La Rotisserie 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Chef Rodrigo Gonzalez-Elias is no stranger to religion. The American-born,
Spanishraised chef arrived at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center in December of
2008 after being selected to oversee a renovation of the La Rotisserie
restaurant and the preparation of a completely new menu for the visit of Pope
Benedict XVI in March. The pope and his entourage dined at the Pontifical
Institute’s restaurant during their stay in the city. Prior to arriving in
Jerusalem, Gonzalez- Elias was chef at the Real Café Bernabéu located at one of
soccer’s holiest sites, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home of the Real Madrid
Gonzalez-Elias laughs when I suggest that he has swapped one
temple of faith for another. While he says that he has fallen in love with
Jerusalem and its markets, he adds that the religious fervor at the Santiago
Bernabéu is more palpable than in the Holy City.
Wherever the fervor is
greater, Gonzalez-Elias clearly has a religious devotion to his cooking, and the
outcome is divine.
Born to a Cuban family in Levittown, Pennsylvania, in
1964, he moved to Spain at the age of six. The son of a project manager,
Gonzalez-Elias and his family moved numerous times, stationing in Venezuela,
Singapore, and India, picking up along the way, alongside Mediterranean and
Latin influences, an Asian sensitivity that is clear in the aesthetics and
delicate tastes of his cuisine.
His dishes are marked by precision, with
top-of-the-range ingredients that are perfectly balanced, allowing each flavor
to express itself – perhaps not surprising when it turns out that prior to
taking up a culinary career, he was an engineer.
My partner started out
with a salmon carpaccio – paper-thin slices of salmon served in a light olive
oil sauce garnished with coarsely ground salt and pepper topped with a salad of
root vegetables whose earthy taste stood out on its own as a counterpoint to the
freshwater kick of the salmon yet created a harmonious whole.
the smoked salmon and avocado salad with chopped red onion and fresh mint. The
smoked salmon and the avocado complemented each other perfectly, with neither
flavor dominant and the mint providing refreshing interludes.
main course, my partner had filet of grouper served Asian style with shitake
mushrooms and noodles in a teriyaki sauce. The grouper was moist, succulent and
cooked to perfection. All three items combined beautifully in taste and
presentation as did my choice of tuna tataki, a lightly grilled red tuna served
with enoki mushrooms and a citric teriyaki sauce.
Both appetizers and
main course went well with the summer fruits of an elegant Pelter Chardonnay
recommended by our waiter.
For dessert we shared a Moon over the Red Sea
– date ice cream served with a sprinkling of granola, honey and
For Christmas Eve, Gonzalez-Elias will be serving a seven-course
menu that features appetizers such as grilled scallops and vegetable mille
feuille au gratin; main courses that include halibut wrapped in grape leaves
with flaky rolls in a grape and raisin sauce, followed by breast of duck stuffed
with prawns and champignon mushrooms in a berry marmalade.
For those who
want to welcome in the New Year, Gonzalez-Elias will be preparing an
eight-course feast with delicacies such as foie mi cuit and corvine ceviche; and
main courses that include baked grouper and clams in green sauce, chicken and
shrimps flaky rolls and lamb chops served on a chestnut puree.The writer
was a guest of the restaurant.La Rotisserie Not kosher 3 Paratroopers’
Road, Jerusalem Open daily for dinner from 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.Friday and
Saturday open for lunch from 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.