chef – were wearing kippot.

Tamago Sushi is at 48 Emek Refaim Street. Open from noon until midnight except Fridays. 077-515-0140.

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