51 Yehuda Halevi
Hours: Sun-Fri Noon-last costumer
(kitchen closes at 1:00)
I don’t know what you’ll notice first when you step inside Joz Ve Loz: the striking red walls and the mystic burning candles, the modest kitchen with minimal equipment or the assortment of Israeli artwork placed ubiquitously around the restaurant. However, it doesn’t take long to sense that there’s an inexplicable quality about Joz Ve Loz. This inexplicable quality is rooted in the unconventional approach partners Orit Revivo and Alma Fogiel take to their restaurant, ultimately turning the concept of a restaurant on it’s head.
Whether the reason is changing the menu almost daily, rotating the chef every couple of years or boldly serving a simple, yet elegantly prepared, plate of raw vegetables drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, the feeling that you’re simultaneously “in” and “ not in” a restaurant is strongly evident. The most appealing characteristic about Joz Ve Loz is that the lines between a restaurant, a bohemian artist’s reservoir and a quaint wine joint are blurred, and the dining experience is something special, yet undefinable.
Joz Ve Loz is a nickname dubbed to the pair when they first met Orit’s Kurdish mother, literally translating to “nut and almond”, like the Arabic equivalent of pea in a pod. When Orit and Alma met while working at a film festival in Jerusalem in 1998, they instantly bonded and became inseparable from that very day. Their roots took hold over their artistic connections and their shared dream of owning a restaurant, a place where they could host and people would gather. They began this dream by opening a soup restaurant in Jerusalem. With a variety of hundreds of soups rotating daily. They sold their business after two years, moved to Tel Aviv and used the money to create a new restaurant out of space that was formerly an old accountant’s office. The transformation resulted in a true bohemian rhapsody.
The kitchen is small and part of the experience at Joz ve Loz. It is viewable from almost any table, where diners can watch the staff dance from side to side, flames rising and falling, morphing customers into audience members, staff into performer and host. This interactive experience is part of Orit and Alma’s vision: hosting friends in their home with creative freedom on either side. Because the kitchen and restaurant capacity are small, chefs have the ability and time to focus on each dish, making sure every plate is delivered with care. Local artists’ work covers the walls, giving more life to the interactive experience Joz ve Loz strives to emulate. Israeli artists who have their work displayed often dine or drink at the restaurant, and Orit and Alma know every one of them.
Orit and Alma know there must be structure within the creativity of their dreams, too. During their soup days, they cycled through the same raw ingredients while trying new recipes and flavor combinations. They spent five or six hours each week with the chef discussing the ever-changing menu during the early restaurant years.
With the menu changing every few days, it’s difficult to find a recurring favorite dish, but Orit and Alma’s creative structure allows for some patterns. While the type of bread changes according to the main menu, a loaf is always served with each meal, and it’s all made in-house. It would also be wise to not pass up their soup if it’s available. Joz ve Loz recently began opening its doors for lunch, so there is more opportunity to explore the current chef, Robert Kluger’s, culinary creations.
Without a conscious effort there is usually an entirely female staff. This makes way for a sense of female empowerment evident in the restaurant’s energy. Not girl power in the sense of pink and frilly designs but bold, strong, and confident female vigor. The same strength it takes for Orit and Alma to raise their children and run a business. In fact, Kluger is the restaurant’s first male chef. Alma says she feels male chefs are more to the point and structurally professional, but the taste of their food is more rough around the edges. “When searching for contrast, men find black and white, while women find gray and green,” Alma explains.
There is no doubt that it’s worth a trip to Joz ve Loz for Kluger’s menu, but, as Alma explained, food is, in its deepest sense, a story that comes from home and is told by your mother. Mother tells the story of family and passes it down to children like Orit and Alma, two peas in a pod with a dream to host friends and family in a large version of a home kitchen. It’s a story told in the language of the senses; the taste of spices and herbs, the smell of oil cooking, the burst of light from licking flames in the kitchen opposite shadowy tables lit by a single candle, the feel of a hug from a host who knows your name, the gentle music flowing between table conversations, as if all were sharing a meal in a living room.
By Kayla Robins