We made a reservation for 19:00 and purposely arrived a bit early; Mishkenot Sheananim is a beautiful place to walk through: the old alleyways, enclosed gardens, serene atmosphere, and most importantly the amazing view of the old city make it a perfect place for an evening stroll. We found the Montefiore restaurant just in time and were seated by a window offering a glimpse of the sun setting upon the spectacular view of the Tower of David and the walls of the old city.
As you may know, Mishkenot Sheananim was the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. This neighborhood was founded in 1860 by Sir Moshe Montefiore. Since then, the neighborhood has seen quite a bit of action serving as a base for the Hagana forces (1929-1948) and playing a key role in the defense of the city.
Montefiore restaurant has recently changed ownership and today, long time chef and restaurateur Meir Ben Arush is at the helm. Some Jerusalemite may recognize Ben Arush from Café Ba’Teatron, the dairy restaurant and café situated by the entrance to the Jerusalem Theatre. Ben Arush and his team also introduce a new menu, drawing primarily on traditional Italian recipes and cooking style combined with fresh Mediterranean ingredients and several interesting twists.
Since I already had a relatively big lunch at the office, we decided to keep it light, starting off with two classic dishes: the Caprese Salad and the Sea Fish Crudo. The Capri style salad, while very simple, is one of my favorite Italian salads, and when prepared with fresh ingredients, it is a real treat. Montefiore’s version is very close to the original, using both yellow and red cherry tomatoes (Italians usually use regular tomatoes), fresh basil leaves, home made croutons and a generous amount of fresh buffalo milk Mozarella cheese all topped with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil drizzle. The Crudo (raw in Italian) is the Italian version of Japanese Sashimi or Peruvian Ceviche, thin slices of fresh raw fish usually gently seasoned with olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon. Here too, the Chef’s touch is evident and in my opinion quite welcomed. Thin slices of fresh white drum fish were seasoned with tangy warm lemon butter, homemade aioli and grilled artichoke hearts. The contrast in both flavors and temperatures emphasizes the quality of the ingredients, and the dish was devoured in no time.
Other interesting and classic starters include the Gorgonzola Arancini, a deep fried Sicilian dumpling made of rice and traditionally filled with meat, cheese or peas. Of course, since Montefiore is kosher, the meat version is not an option; the Ricotta Gnocchi – Gnocchi made from ricotta cheese and flour seasoned with grilled tomatoes and sage butter; and an assortment of home made pizza that can be ordered either as a main course or split as a starter for two.
The next round consisted of the salmon carpaccio and mushroom ravioli in cream sauce. The carpaccio reminded me more of a lox than traditional carpaccio, as it is smoked in house, using citrus wood and served with crème fresh and delicious caper berries. The dish was very generous and I could easily see myself sitting on the balcony with a glass of sparkling wine and a plate of smoked salmon. The ravioli was tasty as well, uniform dumplings of homemade pasta were prepared al-dente and served with a rich cream sauce. I only tasted one but judging from my companion’s responses it was clear that she was content.
With just enough room to split one dessert and in the spirit of the recent Shavuot holiday, we ordered a slice of cheese cake, a couple of espresso coffees and decided to call it a night. By the way, Montefiore also holds private events for up to 100 participants and due to its proximity to both down town and the old city is an ideal location for Bar and Bat Mitzvas or other family occasions.