Upbeat Jerusalem meat cuisine at the Inbal's 02

A dynamic and unique meat cuisine experience at the 02 at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem.

 Appetizer at 02: beef tartar as raw chopped filet mignon with herbs and hot peppers.  (photo credit: GIL AVIRAM)
Appetizer at 02: beef tartar as raw chopped filet mignon with herbs and hot peppers.
(photo credit: GIL AVIRAM)

Remember telephone landlines? For the younger among you, these were telephone lines that actually ran directly into your home. In a somewhat ironic Zionist fact, in the early days of the state, you often had to wait for years for a phone line. These days, almost everyone I know has disconnected their landline and uses only a cellphone.

In any case, 02 is named after the Jerusalem area code for phone numbers, not after oxygen as I first thought. However, the restaurant is also like a breath of pure oxygen in the never-ending pandemic.

I had had a very difficult day the evening we were scheduled to go, and if it hadn’t been for a review, I probably would have canceled. But I knew my husband had been looking forward to it, and the chef knew I was coming. So I got dressed and headed into the cold Jerusalem evening.

These days just walking into a hotel feels good. The Inbal has been newly renovated and has a heated swimming pool. To reach 02 you first walk through the lobby where the popular soup festival (five soups plus bread and cheese for NIS 72) is still going on. There was even a line to be seated.

The 02 restaurant is in a separate area, in the back of the lobby. The tables are set far apart, allowing for conversation. The bar in the middle becomes the focus as the hour gets later, and the overall ambiance is of luxury and fun.

 Cuisine at 02.  (credit: GIL AVIRAM) Cuisine at 02. (credit: GIL AVIRAM)

When we arrived at 6:30 p.m. soon after the restaurant opened, there were only a few other patrons. These included two families, which was a little surprising to me. This is a fine-dining chef restaurant with prices to match. While the kids in both families were perfectly behaved (far better behaved than my own kids at that age), it turns out that both families were guests of the hotel, and it is possible to upgrade a half-board reservation to eat at 02.

The menu is limited, but everything is done well. There are nine starters and eight main dishes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We started our dinner with a gin and tonic, always a great way to start a meal. My husband chose a gin with cucumber notes, while I went with the slightly sweeter Pink Lady. Both were excellent. You can have your gin as a shot, a gin and tonic with ice in a wine glass as we did, or as a martini, with the addition of vermouth.

I asked our friendly server Mai if we could have smaller portions of a few of the appetizer dishes. Our table was quickly covered with a selection of appetizers, all served in beautiful ceramic dishes.

The winner of the appetizer round was a special of beef tartar, which was raw chopped filet mignon with herbs and a little spicy kick from hot peppers. It was served with an egg yolk sauce and was outstanding.

Surprisingly, a close runner-up to the tartar was a dish of grilled zucchini (NIS 56) with burnt tomato salsa and amba. Who knew the humble zucchini could taste so good?

We also enjoyed the lamb shwarma (NIS 74) served with flatbread and warm chickpeas, and the tomato salad (NIS 66) served with roasted peppers and chilies. The appetizer portions are large, and the vegetables are all very fresh.

If there is a special offered at a restaurant, I will often choose it, reasoning that it will be fresh and perhaps more unique than the regular menu offerings. We chose two specials, a bonito filet for my husband cooked in a fish broth (NIS 158), and the butcher’s cut for me (NIS 58 per 100 gr.). The fish was a bit disappointing, with a strong fishy taste. I happily left it to my husband.

The butcher’s cut (so named because there is only a small piece in each cow, and the butcher often kept it for himself) was three small pieces of meat cooked perfectly medium-rare. It is not the tenderest cut but is very flavorful, and I enjoyed every bite.

With the meat I enjoyed a glass of a red blend called Judean Hills from the Tzora winery. There is an extensive wine list, and the bartenders know their wine as well as their alcohol.

By now, around 8 p.m., the restaurant was full, including the seats at the bar filled by attractive young couples. The music was turned up, punctuated by the sound of cocktail shakers as the bartenders mixed drinks.

CHEF NIMROD NORMAN speaks perfect English because he grew up in Cincinnati while his father worked for the Jewish Agency. He worked for the Machneyuda Group for five years and the Mona group for three. Most recently he was the chef at Anna, a lovely Italian restaurant in Ticho House, which was an unfortunate casualty of the pandemic.

“What is the concept of the restaurant?” I asked him.

“Underneath our logo it says ‘Upbeat Jerusalem Kitchen,’ and I ask myself all the time what that means,” he said. “It’s hard to define, and I hate the word ‘authenticity.’ It’s food. We try to make the most delicious food that intersects with Jerusalem.”

He has clearly succeeded.

02Inbal Hotel, 3 Jabotinsky Street, JerusalemPhone: (02) 675-6649Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m.Kashrut: Jerusalem Rabbinate

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.