Revised February 2016
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the lobby, on the entrance level of the Jerusalem Inbal Hotel, sits a little pocket of elegance called Sofia. As befits the posh hotel that hosts it, this gourmet dairy restaurant is high class all the way.
We jumped at the chance to revisit Sofia Restaurant, one of the great dining experiences in Jerusalem. Sofia achieves a level of elegance that only a 5-star hotel can achieve. No expense is spared for creating a luxurious feeling. Yet, the restaurant is casual, so that folks can feel relaxed and laid back after a long day in Jerusalem. Hotels are not just for tourists. For city residents these spiffy refuges are a reliable escape from everyday life.
Sofia is a real gourmet dairy restaurant. Forget that there is no meat. Dairy dishes like this you have never had.
Yes, there is fish, and cheese, but never mind the elements. The total experience is amazing.
The Menu at Sofia Restaurant
Sofia Restaurant is under the baton of Chef Franck Cherqui. Chef Cherqui hails from France, in an area close to the Italian border. That explains his prowess with the Italian menu. He apprenticed, many years ago, at a 2-star Michelin restaurant in France. He has brought some of the ideas from that restaurant with him. He admits that Israeli restaurants offer larger portions than Michelin restaurants, so he has adjusted his portions accordingly. And that's the truth. All the portions at Sofia are both delicious and generous. My companion and I shared our dishes and we even took home part of our main course. It was simply too delicious to leave behind. View the Sofia Menu
You know where you are, when a charming waitress hands you a clean and elegant menu in book format. No sticky plastic laminated menu at the Inbal. Heavy paper, clear print in Hebrew and English, and it looks like it was printed that afternoon.
My companion and I decided on vegetable starters and fish main courses. The menu also offers a full selection of pasta dishes which we will save for another visit. A loaf of sour dough bread with butter and olive oil dip were placed on the table. Wow the bread - crusty and earthy. The bread is made on site and takes a full 48-hours to prepare. This is certainly a highlight of the dinner. Go light on the bread if you can. There is much more to come.
The Mushroom and Parmesan Polenta is the signature Sofia starter. Whatever you are thinking, scratch that and choose this dish. Out came a big bowl with a generous portion of stir fried mushrooms in butter and olive oil. This is served over warm polenta and delicious crumb and Parmesan flakes. What a dish!
Sea bass Fillet
My companion chose the Jerusalem Style Melanzane. This lovely dish was cleverly presented in a hot pan. Kadaif noodles are the base for layers of roasted eggplant and seared tomatoes served with Parmesan cheese. This dish has a pleasant smoky flavor. It is filling and yummy.
For my main course I went with another Sofia signature dish, the Salmon Fillet on a Bed of Spinach with onion and garlic, served with poached egg on top. This was a new combination for me, and quite pleasant. "That's what I call a perfect poached egg" my companion declared. In the meantime he chose the Sea Bass Fillet with Creamed Leek with caramelized shallots and chili. He enjoyed the two fish fillets and all the trimmings.
I want to meet the guy who can eat a starter and a main course at Sofia Restaurant and have room for dessert. That is certainly not I.
The desserts are all our Italian favorites, Cassata, Tiramisu and a very sinful chocolate souffle. The gorgeous desserts are displayed in a case near the entrance to the restaurant. If I could eat with my eyes I am sure I would have enjoyed dessert immensely. But alas, we will have to return another time to dally over coffee and one of these fantastic desserts in this picture-perfect setting.
From the Menu
Soup NIS 37,
Melanzane NIS 47, Mushroom Polenta NIS 47, Salmon NIS 90, Sea bass Fillet NIS 105, Pasta dishes NIS 60 - 68.
There is ample parking on the street and plenty of underground parking in the hotel for guests.
It should be noted that we arrived at an unfashionably early hour, but it was timed perfectly with the sunset.