So Far So French festival at Mamilla’s Rooftop restaurant..
(photo credit: PR)
For two nights last week, the Mamilla Rooftop restaurant was transformed into a French bistro.
The regular menu at the luxurious Jerusalem landmark was put aside in lieu of a special meal created in tandem by the restaurant’s chef Cobi Bachar and his guest chef, Marcel Ravin, from the acclaimed Monte Carlo restaurant Blue Bay, which recently received one Michelin star.
Together, Ravin and Bachar used their considerable talents to create an evening culinary experience called Back to Back as part of the So French So Good culinary celebration sponsored for the third year running by the French Embassy in Israel, which brought more than 20 French chefs to Israel.
For a set fee of NIS 400, the diners in the packed room, including former British prime minister Tony Blair and his family, were treated to a feast for the palate and eyes in the guise of four tiny starters prepared by Bachar and four modest main dishes, two by each of the chefs.
An impressive array of wait staff brought out the exquisitely designed dishes with a flourish, and enthusiastically detailed the ingredients. Perhaps due to the one-time nature of the event, the flow of the courses was inconsistent, resulting in excessive delays and an unfortunate loss of momentum.
The plus side, for a fast eater like myself, is that it was almost impossible to get too full.
Bachar’s starters began with a truffle bao, served in a small bamboo box. A one-bite dumpling, it was rich and sweet. That was followed by a macaroon burger, looking exactly like the famed dessert. On closer inspection, however, the outside cookies were closer to brown toast, and the inside consisted of a tender piece of liver.
Another bite and it, too, was gone.
The red tuna ravioli was an interesting sashimi-like dish with chopped onions and cucumbers.
But even more interesting was the crispy lima bean – a falafel-shaped fried ball filled with a creamy, lima bean puree. Outstanding, and another bite.
Ravin’s first course was the mushroom and root mille feuille, a variation of the vanilla custard slice known as the Napoleon. However, here, the layers consisted of three kinds of mushrooms and potatoes, enhanced by pomegranates and sweet and spicy garlic.
Bachar followed that with rump steak nigiri, in which the Japanese rice, instead of being covered with salmon, was draped with a thin slice of succulent steak.
Not to be outdone, Ravin then presented his next offering – fillet of sea bass in aromatic olive oil, hibiscus emulsion, pears and bulgur. It was a winning combination that encouraged me, not a pear aficionado, to consume every bite.
After what seemed like an eternity, Bachar’s final dish arrived, and it was almost worth the wait.
The charcoal grilled saddle of lamb served with black quinoa consisted of three medallions of lamb that melted in the mouth.
The desserts arrived after a more reasonable break, with Bachar’s roasted pineapple and mandarin sorbet being bested by Ravin’s version of a Bounty bar, with two types of hard chocolate, coconut and vanilla filling.
Despite the pacing hiccups, Back to Back presented two chefs at the top of their game in their version of a gunslinger duel in which everyone ends up winning.