A journey from a love affair with processed foods to a love affair with cheese.
The opening of Mamilla a few years ago meant the addition of a slew of new eating options to the Jerusalem culinary scene, ranging from new branches of Aroma, Roladin, and Cafe Rimon to more upscale places like Herzl, Kedma, and of course the restaurants within Mamilla Hotel. I have to admit that I have spent very little time dining in Mamilla. Though I’ve heard good things about the restaurants there, they just never sounded that exciting to me. The exception to this were the two restaurants in the hotel – Rooftop and Mirror Bar. I went out for drink at Rooftop back in 2009, so I had that checked off my list. Meanwhile, I had told AB at the very beginning of our courtship that there were two bars I wanted him to take me to one day – the Cellar Bar at the American Colony Hotel, and Mirror Bar at Mamilla Hotel.
Anyway. On Wednesday AB and I marked three years since our first date, and he decided the time had come for Mirror Bar. Yet when he went to make a reservation, he discovered that Mirror Bar has a live DJ on Wednesday nights, and, as has been established, I am old and grouchy and do not like loud music. So instead he booked us a table at Rooftop Outdoor Lounge & Restaurant.
Now, those of you who live in Jerusalem should immediately realize the flaw in this plan – Wednesday was Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Walking towards Mamilla at 7:30 pm that day was the worst possible plan, seeing as we were not interested in tying flags on our backs and reconquering the Kotel. But in the end, it turned out to be a pretty cool conflation of events, going from total mass insanity in the streets to serene and quiet removal above the city.
Stepping inside Mamilla Hotel is always a bit like stepping into another world, even on days that are not crazy. I guess this is par for the course for luxury hotels. Stepping out of the elevator on the top floor only reinforces this sense of other-worldliness. At Rooftop, all the tables are outdoors on a wood-flanked patio, and all the chairs are made of wicker. There are two bars, one in the middle of the seating area. Despite the fact that Jerusalem is essentially in the desert, Rooftop makes you feel like you’re at the beach. And the view of Mamilla and the Old City behind it can’t be beat. If we’re grading solely on view and how good it feels to sit outside in the cool Jerusalem air, Rooftop gets an A+.
However, Rooftop is a restaurant and there’s food to be taken into account. At first glance, the menu looked amazing – appetizers included carpaccio, veal sweatbreads, and foie gras, just to name a few, and mains included a hamburger topped with foie gras and lamb chops, among others.* We hardly knew how to choose. In the end, we settled on focaccia, carpaccio, and entrecote for me and hamburger for AB. When we ordered we were informed that the focaccia was on the house. Since Rooftop is kind of a bar, I considered ordering a cocktail, but they only listed 5 on the menu (all vodka-based), so instead we both settled for a glass of wine (Flam Classico for me, a white Flam for AB). The wine list, unlike the cocktail list, was quite impressive, at least in terms of quality.
The focaccia came first, accompanied by olives, tehina, and aioli. The bread was delicious, the aioli was divine, the tehina tasted good but a bit out of place, and we don’t eat olives. Next up was the carpaccio, which arrived covered in sprouts, which are among my least favorite greens. No worries; I pushed them aside, and the beef was not ruined. It was mostly undressed, save for a few tiny droplets of a sweet fruit puree (apple maybe) here and there. These droplets were amazing; they should have been spread more liberally. The carpaccio itself was fine, but I’ve had better (most recently at Focaccia).
My entrecote was enormous. I really felt like half a cow showed up on my plate. It was topped with a bit of garlic confit (my favorite part) and was resting in a sweet and savory sauce. It came with “home fries,” by which they meant homemade French fries. This was the first time I ever ordered steak (I know, I’m losing whatever limited credentials you thought I had to begin with), and it was ok. I was expecting something that would melt in my mouth a little more, but I’m willing to accept that I’m too new to steak-ordering and that I ordered the wrong thing and that it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault, necessarily. AB’s hamburger, topped with foie gras, was delicious of course, but you all know how I feel about ground meat. The bread it was on was really very good too.
Our mains took quite a while to show up, so the waitress offered us cava on the house to make up for it. We were in a good mood and not starving, so we didn’t particularly mind. I should note that it seemed like our order got messed up, not that the kitchen was exceedingly slow all around – the people seated next to us got their food in a really timely fashion. Overall, the service was pretty good.
For dessert, we got “chocolate fudge,” which turned out to be the regular chocolate souffle on offer at every Jerusalem restaurant. It was ok. I mean, I ate the whole thing, but it was nothing special.
So, like I said, for atmosphere Rooftop gets an A+. For food though the bark is better than the bite. And the food, it is expensive. (Our meal of 2 glasses of wine, 1 appetizer, 2 mains, and a dessert came to over NIS 450). And I didn’t mention it earlier, but the presentation was nothing special either.
* This is not a restaurant for vegetarians, but if you are a vegetarian and end up there, there are options for you – soup, a few kinds of salads, and a few pastas. There are also a bunch of fish options for those who like fish.