Sushi Mamilla: Where Middle East and Far East meet - review

The tiny restaurant looks very generic, but the food it serves is absolutely excellent.

 Sushi Mamilla (photo credit: MATANA BRACHA ZWIREN)
Sushi Mamilla
(photo credit: MATANA BRACHA ZWIREN)

You’ve probably walked by Sushi Mamilla in Jerusalem many times without going on. The tiny restaurant looks like a generic sushi place where you’d get sushi similar to what is served at weddings. But the sushi here is really good and worth a try.

First of all, the restaurant is not in Mamilla. My son and frequent dining companion has a tendency to run late, and he knows it annoys me. We set up to meet at Sushi Mamilla at 8 p.m. and at 7:55 he called and said, “I’m here in Mamilla and can’t find sushi anywhere.” That’s because it’s at the bottom of Shlomzion Hamalka Street next to Café Kadosh, not actually in Mamilla.

There are just three tables inside on the entrance floor, three outside and a few more upstairs. There is an extensive selection of sushi, noodle dishes, two soups and some interesting appetizers. There is no meat on the menu, just fish and vegetables, which leaves more dessert opportunities for those who keep kosher.

My vegan friend Estelle would do just fine here with all vegetarian dishes (which can easily be made vegan by leaving out the tamago egg sushi) marked with a little green teardrop on the menu. There is even a vegan poke bowl (NIS 60) with lots of vegetables on a bed of sushi rice.

The night we visited, chef Jacob Kan, who has Korean roots and a grandfather from North Korea, said he had not been able to get fresh tuna for two weeks and there is a shortage all over Israel. My son, who loves fresh tuna, was disappointed, but I was happy with salmon. When I spoke to owner Naftali Goldstein a few days later, he told me that they had just received tuna that day, and offered to send me a few sushi rolls to sample. So we got to experience dining in the restaurant and delivery, and both were excellent.

 Sushi Mamilla (credit: MATANA BRACHA ZWIREN) Sushi Mamilla (credit: MATANA BRACHA ZWIREN)

As we often do, we asked the chef to choose our dinner for us. We started with the sashimi salmon (NIS 59), which was fresh salmon topped with crispy beets and sweet potato. We also tried Sammy’s spring rolls (NIS 38), which was rice leaves stuffed with vegetables and bean noodles and deep fried.

Several of the dishes are named after owner Naftali Goldstein’s grandchildren.

My favorite appetizer, which is actually listed under the main dish section, was crispy sea fish rice (NIS 62), which was fresh fish in a homemade tartar sauce served on a bed of crispy rice patties. The contrast in texture between the soft fish and the crispy rice patties was especially enjoyable.

We then tried several sushi rolls, including the falafel roll (NIS 38), which is a sushi roll filled with falafel paste in a tempura coating with crusty onion chips and green spicy tehina.

Goldstein, who made Aliyah shortly before corona and opened Sushi Mamilla during the pandemic, invented the roll. Before I tell you the story, let me say that it is an acquired taste. It wasn’t my favorite dish, but Naftali says that many of his customers keep coming back for the popular roll.

The story is that Naftali was about to close a deal for delivery with the app 10bis, which is one of the perks that many hi-tech workers get in the form of money to order lunches each month. He offered his interlocutor a sushi roll and he refused, saying he never eats raw fish.

“Do you like falafel?” Naftali asked him.

“I love falafel, I eat it all the time,” he replied.

And so the falafel roll, which Naftali calls a “gateway drug for Israelis to real sushi,” was born.

A few days later, the tuna delivery came, which was prepared as tuna tataki (NIS 69), which is seared tuna slices in a homemade ponzu sauce and a pad thai tuna (NIS 68), with chunks of tuna, rice noodles and vegetables. The portions of the stir-fry dishes are especially large.

This sushi is American-style, meaning the fish is the most important part. Goldstein says they work with several fish purveyors, to ensure they get the best fish for their customers. They also use generous pieces of fish in the sushi, as opposed to some Israeli sushi places where you need a microscope to find the fish.

As well, they are expanding. They hope to open a branch of Sushi Mamilla at the swanky D-city mall in Mishor Adumim, and are even thinking about a branch in Dubai.

Sushi MamillaKashrut: Rabbanut Mehadrin4 Shlomzion Hamalka StreetPhone: 02–594–0122Hours: Sunday–Thursday 10 a.m. – midnightFriday: closedSaturday 7 p.m. – midnight

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.