The Holy City of Charleston may be down Highway 17, y’all, but venture out for dinner on Business 17 in the tourist section of Myrtle Beach and you have the opportunity to be transported to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar at 205 N. Kings Highway is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Don’t judge its resting place amidst the fried fish shacks and burger and beer joints. Step inside and your jaw will drop before you even lift your fork.
The main dining room is large and beautifully exotic, with a backdrop wall of shadow boxes in a soft gold hue, each filled with opulent Moroccan pottery pieces. The centerpiece is a hand-blown glass chandelier. We were guided through the arched doorway after I gave an OK to being seated in the room with belly dancers. Who doesn’t like a little entertainment with dinner—especially when Moroccan club-like music is being pumped at full volume from the next room?
Owners Max Garoby and Dalia Falcon did a mind-blowing job of recreating a traditional Mediterranean family-style dining room, complete with low tiled tables, high-back padded booths lined with throw pillows and piles of poufy cushion discs on the floor. Another hand-blown chandelier is encircled by a skirt of sexy, draped sheer fabrics. The song just ended and the belly dancer is posing with her veil around three teenage girls from a big group in the corner.
Start off with something strong from the bar, like a Tel Aviv Ten (Tanqueray No. 10 Gin mixed with Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka, blue curacao and lime juice), or with a glass of something tamer and cleansing, like Perrier, as we did. A must-order is, of course, the homemade hummus, topped with tahini, olive oil and chickpeas, and served with signature warm tandoor bread pulled fresh from an authentic tandoori oven in the kitchen. The tahini sesame paste was swirled in with the hummus and the crunch of chickpeas was rich and hearty. I could have filled up on just that—and you can if you opt for a dish off the restaurant’s specialty hummus menu. Hummus Falafel, for instance, is topped with four pieces of falafel and Shawarma Hummus boasts a layer of slow-roasted and basted shawarma. On my return visit, I want to try their baba ganoush, pureed eggplant blended with a dressing.
Entrees and grill items on the main course are also paired with a chef’s choice of appetizer samplers, so there’s no way to walk away from here hungry. Tiny bowls, arriving with a short explanation from our friendly server, were placed in an arch around our main course dishes. There was a sweet, creamy fruit salad, a Greek yogurt-based egg salad and potato salad, a red coleslaw and Moroccan carrots, which was my favorite even though I’m not a fan of cooked carrots. Though cooked, they were cold and spiced with cumin for an extra bite.
My first choice for dinner was the Mallika Brochette, cubed marinated beef skewers, but much to my dismay, the chef had just cooked the last one for the evening. I went with another meat on a skewer, Baby Chicken. The long, metal skewer hung over the plate with small marinated chicken thighs slid through from top to bottom. The marinade and rub were delicious and the meat was tender. A sea of saffron rice crowded the platter, but only one-third of the portion made it onto my fork. My husband tried the Moroccan Fish, which was tilapia covered in a spicy tomato-based sauce and veggies, as well as a side of sautéed vegetables (these were great mixed in with my rice, too). The sauce had him refilling his water, but he likes a dish with zest, and the fish was cooked to perfection. He had debated over the Lamb Shank or Chicken Tagine, each drizzled with prunes, apricots and saffron sauce, but was pleased with his final fish choice.
For those of the Jewish faith, an important note is that all food is kosher—even the dessert and wine—and is prepared under the supervision of the rabbi of Chabad of Myrtle Beach and Bethel Temple. In fact, the restaurant is the only one under the stricter glatt kosher standards in the Carolinas.
Needless to say, we had no room to spare for dessert. I’d have to shake it with the belly dancer to find space. But I did pass longingly by the dessert case stocked with fresh pyramid cake, homemade baklava, chocolate ganash brownies, almond horns and more.
This is the kind of restaurant you want to show off to friends in town looking for something outside the box of the basket of fried seafood or all-you-can-eat crab legs. It’s the kind of place made for flair and celebration, with good fare for all. Shalom, my friends.
Jerusalem Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar
205 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577, (843) 946-6650, www.myrtlebeachkosher.com
Open noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and Friday to sunset (closed Saturday)