(photo credit: JONATHAN BEN HAIM)
Restaurants in hotels have always been a chancy affair. The tendency to appeal to the masses and provide nondescript, unchallenging food is overwhelming. But for those who break the mold, the reward is bountiful, for the chef and for the diner.
Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, with its stellar location and long-standing reputation as one of the main luxury destinations for the Anglo religious traveler, has never made a culinary inroad.
After many incarnations, 02 has been launched as an upscale meat restaurant that can perhaps take over the niche left open by the closing of Hahatzer in the nearby First Station.
The restaurant is somewhat hidden in a corner compound of the hotel’s expansive lounge, and the contrast couldn’t be more striking.
Traversing the bright lights, family and date Jerusalem scene of the lobby restaurant into the more dimly lit, elegantly designed restaurant with subtle urban soul and jazz playing in the background put my companion and me in a comfortable setting even before anything was eaten.
Named after the Jerusalem area code, 02 is couched as a “modern Jerusalem kitchen,” utilizing homegrown ingredients and the city’s rich culinary heritage to update the old-fashioned steakiya concept.
Opened in December, it’s still in the rollout phase with a temporary menu, but based on the items sampled, 02 is ready for prime time. Hotel guests can eat there for an extra payment on their half and full board, but the restaurant is geared to bring in the Jerusalem crowd at large. The chilly night we arrived, the spacious room was mostly filled with a wide variety of diners.
The menu was designed by Moshe Gamliel and Itamar Navon, the chefs of the well-regarded Jerusalem eatery Mona. For NIS 32, our friendly wait staff brought out a generous sampling of warm bread and homemade salads, including sweet potato and walnut, orange, walnut and spearmint (nana), which was especially refreshing, an eggplant and potato chutney, a piquant red pepper and walnut mix, and the ubiquitous matbuha.
The eight starters, ranging from NIS 42 to NIS 68, included tantalizing selections like slow-cooked lamb with amba oil and braised chickpeas and okra skewers with lemon aioli. I chose the beef soup (NIS 42), a thick, dark brown broth filled with vegetables and slow-cooked beef, a perfect choice for a cold Jerusalem night. My companion ordered the sirloin roast with eggplant caramel, green onion and Burnet lemon oil. The thin slices of beef were succulent and enhanced by the surrounding spices.
For main courses, there are choices of eight skewers priced per skewer or butcher-cut steaks. Non-carnivores can choose the grouper kebab with burnt tomatoes (NIS 56) or go the salad route with a kohlrabi, harissa and lentil salad (NIS 34) or choose from four side dishes of makluba, chickpea and spinach stew, a potato side or mixed vegetables (all NIS 18), but this is a meat-lover’s restaurant.
I ordered two skewers – the beef fillet with herb oil (NIS 66) and the lamb shoulder with coriander pesto (NIS 52). Both were outstanding, as was the chickpea/spinach concoction on the side. Even more delicious was the sirloin steak (NIS 52 per 100 grams) from the butcher’s cut list, which also offered rib eye (NIS 54) and beef filet (NIS 54).
Dessert offerings include strawberry sorbet (NIS 22), which was soothing after such a heavy meal, and gooey chocolate cremo (NIS 42), which wasn’t soothing but just scrumptious.
For Jerusalemites looking for a new eating experience on par with the city’s best, 02 is a welcome addition.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
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