How many restaurants in the world can boast having a President as a regular customer (and one which orders their food catered to his own home), being recommended by the respected ‘Trip Advisor’ website, and also serving entirely kosher delicacies? Sofia restaurant, which is located in the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, can boast of all those things, and that is not all.
We arrived at Sofia - a pleasant restaurant decorated with restrained refinement and overlooking the magical Liberty Bell Garden and ancient homes built of Jerusalem stone – during lunchtime on a sunny winter day, which made for a relaxed meal in an intimate atmosphere. The mixture of the languages we heard around us added to the cosmopolitan feel of the establishment, and the professional and courteous service gave the feeling of being abroad, something that went hand in hand with rich Mediterranean menu. Indeed, the majority of the staff, headed by manager Yaron Lieberman, brings experience in both food and hospitality in Israel and outside of it. Yaron himself, for example, came to Sofia after many years of study and work in the luxury hotels of New York City, and brought with him his acquired managerial skills. We received polished service from our experienced waiter, Artium, who is a part of the professional, multi-lingual, and thoroughly-trained staff, which is the pride of Sofia restaurant.
We begin our meal with smoked-eggplant crostini with dried tomatoes, served over a bed of fish with asparagus in balsamic vinaigrette, a dish which was surprising in its flavor and refreshing in its ingredients, which melded perfectly on the palate. We were also served the house bread – hot focaccia, seasoned with thyme, oregano, garlic, and onion – freshly baked and served with olive and sun-dried tomato spreads. The first courses were accompanied by wine. Sofia has an especially extensive wine menu, listing around 40 different labels, all from fine Israeli wineries. We savored the flavor of the refined Yarden 2002 Syrah, relaxed in our cushioned chairs, and felt as though we were guests of royalty.
For the entr?e, Atrium brought over Mozzarella Ravioli with green beans and fresh parmesan, which was eagerly eaten even by my companion, a known pasta-decliner. Also served were fresh salmon in a sauce of shallots and fennel, and a sea bream fillet with leek, peppers, turnip, cream of white aubergine, and sweet-potato fries. We sighed in content and asked to meet the chef, the flavors of whose delicacies manage to surprise, considering they are prepared within the boundaries of Kashrut law, and at a level matching many of the fine restaurants we have visited throughout the world.
Itzik Mizrahi, Sofia’s Chef, defines himself as a chef and a chemist. He has much experience from his services to Israel’s finest hotels, and he finds his inspiration in the finest restaurants in New York and France. He makes sure to use only the best raw ingredients, places an emphasis on aesthetics and presentation, and knows how to combine textures and ingredients that integrate to please the palate (a chemist, don’t forget). Under Itzik’s guidance, Sofia is launching a new menu, which includes whole-grain pastas (homemade), fish, soups, salads, and a variety of fine desserts – all reasonably-priced, which is illustrated by the diverse clientele. The Special Chef menu served in the evenings is recommended, or alternatively, try the tempting business menu (served till 5:30pm), offering a selection of first courses, entr?es, and desserts.
Itzik recommended that instead of a dessert, we would have the Chef Soup, and although we were already full and content, we had no intention of refusing. Itzik’s version of the Chef’s soup is a soup of tomatoes and roasted-peppers with basil, toasted bread, and whipped fish, combining refined-spiciness and sweetness into a cohesive whole which left us of one mind as to what was the banner dish of the meal (not to be missed!). As we