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Wine in the City: Mantra

For the unmistakable vibe of a cosmopolitan wine bar, delectable food and, of course, a fanciful selection of wines without the price tag of a hotel bar, our choice is Mantra.

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Located in a 120-year-old building that was once part of an importer/exporter’s private home, the walls are lined with warm, natural Jerusalem stone and a coral-color mortar between the stones. Soft, transparent lights hanging above the divided bar radiate a warm orange glow, and bottles of liquors fill the shelves on the Jerusalem stone wall behind the bar. The bar seats 19 and and the tables accommodate another 24, giving the room a lively, yet cozy feel.

During daylight hours, Mantra is a chilled out restaurant and wine bar, perfect for a relaxing meal and a glass or two of wine. As the night wears on, though, the door to the restaurant seating area closes, the lights dim and the barman turns up the music as the bar switches to party mode. Once this happens, it’s not uncommon to see a patron or two jump up on the bar and start dancing.

Owner Idan Doron came from the bar world; his partner, Chef Yaakov Elisha, came from the restaurant world, and together they came up with the idea of a restaurant and wine bar, which opened  in May 2013.

Food & Wine

Chef Elisha has a special “night menu” in the bar, featuring 15 tapas, 13 truly special cocktails (and many more are known by the bar staff) and drinks. The alcohol menu offers draft and bottled beers, aperitifs, liquors, waters and soft drinks.

However, the star of the menu is no doubt the extraordinary wine menu, which currently serves Israeli and international wines, but will soon be strictly Israeli, Idan explains, citing the bountiful selection of Israeli wines on the market as the reason for the change.

In the meantime, currently, there is a remarkable variation of 41 red, white, rose, sparkling and dessert wines. Impressively and certainly one of the reasons why Mantra gets the nod from us, the staff of waiters know their wine and are happy to offer suggestions based on your tastes and explain wine and food pairings.

Moving onto the food, the night menu features many of the same items from the regular menu only in tapas-style portions at reduced prices (24-62 NIS).

On the advice of Chef Elisha and Idon, we first sampled the veal carpaccio olive oil, lemon, rocket lettuce and garnished with Parmesan cheese (40 NIS) which was tender and tasty to say the least.

Photo: Barry Kaplan
Photo: Barry Kaplan

Next we tried the red tuna sashimi (NIS44). Seasoned with wasabi, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sesame seeds, it was mildly spicy but palatable nonetheless.

My favorite was the crispy cauliflower (NIS29), flowerets fried tempura style, with a tahini dipping sauce.  These were amazingly crispy, but weren’t greasy and we could barely taste the oil.

Although we didn’t try everything on the menu, it also included 5 sandwiches (NIS47-56), which the chef and owner assured us were generous portions served on ciabetta bread, with salad on the side and sweet potato or regular fries.

The home-made, warm bread with daily-changing dips are complimentary if the course requires bread. On our night at Mantra, the dips were balsamic vinegar with olive oil, charred eggplant, and the house tsatziki (yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper but minus the cucumbers).

We let the chef choose for us from their selection of six home-made desserts (NIS 34-38) and got a vanilla crème brulee (NIS 37) with a crispy topping  that contrasted quite well with the smooth and creamy lower layer. He also sent us the vanilla panna cotta (NIS35), which was no slouch itself.  Overall, both were quite delectable, but not overly sweet, which suited our tastes perfectly.

Photo: Barry Kaplan
Photo: Barry Kaplan

For late-night wine drinkers and snack eaters, Mantra’s kitchen is open until at least midnight and the bar until about 1 am. Whether you’re coming for the food, the wine, the cocktails or just the atmosphere, we’re confident you won’t be disappointed.

Mantra Details

Where: Feingold Courtyard, entrance from 31 Jaffa Street or 14 Rivlin Street, Jerusalem
Hours: Sunday-Thursday from 6:00 pm until the last customer; Friday-Saturday from 1:00 pm until the last customer
Contact: 072-329-0760

Editor’s note: The author and photographer were the guests of the wine bar.