The Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem is a place that I often frequent for business meetings with overseas clients. The prime location on the crossroads between down town, the old city and Emek Refaim – the German Colony – have established the Inbal hotel as one of the favorite hotels for senior dignitaries and business people visiting Jerusalem. Long (and sometimes boring) business meetings also have proven to make one quite hungry and this is exactly where Chef Moti Buchbut and the Sofia Restaurant fit in.
After working his way through some of the country’s top hotels, studying the art of baking at Ewald Notter in Switzerland and winning several gold medals in various international cooking competitions, Chef Moti Buchbut joined the Inbal team, serving as the hotel’s head executive chef.
“I trust my cooks and they really do a good job. As head chef, my job is to supervise and ensure that everything is operating as scheduled. It doesn’t matter if we are preparing a wedding with 450 guests or a dinner for two at Sofia, we do our best to ensure that our clients receive excellent food. Of course, we also modify and adjust the menus based on available produce and current culinary trends; we put an emphasis on esthetics while not compromising on quality”.
Sofia is situated to the left of the lobby, which has become one of the most popular sites for dating in the ultra orthodox Jerusalemite community. The restaurant’s menu comprises pasta, fresh fish, salads, soup, colorful desserts and a plate de jour that changes on a daily basis.
As we arrived on a cold Jerusalem winter evening, we shared a bowl of cream of broccoli soup which warmed our hearts and bellies. Some say that one of the best ways to measure a restaurant or a chef is by sampling their more “simple” offerings and specifically their soup. Sofia’s broccoli soup was just perfect, creamy and full of flavor. The chef also added sautéed champignon mushrooms and a slice of toasted baguette which were quite welcome and transform this into a soup that could serve as a meal of its own.
Next to arrive were the red tuna ceviche and a savory pastry comprising grilled eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh herbs. While evident that the ingredients were fresh, the ceviche was quite plain and would have benefited from some additional seasoning. The pastry on the other hand was very tasty – crunchy fillo dough, smokey grilled eggplant and melted mozzarella cheese came together very nicely and the seasoning was just right. I could have easily had another one.
For our main courses we ordered one pasta dish and one fish dish. Served in a brass skillet the tuna is roasted with fresh herbs and served with mashed potatoes and fried onions, with an additional side dish of spinach leaves stuffed with citrus infused polenta. After some internal debated between ravioli or cannelloni, we opted for the latter. Sofia’s cannelloni was well prepared and made with fresh pasta tubes filled with a variety of hard cheeses (one was quite potent and added a very interesting kick) and sautéed Swiss chard.
After the chef mentioned his extensive background as a pastry chef, I was really looking forward to dessert. We sampled a few dishes but one that really stood out was the Magic Meringue – a beautiful, colorful dish mixing textures, flavors and temperatures, this was a real treat. Buchbut’s Magic Meringue includes a meringue crocante, filled with mascarpone cheese, passion fruit puree, coconut sorbet, chutney and honey cream and is served in a warm forest berry “soup” – definitely not an easy dish to make at home but definitely worth a try.