Inbal Hotel Soup Festival: A bowl-full of delight in Jerusalem - review

Even at lunch, the dining room was more than half full, and head chef Eric Attias said they were expecting a total of over 500 diners that day.

 Inbal Hotel soup festival (photo credit: INBAL HOTEL)
Inbal Hotel soup festival
(photo credit: INBAL HOTEL)

There is a scene in Seinfeld in which Seinfeld owes a fellow comic, Kenny Bania, whom he can’t stand, a meal in exchange for an Armani suit. They go out and Kenny says, “I’m just going to have soup. I’ll save the meal for another time.”

“No, no, Bania,” Jerry replies. “This is the dinner. The soup counts.”

They then proceed to argue over whether soup is a meal or not.

I was reminded of this debate when I visited the Inbal Soup Festival for lunch recently. Even at lunch, the dining room was more than half full, and head chef Eric Attias said they were expecting a total of over 500 diners that day.

What's going on at the Inbal Soup Festival?

The price (NIS 87) includes all you can eat, with six soups (four of which change daily), as well as breads and spreads. There is both Teller bread and focaccia made in the hotel’s tabun oven. The only part I found less successful was pieces of baguette toasted with cheese that had hardened. There are also various additions for the soup, such as croutons, soup nuts and noodles.

Several members of the foodie Facebook groups that I am part of commented that NIS 87 for soup is expensive. Others said that, for what you get – a meal in a hotel, that price is reasonable. It was another reminder that the elusive concept of “value for money” is an individual decision.

NO NEED to stand – just lower yourself onto a burnt umber couch. (credit: ASSAF PINCHUK PHOTOGRAPHY)NO NEED to stand – just lower yourself onto a burnt umber couch. (credit: ASSAF PINCHUK PHOTOGRAPHY)

The soup festival has really taken off this year, and reservations are necessary even for lunch. Two of the soups, the French onion soup, made with wine, and the minestrone are served every day. Four others rotate among more than 50 types that Attias cooks up.

Of the five that I tried (and, yes, I did try them as a service to my readers), only the French onion had soup powder. Attias says that the staff is well versed in which soups are gluten-free and which are lactose-free (although they are made in a dairy kitchen). Since the soups change weekly, make sure to check, if you have any allergies or sensitivities.

I absolutely loved the African peanut soup, a thick soup made with peanut butter, ginger, garlic and chili. It had just a bit of a bite and was thick and creamy, although it has no dairy ingredients. This is a soup that is worth going back for, and Attias says it’s one of his most popular.

The other soup I especially enjoyed was a smoked eggplant and parmigiana soup that was rich and smoky at the same time.

The next soup was a potato and almond soup that I personally wasn’t crazy about. It didn’t have much flavor, and I pushed my bowl aside after one spoonful. The French onion soup was very good, and the croutons I added made it even better. The minestrone was very flavorful.

The only one I didn’t try was the green vegetable soup, as I went instead for another half-bowl of peanut soup, but my foodie son said it was very good.

I struck up a conversation with the religious couple next to me, who described themselves as “frequent tourists” from New Jersey, and who both have elderly parents living in Israel.

“The idea of the soup festival is innovative, and the choices were varied. Maybe there were fewer varieties than I had been expecting. My favorite was the African peanut soup, which kind of surprised me.”

Aviva Wolff

“The idea of the soup festival is innovative, and the choices were varied,” Aviva Wolff said. “Maybe there were fewer varieties than I had been expecting. My favorite was the African peanut soup, which kind of surprised me.”

The festival runs until just before Passover, so you’ve got plenty of time to get some soup.

Inbal Soup FestivalInbal Hotel, 3 Ze’ev JabotinskyHours: Sunday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m.Kashrut: Mehadrin, shmita lehumra

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.