I really wanted to like Jerusalem Garden in downtown Asheville.
Really. I did.
Mediterranean and Moroccan-inspired dishes, a few doors down from the delightful Kathmandu, belly dancers, live music and seat cushions instead of chairs. What is not to love?!
Well, the food.
I guess I should add a disclaimer that my first visit to Jerusalem Garden was two nights after they offered a Groupon (which I bought) that offered $44 to spend on an appetizer and 2 entrees for $20. They were pretty busy, with a 40 minute wait and lots of reservations, but frankly, there wasn’t once when the tables were full. So I’m not sure where all these people were who reserved the tables. But in their defense, perhaps the food was lacking because they were busy with the Groupon.
That said, I will probably never return to find out. No matter how entertaining the music and belly dancer were, there was too much wrong with this place to make me come back. I ordered a Turkish blush wine, and when the waitress was bringing it to me, she actually stopped at two other tables to ask if they had ordered it. She only had 4 tables, and we were the 3rd one she asked.
We ordered our appetizer and entrees together to hurry up and get our order in. Of course, maybe we shouldn’t have rushed since literally five minutes later, our food came out. Both the entrees and the appetizer. The hummus was served with no pita, but I assumed the pita on our entree plates was for the hummus, so I dug in. It was fine. It was hummus. And that’s about all there is really to say about it. I ate more because I wanted hummus, and after all, it wasn’t bad, just nothing great.
I should mention that my boyfriend got the special: the lamb shank. He was served a huge leg of lamb with a few extra slices of lamb. He said it tasted like roast beef which he was delighted about, so perhaps the lamb shank is delicious.
My entree, the house-made (??? really?! It tastes like the boxed kind I buy at the grocery store) couscous in a tomato-herb sauce served with vegetables and the shrimp I requested, was OK at best. I was excited that they gave me an ample amount of medium sized shrimp – much more than restaurants in this price range typically serve. However, when I tasted it, I was really disappointed. The tomato sauce had little flavor, and the sauteed vegetables were no different than the fresh squash and zucchini I make at home (for about $1). And as you can infer from my commentary on the couscous, it was nothing special.
As I’m picking off the tails of my shrimp, I notice the waitress stopping at every table asking if they had ordered a side of pita, at which time I realized that was our side of pita, intended for the hummus we were served ten minutes prior alongside our entrees. She was flaky to say the least. Extremely nice, but it was really disappointing to get our food all out of order.
The entertainment was fun, and it wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t hear others talk. However, I’ve been to a few restaurants with belly dancers, and I found it a bit tacky the way they had the dancer openly dance with a basket for tips. I feel like the tips should be split with her anyway, kind of like the chefs who “perform” at Japanese hibachi restaurants.
Anyway, it’s a fun experience if you’re looking for somewhere to go and have fun. If you love this type of food, I suggest you pass because this place is quite a disappointment for anyone who regularly eats Moroccan and/or Mediterranean food.
Recommended: No, unless you’re just going for the belly dancing
Overall Rating: 5/10 (And that’s mostly for the entertainment)
Pricing: It’s expensive, especially considering the mediocre quality. Appetizers are around $6-$8, and salads are even more. The average entree is about $15, with vegetarian dishes being less and lamb dishes being more. The portion sizes aren’t that great, either.