More than just your daily bread

At J’lem’s Notre Dame Center, chef Rodrigo Gonzalez-Elias has created a divine experience at La Rotisserie.

La Rotisserie 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
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 Stadium.
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.
I ordered 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.
For our 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 tehina.
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.