Celebrating birthdays in Jerusalem at the Mamilla Rooftop

Good wine, lamb chops and duck breast are the perfect way to celebrate a birthday. Oh, and the Jerusalem skyline at sunset is nice too.

 Lamb chops at the Mamilla Rooftop. (photo credit: DANIEL LEILEH)
Lamb chops at the Mamilla Rooftop.
(photo credit: DANIEL LEILEH)

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, or as they say in Hebrew, I changed my area code. For all of you who are curious, I turned 40... yet again. But as my daughter told me, “You are just one day older than you were yesterday.”

In any case, I wanted somewhere special to celebrate, and the invitation to try the Mamilla Rooftop came at a perfect time. I’ve written here before about how much I often enjoy hotel restaurants. Just walking into the Mamilla Rooftop made me feel like I was going on a little vacation – a feeling that intensified as I walked into the 8th-floor restaurant. I was there just a little before sunset, and the golden light over Jerusalem was breathtaking. The view is simply amazing.

The wine waiter, Shachar, was knowledgeable about the wine list, and we each ordered a glass. The list is extensive (all the wines are Israeli), but there are just a few wines by the glass. For me it was the Gvaot Vineyard Dance, and for my husband a glass of Jezreel Nahalal. They were both excellent blends that we thoroughly enjoyed.

But before we could drink our wine, head sommelier Efi Kotz came over to say hello, and as he recognized me as a fellow “wine person,” we began to geek out over the restaurant’s extensive all-Israeli wine list, while my husband surreptitiously checked his phone. When I told Efi it was my birthday, he insisted on treating us to a glass of what I consider the best sparkling wine made in Israel, the Yarden Blanc de Blanc. Sipping it as I watched the Jerusalem sunset was a pleasure indeed.

For the first course, my husband chose grouper shwarma (NIS 78) with tehina, spicy tomato salad, herbs and lime. It was a large portion and well made. I couldn’t help myself and went for the goose liver (NIS 126), a relatively large portion with cherry tomato jam, burnt pita and a balsamic reduction, topped with pistachio nuts, an indulgent and delicious appetizer. I would have preferred it just a little less cooked, but I hadn’t specified that when I ordered.

 Goose liver at the Mamilla Rooftop. (credit: DANIEL LEILEH) Goose liver at the Mamilla Rooftop. (credit: DANIEL LEILEH)

Our main courses almost caused a marital spat. Cliff went for the lamb chops (NIS 186), with three lamb chops and not an ounce of fat. It came with eggplant and bulgur carpaccio, roasted sweet potato and lamb stock. I chose the duck breast (NIS 146), cooked and seared sous vide in a maple and caramel sauce. It was sliced thinly, and each bite was a treat.

Now for the spat. As soon as I looked at the menu, I knew Cliff would order lamb chops. I wanted to taste both the lamb chops and the duck. So, I proposed we do what we usually do and switch plates halfway. However, after one bite of the lamb chops, he said, “This is amazing. No way I’m switching.”

I glared at him and then played the birthday card, and of course, he gave in.

I was too full for dessert, but Cliff ordered the fondant (NIS 46) with Valrhona chocolate and pecan coffee ice cream. Somehow, one showed up for me, too, and although full, I managed a few bites, and it was excellent.

A word about prices and value for money. I always include the prices in a review so you can know more or less what a meal will cost you. The Rooftop is certainly not cheap, but I think it’s excellent value for the money. In fact, a friend from the US is visiting in September and invited my husband and me out to dinner anywhere we want. And, yes, I”ll be making a reservation at the Rooftop.

Mamilla RooftopMamilla HotelHours: Sunday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday/Shabbat, 12 p.m.-11 p.m. (menu on Shabbat limited to cold food)Phone: (02) 548-2230Kashrut: Jerusalem RabbinateThe writer was a guest of the restaurant.