Two thumbs up

In Jerusalem's Cinema City, Leo is the star of the show.

Leo (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The feature presentation for a visitor to Jerusalem’s new Cinema City complex is not necessarily up on the silver screen. Instead, leave plenty time either before or after watching the latest blockbuster to take the escalator up to the top floor next to the surreal Noah’s Ark exhibit for an unexpected culinary treat – a meal at the elegant chef’s restaurant Leo.
Described as a fusion of modern and Israeli cuisine, Leo features an elegantly designed open area, seating 150, including 22 spaces for bar seating. Via the large picture windows there’s a view of south Jerusalem overlooking the Supreme Court building. You quickly forget that you’re in a mall.
After a complimentary apertif chaser of Biancho, we made ourselves available to the whims of chef Eran Ben-Arush, who developed his culinary style at various restaurants around the world, including studies as a Cordon Bleu chef in California and a long stint running a kosher chef’s restaurant in Los Angeles. Ben- Arush says that he uses only fresh ingredients purchased daily from Mahaneh Yehuda.
The menu is divided into four sections. With Openers, you can order various types of foccacia. The Starters include a variety of items from NIS 39 to NIS 53, such as root risotto with wild mushrooms; celery root cream and porcini oil; warm mushroom salad with French toast; and East meets West kreplach filled with beef, spinach and ginger.
The Medium section, ranging from NIS 63 to NIS 79, includes sashimi fish in a spicy melon sauce – chunks of fresh fillet with lemon juice, fresh spices, olive oil and orange melon sauce; a goose and chicken liver pudding, consisting of the liver pate served with cherry tomato jam, onion confit and a brioche; and six other equally tantalizing dishes.
The eight Entrees (from NIS 87 to NIS 155) include duck pasta with mushrooms; a hamburger based on fresh smoked veal served on a brioche; something called a modern mixed Jerusalem grill that’s garnished with white tehina and pistachio oil; and the more pricy entrecote steak and shoulder roast.
Ben-Arush’s first offering was the goose liver pudding. It may have a fancy name and description, but tachlis, it was the best chopped liver I’ve ever had. Beautifully presented, it was rich, smooth and flavorful.
The fish sashimi, while equally dazzling to the eye, was less successful to the taste, although that could be chalked up to a general indifference toward sashimi. However, the spicy melon sauce, while not really that spicy, added a tangy excitement to the dish.
The root risotto was indescribably delicious, with the ample chunks of mushroom and the savory celery cream virtually melting in our mouths.
We actually begged for mercy after a few more of the exemplary starter items. So instead of a heavy main course, we ordered the roast chicken breast, which was prepared with wild black rice, parsley root cream, date honey sauce and Persian lemon. It was another winner and enabled us to leave a little room to sample the delectable desserts that Ben-Arush created.
The warm chocolate pudding selection included rich chocolate mousse with pralines, as well as a warm chocolate cake – definitely an item for two. Other choices included crème brule, a warm baba au rum cake and a unique creation consisting of a brioche baked in etrog pudding, chocolate, nuts and caramelized bananas.
The care and attention that Ben- Arush clearly invests in each dish is something that stays with you long after you finish the portion. So next time you go to Cinema City to see a film, don’t forget a visit upstairs. In fact, why go to a movie at all? A meal at Leo’s has all the excitement of a well-choreographed car chase, and all the nuances of a director at the peak of his skills.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
10 Yitzhak Rabin Avenue
Open Sunday to Thursday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Shabbat, one hour after sundown