(photo credit: PR)
It is not an easy feat to fill a void left by Meir Adoni, but that was exactly the challenge accepted by three chefs from Tel Aviv’s highly regarded Messa Group when they opened Mariposa in the same golf club location vacated by the celebrity chef.
The confident chefs also set the bar pretty high for themselves when they chose the rather pretentious slogan “sensational cuisine” for their new venture.
There is a nice view from the restaurant overlooking the verdant greens, although the very small deck limits al fresco seating. Indoor seating is at regular tables, at the bar, or a table that thinks it’s a bar.
Mariposa offers five specialty cocktails, of which our waitress recommended a tropical rum drink called The 19th Hole (NIS 52) – a blend of mango, passion fruit and pineapple garnished with mint and crowned with orange-mango foam that tasted like a mildly alcoholic smoothie.
The Plumb Bob (NIS 48), meanwhile, was billed as a “mojito, Mariposa-style, the old recipe with a twist of coconut and cinnamon.”
Since there was not even a hint of mint in evidence, it is hard to fathom why the menu insisted that a mojito was at the core of this drink, not to mention that a coconut sweetness overwhelmed the cocktail beyond recognition.
The English and Hebrew menus listed nine starters and nine main courses, including one that could be ordered in either size. In addition, there were daily specials.
The house breads were a light and dark whole grain (NIS 16) or a piping hot pretzel with za’atar (NIS 18) served with three “dips,” unspecified on the Hebrew menu but spelled out on the English menu as olives (actually olive oil), tahini and pickled lemon. While the crusty, chewy bread was quite good, none of the dips tempted us enough to fill up on the fresh bread.
Our first starter was the drum fish sashimi (NIS 56), plated on oil infused with curry leaves, with tiny dollops of yuzu yogurt, a small cucumber and coriander salad, toasted quinoa and lime sorbet (replacing the Campari and grapefruit sorbet on the menu).
The citrusy yogurt on the extremely fresh fish was an inspired touch, and the dish as a whole represented a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures.
Next came seared foie gras (NIS 88) under a crust of gently caramelized nuts, on a bed of popcorn cream and surrounded by drops of basil cream.
The combination of the nuts and unusual creams cut the decadent richness of the foie gras, resulting in a dish of extraordinary balance. This was a masterpiece we hated to see come to an end.
Our first main course was one of several Asian-inflected dishes: marinated salmon (NIS 118), accompanied by cream of potatoes with yuzu, and a salad of cucumber and peanuts in an Asian dressing.
Rarely have I had fish cooked with such exactitude, progressing gradually but noticeably from the gently crisped exterior to the soft center, while retaining its moist consistency and flavor throughout.
Our meat course was a daily special that differed slightly from the beef fillet steak (NIS 148) on the everyday menu: seared sirloin in a wine and porcini mushroom sauce, with mushrooms, spinach and potato croquettes. While the sauce was very good, it was also superfluous: The tender, succulent, reddish pink slices of sirloin needed no help whatsoever.
Mariposa has an extensive international wine list, with 10 wines – five red and five white – available by the glass. We enjoyed both the house wines: the 4 Vats by Carmel (NIS 32) and the slightly more full-bodied Mt.
Amasa from Yatir (NIS 46).
The dessert menu consisted of five items plus one daily special. We let the chef decide and were served mascarpone cheesecake (NIS 44) topped with a ribbon of caramel mousse, with a scoop of raspberry sorbet on the side and a honeycomb tuile. This dessert hit all the right sweet notes, marking the perfect finish to a memorable meal.
While there were things to nitpick about – the hard wooden chairs, the loud music, the gap between the talent in the kitchen and that behind the bar, a tasteless pretzel and the occasional discrepancy between the Hebrew and English menus – these details pale in comparison to Mariposa’s ability to live up to its promise to deliver “sensational cuisine.”
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Golf Club, Caesarea
Tel: (04) 626-5000