I happily looked forward to dining at Zahav, a celebrated Philadelphia restaurant.
The modern Israeli eatery is located in Philly’s Old City, which is decidedly charming and not to be missed. If you’ve never had the pleasure of strolling the area, I highly recommend it.
The restaurant’s initial allure (at least for me) stemmed from the chef’s background working in a bakery in Israel, followed by his James Beard Award and recognition in some of my favorite foodie publications, such as Bon Appetit and Eater, just to name a few. However, I admit, before Zahav, I had never experienced Israeli cuisine. I was not disappointed.
When I arrived at the restaurant at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday evening, the dining room was bustling, the dimly lit space filled with casual diners. The décor was pleasing and suggestive of a Middle Eastern feel, without being overdone.
The meal began with house-baked pita bread, silky-smooth hummus and salatim, an array of simple chilled dishes. The salatim selection changes daily at the restaurant, but we were served six colorful options ranging from vibrant beets with tahini and green bean bamya, my two favorites.
Next came a selection of small plates. The best in my eyes? The fried cauliflower, served alongside a fresh swirl of labneh with chive, dill and mint. It was, as many dishes are, perfect in its simplicity. Of course, the stuffed grape leaves, expertly seasoned and served warm, were almost equally delicious.
The star of the evening, however, was one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and chickpeas. I’m always a fan of lamb, and this was definitely some of the best I’d enjoyed. It practically fell apart as the table shared a serving dish, each of us filling our plates, but still not able to finish it off, as good as it was. Luckily for me, the lamb shoulder made an excellent late-night snack the next evening.
The meal finished on a light note, with a delicately sweetened konafi, a pastry made of shredded dough similar to phyllo, with more labneh and chocolate and served in chewy, moist slices. Along with a strong cup of Turkish coffee, it was a wonderful ending to a wonderful meal.
Make reservations at Zahav the next time you’re in Philadelphia or, if you can’t quite wait, try your hand at a few of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes with the cookbook by the same name.
237 St. James Pl.
Philadelphia, Pa. 19106
215 625 8800
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