Jerusalem Grill wows with exceptional shawarma, other dishes

As soon as our server at Jerusalem Grill brought us a bowl of warm garbanzo beans sprinkled with cumin and one of pickled vegetables, I began to get a good feeling about the place.

Well, let me back up just a little. I think the good feeling actually started as soon as we walked in and saw what the current owners had done to a formerly nondescript space in an aging, nondescript strip center. The ’70s bumped-out windows reminded me, from the outside, of my last visit there when it was a gyros joint, but as soon as I stepped inside I saw that much had been added in the way of cherry-finished cabinetry, a gleaming stone bar (for eating, not drinking) and textured stone veneer that covered most surfaces. It was clear the owners care a lot about the place, enough to pay attention to the details.

That did, of course, carry over to the food, starting with those garbanzos and pickled vegetables. The latter were somewhat conventional, while exceptionally tasty, but the former something I hadn’t encountered before. Well, cumin and garbanzos have a natural affinity, which shows up in classics such as hummus and falafel, but this snack-style serving was both novel and delicious.

We were on a roll and it was not to be interrupted, as it turned out. Something else Jerusalem Grill does that I hadn’t encountered before is top its hummus (if you so desire) with different things, such as the mushrooms we chose ($9.99). And so we were served a plate with a wreath of hummus and in the middle, sliced onions and large mushroom pieces that had been sauteed together until they had caramelized deliciously. We were served a couple of pieces of warm pita and scooped and piled and thoroughly enjoyed the contrasting nuttiness and earthiness and sweetness and the contrasting textures. I’d go back for that alone.

But also excellent was a plate of grilled tomatoes and onions ($5.99), simply flavored with just their own natural flavors.

We weren’t done with garbanzos, though, or with cumin, as we moved on to a falafel plate ($15.99), the mixture brightened with parsley and formed into precise shapes that must have come out of a mold. They were crispy crusted but relatively moist inside, and the squeeze bottle of tahini sauce our server brought to our table added further flavor.

We’ve had a lot of shawarma in Las Vegas — heck, we’ve even had a lot of shawarma in Detroit — but I don’t ever recall having had one as good as the one at Jerusalem Grill ($19.99), where it’s sliced off a big vertical rotisserie. The chicken was well seasoned, tender and exceptionally juicy.

Of the sides offered with our entrees we both chose the couscous and Israeli salad. The couscous was the conventional, tiny-grained type, topped with a mix of fresh vegetables. “Fresh” also is the first word I think of when remembering the Israeli salad, which was primarily diced cucumber and tomatoes in a vinaigrette, with some herbs and a neutral-flavored green I couldn’t identify.

Service was fine until the end, when we had to do the arm-waving thing to get somebody to finally bring us a check.

One other thing about Jerusalem Grill: It’s a kosher restaurant. That’s real kosher — Glatt Kosher – not kosher-style. So if you’re intent on going today, go before sundown, and forget about Saturday.

The fact that it’s kosher means that, besides meat and dairy not being mixed, food preparation is supervised by a certifying agency, no pork (or rabbit) or shellfish is served, the animals are slaughtered in humane fashion and leafy vegetables are checked with a lightbox to ensure that not even a tiny insect is overlooked.

We should all feel good about that, and about Jerusalem Grill. But the other thing to feel good about is that the food is just darn good.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or hrinella@reviewjournal.com.

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