02 - Upbeat Jerusalem Cuisine
Phone - 052 337 5546
Hours - Sunday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday - for hotel guests
Saturday evening - closed
Kashrut - Rabbinut Yerushalayim
Last year some time, as part of their renovations, it was decided to change the Sofia dairy restaurant to a meat restaurant at the Inbal Hotel.
In mid-December, after a two-week trial, 02 Upbeat Jerusalem Cuisine opened.
Our host, restaurant manager, Assaf Cohen, brought his 15 years of food experience in restaurants to the Inbal. Igal Beer, director of food and beverage, adds his expertise to this new venture and stopped by our table to say hello.
Off the main part of the hotel lobby, walk through the Winter Soup area, and go through the curtained doors to a room with soft lights and music. Floor to ceiling curtains cover the windows; wood tables with geometric design and padded chairs seat 65; on the right side is the bar which seats 10; in the right back corner is the private room which seats 8 to 10. Large plants are scattered around the walls.
Assaf introduced us to Gili, the experienced, Israeli-born, post-army, post-army travels waitress whose English was outstanding (her parents are from New York). She was knowledgeable, efficient, enthusiastic and had a very lovely personality.
The paper Hebrew and English menus are the placemats, and the large cloth napkins are a lovely idea.
The menu shows the House bread with dips, Starters and Skewers and Butcher Cuts.
Assaf started us off with the house bread (NIS 32), which is not just a bread, but three different ones--a Jerusalem bagel topped with lots of sesame seeds; a Frena, which is a long Moroccan oven bread, focaccia-style; and loufa, which is a traditional Middle Eastern bread with more character than pita.
Accompanying the breads were: matbucha (which means "cooked salad"), a Moroccan, roasted red-pepper and tomato dip, which tends to be spicy; mehamara, a spicy Syrian dip with roasted red peppers, made here with walnuts and apple chutney and not spicy; orange salad with orange segments, walnuts, mint and radishes; caramelized sweet potatoes with cinnamon and almonds and garnished with a cinnamon stick; a variety of olives; and the house pickled carrots, kohlrabi, fennel, and spicy peppers, garnished with celery leaves.
Next came the Starters (there are 5, ranging from NIS 42-68).
Beef tartar with bulgur (NIS 58) was an oval-shaped combination of raw filet beef, tastefully blended with candied lemon, herbs, eggplant, capers, chili oil and herb oil and no taste of the eggplant. Very unusual and good tasting.
Sirloin roast (NIS 52) with eggplant caramel, green onions and burned lemon is garnished with eggplant and with scallion curls. Besides tasting delectable, the dish was beautifully presented.
Being a lover of lamb, next was Gili's favorite (and mine, too) - Slow cooked lamb shreds with Amba oil and braised chickpeas (NIS 64), made with tomato seeds. The lamb sat on tchina and was garnished with oregano leaves and was absolutely "melt-in-your-mouth" tasting.
For fish lovers, Yellow-tail Sashimi (NIS 68) is made with chili, tomato seeds, oregano and cucumber pieces in fennel oil and garnished with cucumber curls and served cold. No fishy taste at all.
In the Skewers category, there are 8, ranging in price from NIS42 to 66 each.
We were served the Beef kabab with bread salad (NIS 52) with hot peppers and tchina on the side, The most unique part was the celery leaves salad, very different, because of the exceptionally good vinaigrette.
Next skewer was Beef fillet with Herb Oil (NIS 66) served with baked potato halves, roasted beet root and roasted kohlrabi as the side dish. The beef fillet had been cooked with parsley, mint and scallions and the meat was done to perfection! I especially liked the roasted beet and roasted kohlrabi, very special.
We did not try the Butcher Cuts (ranging in price from NIS 52 to 62 per 100 grams
Side dishes for the Skewers and the Butcher Cuts include machluba (the upside down chicken and rice dish), chickepea/spinach stew, fennel-tomato-eggplant-zucchini and potatoes with beetroot and kohlrabi.
Yes, there are options in the Starters and Skewers listings for vegetarians and vegan.
On the separate Dessert menu (NIS 22- 42) were four choices. Assaf said he would give us a taste of each, but instead, we got full portions! They were:
Strawberry sorbet was a pistachio dacquoise and pomegranate granita. (Author's note: dacquoise is a French dessert with a layer of almond and hazelnut meringue and whipped cream base; a granita is a Sicilian semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and flavorings.)
Warm Semolina Cake with cardamom ice cream and orange marmalade was my companion's favorite! (Author's note: semolina is a product of the milling of durum wheat.)
Rice pudding with apple confiture and hibiscus powder, garnished with crushed pistachios. (Author's note: confiture is a fruit jam or marmalade or stewed fruit cooked slowly for a long time; hibiscus powder is made from the crushed flower petals of the hibiscus plant.)
Chocolate cremouex with cocoa crumbles and almond ice cream. Gili said this was her favorite--"if it's chocolate, it's gotta be good!" (Author's note: cremieux means creamy in French.)
After a very lengthy and relaxed sampling of the new restaurant, we have to say, to all other up-scale, meat restaurants in Jerusalem, move over. Kol ha kavod to Chef Elkayam; You've got a winner!
The author and photographer were guests of the restaurant.
by Sybil Kaplan
Photographs by Barry A. Kaplan