Zahav: Modern Israeli in Philadelphia

Chef Michael Solomonov won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic this year, and now that I finally had a chance to taste a few of his dishes, I can easily understand why. His food at Zahav, his modern Israeli restaurant, is inventive and creative with a nod to tradition, which makes it approachable and fun at the same time.

Here’s the fried cauliflower with labaneh – a strained yogurt – with chive, dill, mint and garlic. It makes a bright, almost bracing, dipping sauce for the crunchy, salty cauliflower. Just terrific.

Solomonov was born in Israel, but grew up in Pittsburgh and cooked with Mark Vetri in Philadelphia and was the executive chef at Marigold Kitchen in Philly before opening Zahav in 2008. I had a really fun interview with him for an upcoming story for Arrive and he was as down-to-earth and real as his cooking. Here’s his hummus-tehina, made with sesame paste, garlic, lemon, olive oil, cumin and parsley. The best hummus you’ve ever had, I’ll bet.

I was at Zahav to – finally, after years of working with them on stories for Arrive – meet a couple of great PR folks from Profile PR, which represents chefs Michael Solomonov and Jose Garces. They’ve been ever so helpful over the years with scheduling interviews and helping to find good matches for the stories I’m working on.

This dish was out-of-control delicious. Royal Trumpet Mushrooms with chickpea puree, lamb belly “shawarma” and allspice:

And so was this. Chicken Shishlik with schmaltzy potatoes, za’atar, spring onion.

And Michael and I ended up talking about this dish quite a bit during our interview about his best ideas for the holidays. Mina: smoked brisket, matzah and coffee:

The interior of the restaurant is warm and inviting, with art and works they collected on a research trip to Israel.

I only had time for these few snacks, but I can’t wait to come back and have a proper dinner – and to try chef’s other restaurants, too: Percy Street Barbecue and Xochitl.

The 411 on Zahav: Modern Israeli and inventive twists on traditional Mediterranean cuisine by the talented chef Michael Solomonov. The restaurant, on the grounds of the Society Hill Towners, is hip but comfortable with a big, long bar and an open kitchen, decorated with flickering candles, dark wood and art and trinkets from Israel. Try: smoked brisket with matzo, fried cauliflower with labaneh, royal trumpet mushrooms with chickpea puree, lamb belly “shawarma” and allspice. 237 St. James Place, Philadelphia. 215-625-8800.

And, just for kicks, a couple photos from right outside by the taxi stand…


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