First off, no. This is not a joke. Michael Solomonov’s little-hummusiya-that-could, Dizengoff, is extending its hours beginning Wednesday, April 1. At that point, Diz will be open daily until 7 pm (or sell-out)–a full three hours longer than usual, and just in time for warm weather and outdoor seating.
On the first evening of Rosh Hashanah this year, BuzzFeed posted a video called “The Jewish Food Taste Test.” In it, Gentiles sample iconic Ashkenazi dishes. Gefilte fish comes first. “It’s like a cold sausage with sour paste on the top,” one goy cringes. “I’m not quite sure what meat it is,” confesses a hoodie-clad Asian dude. A vaguely Nordic-looking hipster delivers the kicker: “It tastes like a grocery store smells.” Suffice it to say that these people were not eating the gefilte fish on offer at Abe Fisher.
Chef Yehuda Sichel, a longtime loyalist of Abe Fisher co-owner Michael Solomonov, stuffs rainbow trout with a delicately nutty forcemeat of striped bass, smoked trout, walnuts and matzo. After poaching the trout whole, he cuts them into what amount to three-inch-thick boneless steaks, crisps the skin, and glazes them with a sweet reduction of carrot juice and port wine. Smoked Hungarian pepper wafts from a slaw of carrot shreds and pickled raisins piled on one side. Underneath it all is a subtly mustardy puree of butter-roasted carrots, accented with horseradish—lest anyone complain that the “sour paste” is missing.
Shawarma platter at Hummus; Pastries from Manakeesh | Photos by Neal Santos
Middle Eastern flavors have long been a rich vein mined by chefs working in any number of styles. And Middle Eastern restaurants — whether of the wheeled or brick-and-mortar variety — have been a staple on the Philly scene for decades. But while you might think there’s nothing to this cuisine beyond chickpeas and falafel, here are six places that will prove you wrong.
Lunch rush at Dizengoff | Photo by Michael Persico
You’ve got to understand something about Israeli cuisine right from the start: It’s not something that existed in the American consciousness a few years ago.
Really, it’s not something that exists there now. Not in most places. You’ll find a few spots in and around New York where Israeli dishes get to shine. And there have always been delis where you could get your brisket and your matzo ball soup, but that’s more about Jewish cuisine than it is Israeli. Like the thing about thumbs and fingers, all Israeli restaurants are Jewish but not all Jewish restaurants are Israeli.
Where Stock truly excels, and the best reason to hang with Fishtown hipsters at the counter, are the small menu’s beef-free options. The mushroom pho packs an umami punch the beef pho lacks. The shredded green papaya starter is one of the most irresistible salads in town, the crunchy threads and roasted peanuts basking in a tart and funky fish sauce-lime dressing that flickers with chile heat. Of the daily banh mi hoagies, which included tasty chicken meatball and unexpectedly bland pork sausage, the surprising winner was filled with custardy tofu, bright with soy-garlic marinade, pickled cabbage, and creamy Japanese mayo.
[T]his hummus takes on its magnetic powers thanks to chef Emily Seaman. The Zahav alum compulsively creates new garnishes daily based on what farmers deliver, with spot-on instincts for textures and flavor contrasts.
Summer corn took on the musky sweetness of fenugreek. Red peppers, simmered with pomegranate, went for a muhammara mood with crushed walnuts. Soft cannelinis were tinted yellow with Yemenite hawaj curry, dusted with smoky black flecks of Urfa chilies. Charred eggplants were cooked to a gloss, then tanged with vinegar and garlic. Fragrant ground lamb, one day topped with pickles, another stewed with orange and pistachios, hit a high with aromatic Persian spice.
[Solomonov] told a story of spiraling into alcohol and drug abuse and how people close to him pushed him into detox and rehab. He now has several years of recovery and sobriety behind him. Solomonov later agreed to talk publicly about his addiction, but only in general terms. “At some point in my life, I’ll be very upfront about it if I can find a way to make it helpful,” he told me. “Because of my responsibility to other people in recovery, I need to figure out how I’m going to be more specific and more detailed. But I’m not ready to do that right now.” In a world of graphic addiction memoirs written by teenagers, Solomonov’s reticence is refreshing.
Solomonov has obviously decided it’s now time to come clean about getting clean. In today’s New York Times, he tells columnist Frank Bruni that he was “living a double life” when he opened Zahav in May 2008: Read more »