after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Zahav: Impressive Flavors with a Superb Finish

with 2 comments

t says: k had a day off.  I have a flexible schedule.  The result?  Lunch at Zahav!

2/2010, Friday Lunch, Party of 2, Restaurant week.  This was my second visit to this restaurant and it definitely trumped my first experience (a dinner in August 2009 – see “Oh the places we’ve gone …”).  My lunchmate k and I made a 2pm lunch reservation, but had to call the restaurant to let them know we would be a few minutes late (silly Center City traffic).  Although their kitchen closes for lunch at 2, the staff was very nice over the phone, thanked us for our notice, and didn’t rush us at all as we ate (although perhaps they rushed us a little to place our order when we first got there – understandable).

Our waiter was an interesting combination of nice and “chill”.  While the manner in which he spoke was reminiscent of someone who was, shall we say, “high”, he seemed sincerely invested in ensuring that we enjoyed our meal, with frequent visits to the table just to make sure everything tasted “good”.  He also warned k that a dish she was about to order (Morrocan fish stew) was extremely spicy and averted what could have been a disaster for her.  In short, we thought he was both “unique” and great.

The first course consisting of salatim (salads) and hummus was delightful and as bright as I remembered.  They’re still putting together flavor combinations that are new to me, which I enjoy immensely (I found myself constantly returning to the spicy pickled carrots).  Perhaps this isn’t fair for other restaurants featuring Asian flavors, as I then have certain expectations of what to taste, but don’t hate the player, hate the game.

For our first main course, I had the ?braised? lamb shank in a pastry shell topped with sesame seeds which was exactly what I needed on a cold winter day – I don’t think I’ve ever had so tender a lamb (and it was seasoned perfectly).  k went with a dish featuring roasted beets and chickpeas.  They didn’t “blow her away”, but were “regular good beets”; she was more impressed with the combination of normal and al dente chickpeas – we think the latter may have been fried, but remain unsure.  Regardless, the chickpeas offered a brand new flavor-texture combo.

My second course, the hanger steak was good – not as good as Bibou’s, but on par with Meritage.  Despite being seasoned well, I think I would have preferred if it was cooked a little more evenly (one side of each chunk was considerably more rare than the other) and maybe one more chunk of the meat, as the dish seemed a little bare.  k had the swordfish which was cooked perfectly – I blinked and it was gone, so I assume it was awesome.

The desserts were phenomenal – perhaps the best desserts of any Philly restaurant that I’ve visited.  We shared the panna cotta, pistachio baklava, and passionfruit sorbet dessert.  The super-tart and intensely fruity sorbet coupled well with the creamy panna cotta.  And while k found the baklava nothing to sneeze at, I, as someone who loves pistachio and baklava was wondering why no one had thought of this sooner.  We also had some sort of chocolate-hazlenut dessert with salted toffee and cumquat – it had a perfect balance of salty, sour, and sweet (and chocolate).  I will have to make it a point to combine chocolate and cumquat in the future.  These two dishes (as I can’t pick a favorite) were the best ending to a meal I’ve had in a LONG time.

In summary, despite my rocky first visit, I’d be willing to concede that Zahav’s best dishes can live up to the hype that it’s given on the Philly food scene.  And this was during restaurant week (i.e. a time which most people say the quality suffers due to the sheer volume produced)!  I once read that the New York Post suggests that Zahav is to Israeli food as Momofuku is to Asian food – that’s a quite a bold statement (which I’m not sure I agree with); nevertheless, I wish them the best of luck in striving for that level of success!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 February 2010 at 6:22pm

2 Responses

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  1. So excited about your blog! You guys put my foodie dreams to shame! I had to comment about Zahav. I ate there last Restaurant Week and I was so underwhelmed. Everything tasted over-salted to me with the exception of a few of the salads and the hummus. But oh the hummus. I still dream of it. And that hummus alone convinces me I need to give it another try. Now you have inspired me to do so more seriously. Thanks :)

    Caitlin

    19 February 2010 at 8:45am

    • t says: Thanks! I can definitely see how Zahav may over-season some dishes – with everything that I sampled between my two visits (~10 dishes not including salad, hummus, dessert), nothing was ever under-seasoned, so maybe the chefs err on the side of an extra dash of salt? g still hasn’t been yet – she’s more salt-sensitive than I am (or I just like salt) – so perhaps another visit’s in order. Me, I’m still holding my breath for the Israeli wine by the glass …

      afterdinnersneeze

      19 February 2010 at 8:58am


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