Creative food in a classic surrounding

Mona is a true Jerusalem staple.

mona (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The minute you walk through the doorway of The Jerusalem Artists House and enter the Mona restaurant, the beauty of the historical building sets the tone for the experience to come. Some restaurants rely too heavily on a beautiful setting and do not deliver the full dining experience with the food and service. Luckily for us, Mona is not one of those restaurants.
I am often asked if I can objectively review a restaurant if the server knows that we are doing a review. Although I always pay attention to see how the service we receive compares to those around us, in this case our waitress, Hagar, had no idea that we were guests of the restaurant until the end of the meal and I can truly say that we received efficient and friendly service from her, from the beginning until the end.
The menu at Mona changes daily, but some popular dishes remain on the menu most of the time, with seasonal tweaks.
Instead of starters and main courses, there is one menu for you to graze through.
We started with a glass of Pierre Hut Poire Demi-Sec (NIS 22), which is a light pear cider and a lovely way to begin a meal. The two dishes we started with were our favorites of the entire meal.
The tartare de boeuf with chipotle aioli (NIS 64) was an authentic French style beef tartare, although the brioche it came with was slightly too dry. The red tuna sashimi with chili oil, labneh and tomato seeds (NIS 68) was such a simple, yet perfectly constructed dish. All the elements provided a very clear flavor. The chili oil warmed the mouth without overpowering the taste of the red tuna, which was so fresh that it melted in our mouths.
The roast beef fillet with herbs oil and apricot chutney (NIS 64) was thinly sliced pieces of cold roast beef with a mild Indian flavor and a very tasty and unique dish.
Next came corn agnolotti served with sofrito peppers and parmigiano reggiano (NIS 78).
The pasta was well made and the filling was smooth and creamy, but we did not find the flavors to be as interesting as the previous dishes.
Similarly, the European sea bass in a seafood broth with fennel and bok choy (NIS 136) was nicely cooked but lacked any distinct flavor and we would have preferred a crispy skin on the fish.
It was not a bad dish but did not stand out as much as some of the other dishes we tried.
The hanger steak with celeriac purée, beef jus and broccoli (NIS 146) was a simple dish but was perfectly seared with an outer crust and juicy pink inside. The broccoli had a lovely charcoal taste but was still al dente and the celeriac puree was creamy and nutty. The entire dish was full of flavor and all the ingredients complimented each other.
We barely had room for dessert but managed to try three of them.
The Valrhona chocolate cremeux with peanut ice cream and cacao tuille (NIS 46) was a clear winner.
It was not overly sweet and the nutty ice cream was a great balance to the richness of the chocolate.
The Loquat Sorbet, cucumber granite with macadamia and sake (NIS 36) was a very light and refreshing dessert with unique flavor combinations. Our least favorite was the mascarpone mousse, pistachio dacquoise, aerated white chocolate and raspberry coulis (NIS 48).
One of the highlights of the meal was my espresso with grappa (NIS 20) which was a fantastic combination, while my companion tried the Mona infused dates and walnut bourbon (NIS 22).
We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Mona, thanks to the combination of the beautiful surroundings, attentive service, quality raw ingredients and creative dishes. It is clear why Mona is so popular with both locals and visitors alike.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Mona Restaurant Not Kosher 12 Shmuel Hanagid, Jerusalem (02) 622-2283 Sunday to Thursday, 6:30 p.m. until the last customer Friday 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m. until the last customer Saturday 12:30 p.m. until the last customer