October 14, 2019

New Israeli Restaurant Seeks Diverse Diners

Mamilla — a new kosher meat restaurant in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood serving high-end Mediterranean cuisine — held a soft opening on May 28, drawing close to 100 people.

Located on the corner of West Pico Boulevard and Bedford Street, Mamilla replaces the modern-American kosher sports bar Osher Bar & Grill, which lasted less than a year. The co-owner of both restaurants, Joseph Kamelgard, is the same, but that’s where the similarities end. 

“Conceptually, in order for a restaurant to succeed, especially a kosher restaurant, it has to appeal to a broader audience,” Kamelgard told the Journal. “Although we did get a lot of customers [to Osher] who were not Jewish or didn’t keep kosher, the volume wasn’t really there to support the restaurant.” 

For Mamilla, Kamelgard formed a partnership with Israeli brothers Yosef and Oren Ben Elisha, who moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago and currently own The Boulevard in Encino, an event venue for private parties. “It’s very important to us that the customer is always going to smile, always going to feel comfortable, always going to get the service and aid they expect from us,” Yosef told the Journal. “We want to bring what we brought to the Valley at The Boulevard to the city [at Mamilla].” 

“We decided this might be a good partnership — to use what [the Ben Elisha brothers] know, and their experience combined with my location and tapping into the Jewish community on this side of town, but also the greater Israeli community,” Kamelgard said.

Kamelgard added he envisions Mamilla providing customers with an Israeli experience that “makes them feel nostalgic and reminds them of being back in Israel at a restaurant. We chose the name Mamilla because that’s a neighborhood in Jerusalem,” he said. “They have an upscale mall … the Mamilla mall. By giving it a name that’s recognizable to Israelis in particular, [it gives] them … an idea of what their expectations are.”  

The owners also hired an Israeli interior designer, Sally Chaprak, to reflect modern designs of restaurants in Israel. The blue velvet couches and lounge chairs provide a relaxed atmosphere, and the full bar gives off a nightclub feel. 

“[I] think that with all the older restaurants here on Pico, this is a very young vibe.” — guest Ariel 

“The Israeli clientele tend to come out … at later hours, so it’s important for us to be able to accommodate that,” Kamelgard said. “We want it to be a hangout place.”

An Israeli-born guest named Ariel was impressed. “[I] love the urban vibe and the music and the fact that you have the different kind of seating,” he told the Journal at the opening. “[I] think that with all the older restaurants here on Pico, this is a very young vibe.” 

“Right when you walk in, you feel swankier,” said Darren Melamed, another guest. “The decor is very contemporary. It definitely feels upscale.”

At the soft opening, guests were served complimentary appetizers, including tuna tartare on fried pita chips and homemade bread with three side dips: beet tahini, olive oil and a garlic paste. Other starters on the menu include beef-filled Moroccan cigars, which melt in your mouth, with a side of pink tahini, tomato salad with a fresh mint taste that comes with hummus and pita chips, and fish shawarma with vegetables and eggplant puree. For the main course, guests could choose from fish, duck, or steak. The dishes are small sharing plates, each presented beautifully. The pareve desserts include three flavors of sorbet (coconut-cilantro-lime, chili-mango and strawberry-basil), halva chocolate mousse, a traditional Israeli dessert pudding called Malabi, and more. 

“I like the fish shawarma,” a guest named Jackson said. “It has unique texture; it’s complex and yet it’s straightforward — you know what you’re getting.” He also praised the ambiance. “It’s a very good vibe, it’s very hip,” he said. “I see an establishment like Mamilla [taking] this community to the next level.”

Mamilla is OK Kosher certified and officially opened to the public on May 30.

Melissa Simon is a senior studying journalism at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Jewish Journal summer intern.