The Feingold Courtyard off Jaffa Road may be a hidden corner of downtown Jerusalem, but not only does it contain a great selection of bars and restaurants, but it seems to attract locals and tourists alike. For the past 12 years, the large corner of the courtyard housed the popular restaurant and wine bar Adom, so when it recently moved to the new First Station complex, Mantra took its place. It may be a while before people stop referring to it as the restaurant formerly known as Adom, but hopefully Mantra’s food will speak for itself and bring in its own following.
Mantra is run by chef Ya’acov Elisha, who grew up in Nahlaot and went to high school in the city center. He spent the last 20 years sitting at cafes with friends in downtown Jerusalem, so opening a restaurant in the midst of it all is a dream come true. Elisha was most recently the sous chef at nearby Cavalier and is also a guitarist. He plans to bring together his passion for food and music by hosting themed evenings with musicians, singers and flamenco dancers. In addition to the main menu, there is a reduced price tapas menu (from NIS 29-62) available after 11 p.m. to attract people for nighttime enjoyment of the bar.
My friend and I found the menu very varied, with a lot to choose from. We both agreed that the red tuna sashimi (NIS 62) was a winning dish, served with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lemon and a hint of wasabi for the perfect kick.
While I enjoyed the simplicity of the salmon carpaccio (NIS 55) served with a rich olive oil, lemon and radish, my friend preferred the veal carpaccio (NIS 56) that came thinly sliced with rocket leaves and Parmesan. We both enjoyed the brinza salad (NIS 42), which was a mix of crisp lettuce and rocket-topped mixed seeds and grated brinza cheese (a type of feta), but we missed the candied pecans that were promised on the menu. We also found the summer salad (NIS 42) refreshing and colorful but felt it lacked a twist in the forgotten cranberries. While we enjoyed the beet carpaccio (NIS 47), having tried the same dish in many other places, we found it lacked originality and needed more of a punch.
It was clear from the freshness and lightness of the pasta dishes we tried that the pasta is made on-site.
The first was tortellini with four cheeses and truffles (NIS 79) served in a cream sauce. The second was spinach ravioli (NIS 58) served with baby peas, artichokes and asparagus with a white wine sauce.
Both dishes were wonderfully flavorful and not overly rich or heavy.
I tucked into a meaty piece of red drum fish (NIS 107) in an orange bouillabaisse sauce with creamy mashed potatoes. My friend was delighted to find crab in her seafood casserole (NIS 129), which had a lovely tangy tomato sauce – a refreshing contrast to the heavier creamy alternative often found in similar dishes. The lamb chops (NIS 136) came beautifully presented, were well cooked, and the fruity sauce and roasted root vegetables really complemented the meat.
Lastly, my friend devoured the mini-burgers (NIS 62), which were tender and crumbly, while I could not resist the very finely cut and perfectly crispy French fries that came on the side.
We finished our meal with three desserts selected for us by the chef.
The crème brulèe was indulgently creamy on the base and crunchy on top – it definitely hit the spot for me. The chocolate soufflé stood out from the crowd with surprising chunks of chocolate inside the hot liquid center. Lastly, the sorbet selection had real fruit flavors but was similar to what you find in many places.
We felt that Mantra still had some work to do on some of the dishes, and we found the prices on the higher end of the scale compared to similar places of the same quality, especially the appetizers.
But overall, we enjoyed our meal.
The location and setting are ideal, and the menu has a lot of potential.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Feingold Courtyard 31 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem
Sun-Fri. 6:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. Saturday 1 p.m. – 2 a.m.
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