Going abroad without leaving Jerusalem

Just walking into the lobby of the Isrotel Orient Jerusalem hotel on Emek Refaim Street, you feel your blood pressure come down.

OrienTop (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Just walking into the lobby of the Isrotel Orient Jerusalem hotel on Emek Refaim Street, you feel your blood pressure come down. It is elegant, beautifully decorated, and quiet. But you are in for more of a surprise when the elevator whisks you up to the 10-floor rooftop – a jaw-dropping 360 degree view of Jerusalem that must be seen to be believed.
The OrienTop is located next to the swimming pool, which is also lit at night. There are 45 seats, including some around a large bar where you can watch the bartender mix your cocktails, and couches for privacy. We chose a table for two where we could see the view.
We began our meal with cocktails – I chose the eponymous Orient (NIS 62), which was slightly sweet with Captain Morgan’s Speyside rum, amaretto, sake, coconut, pineapple and cinnamon, while my companion went with the Summer Spice (NIS 73) which had a lot of gin and cinnamon.
As we sipped our cocktails, Ibrahim Khwees, the restaurant manager, exchanged a warm hug with a couple who had just arrived. The man was clearly a regular here.
The menu is not extensive but has some interesting choices. I asked Ibrahim what he suggests we order.
“I want you to try everything!” he said with a big smile, and with his help, we came pretty close.
Our first appetizer was red tuna on bruschetta with an Asian-inspired mayonnaise which included the Japanese fruit yuzu (NIS 54). It was so good that I stopped talking (and anyone who knows me knows that doesn’t happen very often) to concentrate on just how delicious this was.
We also tried the cured entrecôte on bruschetta served with cornichon (those tiny little pickles), mayonnaise and mustard (NIS 54). It was salty, chewy and delicious.
Next up was one of my all-time favorite appetizers, goose liver (108 NIS), served in a small frying pan with a sauce of spicy chili. We also tried the seviche (NIS 60) of sea bass with a citrus sauce.
The only appetizer that wasn’t to my taste was sweetbreads in a chraimeh sauce. I love sweetbreads, but this was too spicy for me. My husband, however, channeled his inner Moroccan and enjoyed every bite.
There are just three main courses offered, although I could have stopped eating at this point. I did, however, power through, and we shared an entrecôte steak (180 NIS) served with purple potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and asparagus, and a Top Burger (125 NIS), a double-decker entrecôte burger with a fried egg on top, accompanied by thin chips.
Both main dishes were excellent – the steak was cooked medium rare as requested and was imported from Nebraska. It had a nice chew and a good beefy flavor. My husband described his burger as “the best burger I’ve had in my life,” and I had to agree.
By this time, we were so full we could barely move, but my chocoholic husband made it at least part way through a dense chocolate fudge cake.
I REALLY enjoyed the vibe of the restaurant. When we arrived soon after it opened at 8 p.m., there were only a few tables taken. By 10 p.m., it was full. There was an American tourist couple sharing a bottle of wine at the bar, and a haredi couple sipping drinks on a sofa.
Then there was the well-dressed couple from Tel Aviv sitting next to us – he told us he was in real estate development and she is a lawyer – who seemed more interested in getting a perfect picture for Instagram of them kissing in front of the pool, than in eating their dinner. The waiters happily complied and took their photo again and again. I was tempted to yell “Stop kissing – your food is getting cold,” but decided against it.
OrienTop opened in mid-July and will stay open “as long as the weather stays nice,” Ibrahim said. There are also plans to close it in so it can be used all year. This is clearly not a cheap restaurant, but for an evening with delicious cocktails, great food, a stunning view of Jerusalem and a feeling like you’ve just had a vacation, it’s well worth a splurge. Reservation are a must.
OrienTop in Orient Hotel
3 Emek Refaim Street
Tel: (02) 569-9090
Kashrut: Jerusalem Rabbinate
Hours: 8 p.m. to midnight, Sunday-Thursday
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.