(photo credit: AFIK GABBAY)
It remains to be seen if any fish that’s served in a restaurant possesses an element of happiness, but the name of the Mamilla Hotel’s fish restaurant most likely refers to the diners more than the food.
A reasonably priced dairy alternative to the hotel’s meat-heavy Rooftop restaurant, Happy Fish offers fish and dairy dishes above the busy Mamilla Mall. Hotel guests can choose to eat in the spacious venue on their half-board option, but the restaurant is open to the general public and can hold up to 200 diners.
On the cold Jerusalem night we had dinner there, it was warm and inviting inside, and the tangy drink special – hot cider with red wine and cinnamon – put everything into proper perspective.
Happy Fish is all about... well, fish, and as such it offers an extensive variety on the kosher fish options, much like Forrest Gump’s friend Bubba and his endless list of ways to serve shrimp.
According to manager Matan, the restaurant is known for its Fish “shwarma” with yogurt-tehina, lentils, pickled onion & amba (NIS 72). But instead of that sure thing, I tried the Fish Soup with bruschetta & pepper aioli (NIS 58), which was flavorful, with small chunks of fish swimming in the rich orange broth.
My companion chose one of the few non-fish dishes – Forest mushrooms Linguine (NIS 64), a filling, rich dish with ample mushrooms and taste. We left the Ceviche, with onion, cucumbers & sumac (NIS 54) and Carpaccio with pickled lemon, onion & coriander (NIS 52) for another time.
Main courses are served with Frena bread and meze, seven salads in small bowls (NIS 52, if ordered separately).
The bread, topped with olive oil and coarse salt, was delicious, and the Greek tzatziki, creamy hummus and egg salad with fried onion stood out among the salads. However, there was a noticeable mildness to the seasoning, as if the palates of tourists might not be able to handle a more spicy Mediterranean offering.
That way of thinking drifted into the main courses as well (served with a choice of rice, potato or salad).
My grilled salmon fillet (NIS 94) was fine, but needed liberal shakes of salt and pepper, and my companion’s whole trout (NIS 102), while grilled precisely, also lacked in the flavor department.
The Salonika Fries (NIS 26, if ordered separately) accompanying the fish had plenty of flavor, enhanced by feta and parsley. There were another half-dozen whole fish to choose from, including bass, grouper and sea bream, as well as the traditional Chraime (NIS 94) and Tunisian Fish Couscous (NIS 92) – both of which I’m sure would have packed a punch.
Too full for two desserts, we split the satisfying Chocolate layer cake with mousse chocolate & streusel cocoa (NIS 45) but noticed our next-door diners enjoying the tantalizing Mascarpone Kadaif (NIS 40).
We certainly left happier than the fish, and would recommend Happy Fish the next time you have guests in visiting from abroad and want to give them a Mediterranean experience without assaulting their taste buds too much.Happy Fish
Open 12 noon-11 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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