Situated in downtown Jerusalem in a massive historic building that once housed the original “Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts," founded by Boris Schatz in 1906, the Mona restaurant offers a varied, interesting and, most importantly, tasty menu based on fresh meat, fish, seafood and plenty of seasonal produce.
Every time I walk through the impressive doorway leading to the Mona, the same dilemma arises. Should I pull up a stool at the bar, where one can peak into the kitchen and have a nice chat with the very friendly bartender/manager? Or, would I be better off sitting at one of the tables (preferably one with a view of the fireplace), always elegantly dressed with white table cloths, creating a simultaneously neat and homey atmosphere. Monday evening at 20:30 and the place was rather full, Mona is considered one of the favorite staples for local non-observant Jerusalemites, the ex-pat community and foreign journalists stationed in Israel; in my opinion, rightfully so.
Since I was scheduled to meet a friend that I have not seen for a while, we decided to reserve a table. Looking at the menu brought out new dilemmas: almost everything looked good and here we decided to consult with our waiter. Two glasses of white wine arrived at our table, one a glass of Italian wine from the north whose name escapes me; the other a glass of the aromatic White Tulip-blend from the local Tulip Winery.
A few minutes later our appetizers arrived: seafood cannelloni for my companion, an interesting dish based on Couqilles Saint Jacques for myself and the piquant shrimp and chickpea dish to share. The dishes were very tasty. The cannelloni made from fresh homemade pasta was filled with sweet crab and shrimp topped with a tomato and sage butter sauce. The Couqilles Saint Jacques were a real treat; the meaty scallops were grilled to perfection and then placed on a plate alongside small chunks of blue cheese, baked beets, smoked salmon and caramelized nuts. I must admit, at first I was a bit hesitant to order the dish and was afraid that it would be a “hodge-podge” of various ingredients. The dish that arrived to the table, however, was one of the best I had tasted in a while; a perfect contrast and combination of color, texture and flavors. Next time you visit Mona, this is one dish that is definitely worth a try.
Entrees for the evening included fresh grilled Norwegian salmon with asparagus and mashed potatoes and papardella pasta with sautéed slices of beef fillet with beef stock and butter sauce, all topped with real Parmegano Regiano cheese. The salmon was prepared just as I like it: slightly crispy on the top while remaining juicy and flavorful within. Here the chef incorporates several Japanese ingredients, glazing the salmon with yuzu, mirin and sake; the result was simply delicious.
Another great thing at Mona is the fact that the restaurant offers a nice selection of dessert wines and digestifs by the glass. We enjoyed a glass of late-harvest Muscat wine that went very well with a tangy homemade lemon tart and an aged port alongside homemade chocolate and truffle pralines.
Open seven days a week, it does not matter if you are only looking for a place to drink a beer and have a light meal (rumors tell me that Mona also makes excellent burgers) or if you are looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion with some fine food and a good bottle of wine, Mona definitely has a lot to offer and I am sure that it will not be long before my next visit to Mona – Restaurant & Bar.