Happy Fish: A fun meal in Mamilla - review

I had been invited to try the new four-course tasting menu, which is offered on Wednesday nights for NIS 200 per person.

 Happy Fish (photo credit: LINDA GRADSTEIN)
Happy Fish
(photo credit: LINDA GRADSTEIN)

My recent meal at Happy Fish taught me a lot about perspective.

I had been invited to try the new four-course tasting menu, which is offered on Wednesday nights for NIS 200 per person. I love tasting menus and was happy to accept the invitation to try this one. Although Happy Fish is part of the Mamilla Hotel, I had not been there since it opened in 2016, and this was a good opportunity.

When we arrived, the restaurant was about half full, with quite a few large families, several of them celebrating birthdays or other events.

We started our dinner with cocktails – a pina colada type drink for me (NIS 54) and a Nevel David (NIS 49) of gin, celery syrup and lime juice concoction for my husband.

JERUSALEM’S MAMILLA HOTEL – a pampering stay with a bonus of the panoramic view of the Old City.  (credit: Courtesy)JERUSALEM’S MAMILLA HOTEL – a pampering stay with a bonus of the panoramic view of the Old City. (credit: Courtesy)

“If you’d like more of anything or to taste anything else from the regular menu, please let us know,” manager Meir Zer-Aviv said.

The tasting menu was four courses, so I didn’t think I’d have any room left, but it was nice of them to offer, I thought.

The meal began with hot fresh frena bread with five mezes served in small saucers. There was a delicious chickpea salad, freshly made falafel balls, ikra (a salad based on fish eggs) and a reduced yogurt topped with beets. All were well made with high-quality ingredients.

Then came two first courses – a fish shwarma and stir-fried mushrooms. Both were delicious, although just two bites each.

I devoured every bite (meaning both of them).

Then three main courses came – a salmon teriyaki, a serving of fish and chips, and my favorite dish of the night: a fish moussaka, a piece of white fish on a bed of eggplant topped with feta cheese and tomato sauce. Each dish was four or five bites.

Now here’s where the lesson on perspective comes in. Meir stopped by the table to ask how the meal was going.

“The food is delicious, but the portions are really small,” I said. “I really don’t think it’s enough for two people.”

“Of course it’s not – you’re sharing the tasting menu for one,” he said.

For one? Then it’s an abundance of food. Truth be told, my husband and I can’t eat nearly as much as we could in our youth. This meal for one was just shy of enough food for both of us. So here’s my mathematical equation. The tasting meal for one is enough for two 50+ adults, or one adult aged 20-50, or not quite enough for a hungry teenager. (I used to have three of them, and I know the amazing quantities they can eat.)

For dessert there were two delicious bite-size desserts – a halva-topped pastry and a beautiful decadent chocolate creation. The portions were small enough that even my trainer, Nurit, would not object. (Well, maybe that’s wishful thinking.) 

Chef Oshri Zaafrani told me that the idea of the tasting menu is to take the best dishes the restaurant offers “and to serve all of them.” He said they serve only fresh fish which is sourced from around the world. For example, the musar (red drumfish) comes from Egypt, while the barramundi and levrak (sea bass) are from Israel. The salmon comes from Norway.

As we were getting ready to leave, a young haredi couple sat down next to us and looked a little lost while perusing the menu.

“There’s a really good taster’s menu,” I said, pointing it out. “I’d split one and get one more main course from the menu.”

Happy FishMamilla HotelHours: Noon- 11 p.m., Sunday-Thursday.Kashrut: Mehadrin Jerusalem Rabbinate with shmita l’humra, meaning none of the fruits or vegetables are heter mechira.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.