How Israel Got Huge

Lunch rush at Dizengoff | Photo by Michael Persico

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.

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Two for One Reviews by LaBan

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Dizengoff and Stock are both reviewed by Craig LaBan.

This weekend, Craig LaBan offered two reviews for the price of one Sunday Inquirer as he reviewed both Stock and Dizengoff. Each spot focuses on a single specialty with admirable results. 

Stock – Two Bells, Very Good

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.

Stock: The meticulous beef pho has depth, but is outshone by other offerings [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Dizengoff – Three Bells, Excellent

[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.

Dizengoff: At this ‘hummusiya,’  the chickpea puree takes on magnetic power [Philadelphia Inquirer]

First Bite: Dizengoff

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Michael Solomonov’s hummisiya, Dizengoff softly opened today. We were on hand to snap some photos and of course try out the hummus. We ordered the Hummus matbucha for $10. The hummus is topped with Moroccan cooked tomato-pepper salad and a slow-cooked egg. It reminded me of a hummus version of shakshuka and that was exactly The order comes with three side salads and a piece of pita, piping hot, right from the oven.

The food was plenty for lunch and the pita was just about enough for all the generous serving of hummus.

More on Dizengoff » 

Michael Solomonov’s Dizengoff Opens August 11th

dizengoff-squareDizengoff, Michael Solomonov’s hummusiya will open on Monday, Augst 11th at 10:30 a.m. The spot at 1625 Sansom Street will serve four varieties of housemade hummus, freshly baked pita and seasonal salatim. The plates range from $9 to $11 and all include two pitot (the plural of pita), two seasonal salatim and Israeli pickles. The 25-seat hummusiya is named for the boulevard in Tel Aviv and will also offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks including frozen Lemonanna, Coke, Diet Coke and San Pellegrino Pompelmo. A rotating selection of craft brews will also be available as 12-oz. drafts for $4 each. Solomonov, who says “we’ve always known that we wanted to open a hummusiya similar to the ones you find everywhere in Israel.” “We make our hummus so often throughout the day, it’s never even refrigerated.” Abe Fisher, the next door restaurant “inspired by the Jewish Diaspora” is also moving towards completion date and should open by September 7. Check out the menu » 

Michael Solomonov and The Search for Israeli Cuisine

If you follow Zahav owner and chef Michael Solomonov on Instagram you know he’s been eating his way around Israel recently. It’s all part of a two-hour documentary he’s filming, called The Search for Israeli Cuisine. The PBS documentary is being filmed by two-time Academy Award nominee and James Beard Award winning filmmaker Roger Sherman

Above is the latest teaser from the project.

Zahav [Foobooz]
The Search for Israeli Cuisine [Florentine Films]

Michael Solomonov Filming Documentary on Israeli Cuisine

Zahav chef and co-owner, Michael Solomonov will be filming a two-hour documentary called The Search for Israeli Cuisine. Solomonov will be followed around Israel by  two-time Academy Award nominee and James Beard Award winning filmmaker Roger Sherman. The documentary will air on PBS in 2014.

Check out the preview above to get a feel for what the film will be about and for just how rich Israel’s food scene is.

The Search for Israeli Cuisine [Florentine Films]

A Very Jewish Christmas

On Wednesday, December 22nd Zahav is hosting “A Very Jewish Christmas” complete with Chinese food and a movie.

The $50 per person dinner will include Israeli-inflected Chinese food and early 80’s movies shown on a big screen. As chef Michael Solomonov noted, “Growing up Jewish, it’s hard not to feel left out at Christmas time, so my family and I observed the tradition of many Jewish families: enjoying Chinese take-out and watching a favorite movie instead. This meal is a silly send-up of that custom, a fond ‘welcome home’ to Jewish guests, and a great way for those who celebrate Christmas to get a feel for what the day often holds for the rest of us.”

The menu will include:

  • Wonton Soup with Yemenite curry and veal dumplings
  • Lamb Egg Rolls with pine nuts, dates and amba
  • Salt & Pepper Squid with zhoug powder
  • Cold Sesame Noodles with black tehina and shrimp
  • Persian Fried Rice with smoked pork belly
  • Cashew Chicken with Moroccan flavors
  • Mushroom & Tofu Hot Pot with eggplant al ha’esh and black bean sauce
  • Top-secret Happy Ending dessert (PG-rated)

Full Menu (PDF)

Zahav [Official Site]

Passover at Zahav

From March 29th to April 6th Zahav will be offering a special Passover menu for $42 per person. The roasted matzah balls in black garlic broth and coffee braised brisket sound especially appetizing.

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Zahav [Official Site]

Zahav, the New Momofuku

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The New York Post praises Zahav as the new Momofuku, citing chef Michael Solomonov’s ability to take traditional dishes to new highs.

Michael Solomonov does for Israeli cooking what David Chang does for Asian cooking: He transforms traditional, not-so-exciting dishes, using one-of-a-kind creative flourishes and unlikely flavor combinations. And in doing so, Solomonov’s restaurant Zahav creates food that simultaneously tastes familiar and unlike anything you’ve ever eaten. A simply prepared salad with Israeli persimmon (sweet), Bulgarian feta (creamy), green olives (salty) and endive (bitter). Duck hearts with chicken-liver dirty rice. A spicy and tart Moroccan fish stew with tomatoes and peppers. This is modern comfort food at its finest. At $36 for five courses, it’s a steal too. Solomonov recently opened a barbecue restaurant, with proper versions of Texas brisket and ribs. Yes, that’s right: One Israeli restaurant, one pork-a-palooza. No rules, no limits? Works for us (237 Saint James Place, 215-625-8800).

8 culinary adventures for 2010 [New York Post]
Zahav [Official Site]

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