Sofia: A wise choice

Chef Itzik Mizrachi at the Inbal hotel's Sofia restaurant brings new flavor to the menu.

inbal hotel 88 (photo credit: )
inbal hotel 88
(photo credit: )
If you used to frequent the Sofia Italian restaurant at the Inbal Hotel, you should know that it ain't Italian no more. Former executive chef Aron Shasha, who had worked at the hotel for ten years, decided that he wanted to do his own thing and went into the catering business. Good as anyone may be, no one is indispensable, and the hotel management immediately went head-hunting and came up with a prize trophy, Jerusalem-born Itzik Mizrachi, who until recently was executive chef at the famed Herod's Hotel in Eilat. In the past, Mizrachi was executive chef at the Sheraton City Tower in Ramat Gan, worked in haute cuisine restaurants in Paris and New York and, perhaps most notably, in Daniel Boulud's highly reputed Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan. While he learned marvelous things about fusion, taste, color, texture and presentation from Boulud, his major mentor was Jerusalem's most celebrated chef Shalom Kadosh of the Moriah Sheraton Plaza with whom he worked for six years. Trite though it may sound, all new brooms sweep clean, and Mizrachi decided to sweep Sofia's old menu under the carpet and introduce his own style. At a media luncheon this week, the personable Itzik, who had no trouble explaining what's on the plate as he mingled with the diners, cheerfully answered questions about himself and his cooking style. One of the things he learned in New York was that food is not only for the palate. It's an experience that has to also excite the olfactory and visual senses. No matter how good it tastes, if the presentation is not alluring, it's a washout. It has to have color, height and depth. Mizrachi was as good as his word. Our first course was tomato ravioli. Forget the pasta - there wasn't any. The tomato in question was peeled and seeded, spiced and filled with tiny seasoned pieces of sea-bass, decorated with endives and basil and a coral-hued sauce. The different shades of red and green were a feast for the eyes. The dish itself was something to die for. The second course of seared red tuna with Jerusalem artichokes, roasted peppers, and radish sprout sauce was a trifle bland by comparison. Though tasty and aesthetically presented, it somehow felt as if it was in the wrong order after the taste buds had already been opened. Next was a delicious salad, created with color in mind. It featured a nest of rocket and beet leaves cradling grapes, figs and finely sliced cachcavel cheese that had been boosted by balsamic vinaigrette. The main course of fillet bass on a bed of fennel, tomato confi and spinach leaves was accompanied by a piquant shallot sauce. Although I love spicy foods, it's the desserts that really get to me and this time I was completely bowled over by the berry-filled Napoleon meringue, surrounded by an edible pineapple doily and a dribble of blackberry sauce. As a native born Australian whose national dessert is Pavlova, a rich meringue concoction, I could only marvel at the taste and the texture of Mizrachi's mini meringues. They were the closest thing to a taste of home. The various courses were washed down with Gamla Chardonnay, Gamla Pinot Noir and Yarden Muscat Dessert. The hotel management has not yet worked out a price list for the new menu, but excluding wines, the above would run at somewhere between NIS 120-NIS 130. It would be money well spent. The writer was a guest of the Inbal hotel.