I hope you will indulge me with a short trip down memory lane before we get to the good stuff about the food!
Even though I only moved to Israel in 2008, I was very fortunate to spend numerous family vacations here and the majority of those were in Jerusalem, staying at the Inbal Hotel (formerly the Laromme). So before I officially made Israel my home, the Laromme was like a vacation home to me. Back then, the hotel housed what was considered to be one of the best kosher restaurants in the city, Yehuda Bistro. I don’t remember much about the menu because we always ordered the same dishes – at first, it was the meat fondue and later the Chateaubriand. The service was always impeccable and it was there that I was taught to appreciate the wonders of a rare steak. The Bistro closed during the second intifada and the hotel has not had a proper meat restaurant, until now.
Despite having to walk through the hotel lobby and lounge area, once you enter the 02 Restaurant, you quickly forget that you are in a hotel. The decor is very modern but with warm tones which create a welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant was not that busy when we arrived at 8 pm, but by the time we left, every table was full, including all the bar seats. There was a complete cross-section of Jerusalem society, a full range of ages and a good ambiance.
I am normally reluctant to try a new restaurant in its first few weeks as there are often initial teething issues. In this instance, the hotel manager invited me to come and try the restaurant during its trial phase; curiosity got the better of me.
The 02 menu was designed by the chefs of Mona and Anna (Moshiko Gamlieli and Itamar Navon) who worked with the hotel’s chef to create a modern take on authentic Jerusalem cuisine, from both Jewish and Muslim kitchens.
The meal opened with a variety of fresh breads and dips (NIS 32), including Muhammara, a Syrian-Arabic red pepper and walnut dip. I had not heard of or tried this dip before and found the combination of flavors delicious.
The Yellowtail Sashimi (NIS 68) and the Beef Tartar with Burgul (NIS 58) starters were both beautifully presented and very tasty.
For mains, there was a selection of eight skewers to choose from; we had one of Pargit (NIS 42) and one Entrecote (NIS 58). They were both very nicely cooked, but for that price, they should have included a side dish. The steaks were sold by weight and we went for Beef Fillet 200 g (NIS 108) with a choice of side dishes, I thought this was a good price. For me, the test of a good steak is how much flavor it has without any sauce; this one definitely needed a good sauce to go with it.
From the dessert menus, we tried the Rice Pudding with Apple & Hibiscus (NIS 32) and the Chocolate Cremeux with Almond Ice Cream (NIS 42). Both were surprisingly good parev desserts. The chocolate was the clear winner, although we were glad to be sharing such a rich dessert.
As well as good food and drinks, most noticeable was the incredible level of service, especially since it is a new restaurant. The hostess, waitresses, and bar staff were all very attentive and I recognized some of them from other chef restaurants around Jerusalem.
It is nice to have a restaurant which raises the level of Jerusalem cuisine.