after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Zahav

A brief return to Philly …

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t says:  g and I had a chance to go back to NJ/Philly to celebrate the holidays.  Much good food was had, so I figured I’d recap some highlights:

There aren’t many things that SF lacks when compared to Philly (excluding the obvious: affordable housing).  The food scene in SF is just so vast that g and I confess we haven’t even scratched the surface of what it has to offer.  That said, we have noticed a few weaknesses.  We haven’t quite found an Indian takeout as good as Ekta/Tiffin.  And we haven’t found hummus as good as Dizengoff.  We made it a point to eat both during our trip!  Now maybe it’s not fair to say “there aren’t any good hummuserias in SF” because that’s pretty darn specific.  But when you get some of those sunchokes (or cabbage or lamb or whatever the choices are for the day) in that smooth creamy hummus with the freshly made pita (that is way better than any pita I’ve had yet in the Bay Area – and I’ve tried a quite a few), there’s just no comparison.  I actually ended up buying a Dizengoff t-shirt while I was there, just to keep the spirit alive.  So Michael Solomonov, if you’re reading this (because obviously you follow low-readership blogs like this one), bring Dizengoff to SF (and toss in some Federal Donuts – no need for the chicken if it’s too much), and I’ll be there once a week for sure.

a and I ventured the Walnut Street Cafe for a dudes’ lunch, and I ended up ordering this sandwich.  Now it looks pretty boring.  And most might say, “you call that a sandwich – where’s the meat?”.  Hear me out.  A broccoli rabe sandwich.  It sounds so silly, but damn I miss broccoli rabe.  I feel like Philly was just putting rabe in everything, and I took it for granted.  Now, surrounded by kales and lettuces of SF, rabe (or “rapini” as it’s more commonly known out here) isn’t really used as much – and when it is, it is rarely permitted to retain that bitter greens flavor that I so love.  So of course –  a broccoli rabe sandwich was exactly what I wanted.  The rest of the dishes were pretty good (a great butternut squash soup, albeit a bit pricey; and a’s pork sandwich was tasty and filling), but I did it for the rabe.

No visit to Philly is complete without a trip to DiBruno.  And I caught them at just the right time when they had Rogue River Blue in stock.  This super-expensive cheese is totally worth it.  It’s so salty, so stinky, and just has the slightest bit of sweet – my favorite blue for sure.  I left it in my parent’s fridge without putting it in plastic and let’s just say that “they noticed” …  Thanks DiBruno’s – happy to see you’re still a Philly food landmark.

And last, we have the new Aimee Olexy joint, The Love.  If you like the Garden, go to the Love.  It’s a bit more hip, a bit more chic that the Garden, offering dishes that ride the line between the comfortable warmth of Garden and the more see-and-be-seen atmosphere of Rittenhouse.  Above is the short rib stroganoff which was insanely good.  Everything we had was delightful – we only wish we were more hungry so we could have explored the remainder of the menu (we played it safe – shortrib strganoff, spaghetti and lobster, gnudi, etc).  Gotta try out that chicken!

In all, our visit to Philly was a whirlwind.  It was great to see friends and family.  Is was fun to visit the restaurants, new and old.  There was even nostalgia when walking around my old workplace (well, a combination of nostalgia and relief from the snow … because … you know … it likes to snow whenever we visit Philly … just to remind us of what we’re ‘missing’ in SF).  Until next time … I guess it’s back to 60-degree days!


Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 December 2017 at 8:56pm

Post-Philly Ramen and Wine

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t says: We’ve been out a few times recently so I figured I’d take a lazy day to update the blog.  And so, with season 5 of The Wire in the background, I’m here on my phone, with my first ever phone-post!

My little sis got married with a reception at Zahav!  The whole event was wonderful!!  Congrats to her and her new hubby!  Also: congrats to Zahav for serving up some absolutely amazing lamb and salatim!  For any couples looking to close some knots, check out Zahav!

We started lining up a farewell tour of Philly (we won’t be back again until December) and it included a little bit of something old and something new.  Well, here is the new: brunch at The Dutch.  These are my new favorite pancakes. They are to. Die. For.  Second only to Cochon (R.I.P.).  Don’t let the silly blueberries or anemic banana distract you from the perfectly made pancake with a bit of crunch on the outside and a soft pillowy inside.  Yes, a did order a wonderful cream chipped beef, and g got a tasty omelette, but seriously, these pancakes were the star!!

For something old, we hit up Reading Terminal.  Ahhhhhh.  Home indeed.  DiNic’s roast pork with rabe and provolone.  Insert drooling face here.  Forget the cheesesteaks, Philly – stick with these!  As for dessert: you know I picked up several chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookies.  Day-um these were just as good as I recall!

We continued the ramen search.  This time, we went to Oakland for some Itani ramen.  Going for a more contemporary mixture (I had corn in mine, g had tomatoes in hers), the end result was pretty good.  Nice form alkaline noodles, with savory broth.  It’s not worth the trip if you have some good ramen nearby, but if you’re local, it’s worth a visit.  Next time I’m going to try some of those dumplings.  BTW: corn = hard to pick up with chopsticks.

And for our most recent exploration, we hit up Napa [again].  We love this place.  After hiking through Oat Mine Hill Trail (after finding out that Bothe was closed for a half-marathon), we hit up Model Bakery in St. Helena.  Holy. Hell.  We knew Model was good (we’ve been to the one at Oxbow several times), but this one was WAY better.  Above was a bacon egg and pimento on a scallion biscuit that was better than any breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had … even a’s (I’m sorry a!!!!  It just happened!!!).  g got the “traditional” breakfast sandwich on their famous English muffins and she devoured it.  There’s something about this location’s sandwich construction that’s impeccable: not soggy, melted cheese, perfectly made meat, structurally sound.  Gonna have to make the special trip to St Helena for future visits, even if it is a half hour away from Oxbow!

Here’s a tip: Heitz has free wine tasting.  Now, there is a caveat: Heitz does not do flashy, fruit-bombs.  They do cabs like pinots: single vineyards with focus on just how important locations are for flavor.  One tasted like pure green bell pepper.  Another had a finish of super-spicy black pepper.  The final was mushroom-alicious (if you like that sort of thing).  But the real star: the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.  It was in-your-face with tropical and grapefruit, followed by mouthwatering acidity and a petrol hint that was amazing (for those of you that like the way gas stations smell).  Amazing. $20 at local wine merchant – check it out.  Heitz is now on our short-list for anyone visiting Napa for the first time!  We finished off our day with a trip to Hog Island oyster company – the grilled oysters have changed g’s outlook on oysters forever!  She loves them!

Catching Up

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t says:  It’s actually be a while since we’ve had some consistent posting – I’ve fallen way behind!  So now it’s time to play some catch-up.


For one of our recent goodbye dinners with cm and k, we went to Zahav.  The tasting menu is still as good as  ever was, making me wonder how we could have ever have doubted this place (when they first opened, we found a lot of the flavors to be monotonous).  I will say, however, that the hummus portion is actually a bit daintier than it once was (the pita is plentiful, but the humus could barely be enough for 1 pita, much less two).  The salatim was phenomenal …


… as was our appetizers and entrees (shout-out to the watermelon-feta-olive salad in the foreground, cauliflower on the left – the only dish we purposefully ordered two of).


I will say that the desserts were solid, too.  Nothing too out of this world (cake and baklava, chocolate mousse thing, vanilla panna cotta thing, watermelon sorbet), but a wonderful ending to the meal.  In short, go to Zahav, get the tasting menu, and dine happily.  It is a pretty good deal when all is said and done (and this comes from someone who used to be <$40pp when they first opened!)


In other news, it seems that now there will be ramen right on Penn’s campus.  I’m happy they’re there, but I do hope they can step up their game from the first (and last) time I was there.


For my last update, enter this pretty awesome Sauvignon Blanc that I found at the PLCB store on 21st and Market.  I’ve been a big fan of Greywacke since 2011.  New Zealand rubber/petrol with plush zingee stone fruit and pineapple up front, and then finishes hard with a chalky, lemon pithy finish that is very addictive.  Warning: not everyone will love this wine.  But there will be a population that does.  And hopefully they will leave a few at the store for me so I can reload whenever I need …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 August 2014 at 6:22pm

zahav kills it with a steak to the heart

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t says:  Ok, the title isn’t quite the most sensical (not that that’s a word, either), but it does quite capture how amazed I was at a recent visit to Zahav.

December 2012, Sunday Dinner, Party of 4.  g and I dined with two friends at Zahav … or rather, g dined with our two friends and I showed up an hour late.  C’est la vie.  The three of them ordered four people’s worth of food, so when I showed up, the table was completely littered with plates.  And yes, everything was quite delicious.  But the standout: Duck Heart.  Keeping in mind that only three of the four of us tasted it (g was reluctant), two of us were quite impressed.  First off, Zahav made no effort to hide the fact that you were eating heart.  As the slices of meat sat on their plate, it was clear to anyone who has had anatomy that you were staring straight at ventricle.  Literally.  The only thing that would have reminded me more that I was eating heart would be if it was beating on the plate.  g had had rabbit heart before (and I mooched off her plate), but when faced with an obvious piece of organ, she balked.  And you know what … it was delicious.  Think as tender as filet mignon, with a little bit of a duckiness (very mild … or maybe I was imagining it?).

As for the desserts, check this one out:


a block of awesomeness

So I forget what exactly that igloo-looking thing was, but it was kind of like a panna cotta but a little richer.  I loved it.  Add on a brulee’d crust or something and I would have ordered another one for myself (we were sharing)!

There were lots of delicious foods to be had at Zahav, and g and I were quite impressed with a lot of the dishes.  It’s true that some were kind of unremarkable (the meatballs), but the highlights were high indeed, especially when using unusual cuts of meat.  Similarly, their normal dishes were quite boring, meanwhile the ones pulling in non-traditional ingredients (e.g. chickpeas).  Even though the tasting menu is now more expensive than it used to be (it used to be $36), it actually seems closer to being worth it now than it used to be – and now their restaurant week pricing is a great deal!  So squeeze into here if you can!  I don’t know if it’s four-bell-material, but it’s close!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 January 2013 at 2:10pm

Revisiting Zahav’s Lunch

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t says:  Restaurant week came and went.  g and I actually didn’t make it to a single restaurant [for restaurant week].  Very peculiar of us.  It was mostly because I was really REALLY busy.  Fortunately, I did get a day off from work, but it was a Friday … a day that g had to work.  Bummer!  Nevertheless, a and I went to lunch at Zahav, a restaurant that I had not been to since last year [for dinner or lunch].

9/2011, Lunch, Party of 2.  When we arrived, there was almost no one there.  Of course, we did arrive at 11:45am, so we reasoned that it was going to pick up as lunch really got going.  We sat, we ordered, and I made fun of a’s very bright pink shirt.

What Zahav meal would be complete with salatim?

a and I agree that the salatim/hummus that start the Zahav meals are consistently the best part of the meal.  If for some reason you manage to eat there without getting these, you’re really missing out.  Above, you see carrot and beets in the background and eggplant and fennel in the foreground.  Of these, the fennel was probably my favorite, as they managed to hide some unknown spice in there that meshed nicely with the licorice flavor of the fennel – it was unexpected and pleasant.  I think a liked the eggplant concoction, but it’s hard to tell, as he (like I) was more than happy to eat any/all of the other three as well.  Most visually stunning was the beet … which wins by virtue of exactly matching a’s shirt (ok, ok, I’ll stop with the shirt jokes).

The hummus really needs no introduction ...

The hummus I felt was a little less powerful that I’ve had in the past.  Apparently g somehow knows of the hummus-making guy at Zahav.  I think he’ll need to step it up a little, cuz this time the hummus was very tame.

Sweetbread Nuggets

My app of choice was the sweetbreads.  A very peculiar thing happened after I had ordered them.  The waitress returned to the table and asked, “Your sweetbreads – they’re made from veal – is that ok?”  I nodded.  I turned to a and asked, “why do you think she asked that?  Are they not normally made from veal?  Or is it that the menu didn’t say it specifically and some people find veal objectionable?  Or perhaps maybe she thought I didn’t know what sweetbreads were and wanted to make sure that I knew that I was consuming an animal organ, and not some kind of pastry?”  When the sweetbreads did arrive, I must confess that they didn’t taste very “veal-y”.  I remarked that while they were very tender, the texture and flavor were far closer to chicken than veal organ.  I jokingly remarked, “they’re the best chicken nuggets I’ve ever had”.  The puree (?zucchini?) and the corn salad were a nice way to add some lighter flavors in there, but I had the nagging feeling that they were chicken.  When I came home and looked on the interweb, I found an entry for sweetbreads at Zahav for Restaurant Week which included “braised chicken” in the description.  Now I’m just confused.  I don’t know what animal it was, what organ it was, how it was prepared, or anything.  All I know was that it was tasty.  Weird, right?  Maybe it’s made of people …

a had some tomato-based soup.  My mind has blanked on its contents.  I remember being shocked at how similar it looked to a plain ‘ol tomato soup.  I’m sure he’ll chime in if he feels that it’s a sin to skip over his soup …

Funny thing happened … after they cleared our appetizers, the waitress came over bearing another plate and said, “This is on the house.  We heard you saying just how much you love the cauliflower.”  And shazam:

If cauliflower could kill ... we'd all be dead.

Ok, yes, the cauliflower is/was amazing.  It’s always amazing.  It costs them probably 50 cents to make, but if I could make it like this at home, I’d eat cauliflower every other night for sure.  And the accompanying sauce I think is labaneh with mint and garlic and something else – ?dill?.  But more important was why it was we were even having the opportunity to enjoy this cauliflower.  We had no idea.  a figured it was because he knows someone who knows someone who works there.  That was a good thought, so we went with it.  There were no survivors.

For our mains, a ventured the steak and I ventured the meatball-esque item, ?kibbe?.  I neglected to take a picture.  But to be honest, taking pictures of two relatively unadorned meatballs is kind of boring.  What was also a shame was that it didn’t really have a great texture – the meat was tough – kind of like if I were to try and make a meatball at home (i.e. it’d be packed too tight and be overcooked), which is a little disappointing.  This is obviously not how real Italians like g makes meatballs where it’d be browned on the outside, be cooked the whole way through, and still be soft on the insider … and most certainly not that crazy jello-jiggler meatballs like at Han dynasty.  I think what would have saved the meatball is the flavor – it had some lamb in it as well as a brown jus.  But to be honest, neither of those really added much (well, the jus added some much-needed moisture to the meat).  Of course, I am in no position to say that Zahav did anything wrong – maybe they did it perfectly and I’m just not into authentic kibbe’s texture.  Either way, I will not be venturing it again.

a’s steak was cooked perfectly I believe.  But he, too, felt that it could only be “good”.  Man – there’s just something about these entrees – if they can sexify cauliflower, why can’t they do the same to some meat?

And then … dessert …

This would be the true test for Zahav.  They have had a strong history of desserts that satisfy me – but most recently lost their title when they came up with an uninspired baklava and pistachio cake.  This time, it was good to see Zahav return to something near and dear to my heart: chocolate.

Here chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

As you look at the pic above, surely you’d be confused.  Where’s the chocolate?  a looked at my plate, seemingly puzzled by the obvious lack of dark brown color.  But I knew where it was.  It was hiding behind a crust of finely shredded phyllo dough.  But alas, not even the sturdiest of phyllo dough armors could prevent me from reaching my preciousssss (you gotta say it like gollum from LotR).  In typical Zahav style, they accompanied the chocolate with a bit of bright fruit (apricot this time?) and I imagine that’s some kind of ricotta ice cream.  Kablammo.  That’s how to win me over.  Once again, like the cauliflower, this is probably exceedingly simple, but sometimes you’ve got to play dirty and tug at the heart-strings.

a ventured the “other dessert”, as he knew I was going for the chocolate kataifi.

The "other" dessert.

It was a very delightful parfait involving blueberry and candied chickpea.  Yea, you read that right, candied chickpea.  I really think that made the dessert exciting.  It was a very solid finisher and perhaps I would have taken more notice … had I not been spoon deep in chocolate on my side of the table.

Now here’s where things got weird.  The brought us an extra order of dessert – the third item, the rugelach, which was good, but nowhere near as good as the two we ordered (the rugelach was a bit too dense/dry for my taste).  But that’s not the weird part.  Hmmm – that’s a vague sentence.  I’ll clarify.  The dessert being a little “off” was not a surprise (that’s what happened to the pistachio tart the last time I went with g).  And the receiving a third item wasn’t weird because up until then we figured that this was part of a’s “connections”.  The manager came over to our table and said something to the extent of, “We know that the last time you were here, maybe not everything was perfect – we wanted to prove to you that we can do better.”  Of course, this is not verbatim (I don’t do verbatim), but that was the gist.  And even that’s not weird.  What was weird was that he was looking at me when he said it.  It was as if he knew of my previous disappointment.  Bizarre!  After we thanked him and assured him that the desserts were delicious (we had not yet had the rugelach), a and I looked at eachother and began to put together explanations.  I suggested that perhaps they had overheard our conversations (we’re pretty frank when we’re dining out – no food-related topic is sacred – we will talk about the props/slops of any restaurant, including the one we’re sitting in).  a felt that unlikely.  So perhaps they recognized my name from opentable – did I leave them a negative review?  Oh snap – I did.  Quite a negative opentable review.  And I linked this blog!  Yikes!  But that was over a year ago – was I flagged in their computer?  Do they do this for all people who dis’ them on opentable?  Am I paranoid much?  Yes.  And in that moment a and I realized that service was spotless the entire time we were there.  Our tables were cleared and re-set immediately within 30 seconds of the last bite being taken, and I can’t tell you the number of times they refilled my water even though only two sips had been taken.  What was funny about all of this is that I also realized that the original scathing blog post was a g+t adventure.  This was an a+t adventure.  Did they now think that a was g?  Is that why they pre-emptively placed our dishes in the middle of the table to share?  Is that why a’s dessert had two dessert spoons (look at the pic)?  Double-yikes!  (No offense a, but you’re no g)

On our way out, I shook the manager’s hand and introduced myself.  He introduced himself and was quick with his card.  “Whenever you want to come here again, please let me know and I’ll personally make sure that all of your needs are met.”  I’m pretty sure that was verbatim (a’ll correct me if I’m wrong).  Even though well-intentioned, I feel like it came out a little creepy – it was only a smirk and wink away from being downright illegal.

In the end, the question remains – did Zahav redeem itself?  Yes and no.  Yes – the apps and desserts were of the appropriate caliber as I had had in meals before the one with g.  The entrees, though – agh – the entrees!  Give me something lip-smacking, give me something thought-provoking, give me something surprising/sexy.  Give me something.  Was it bad?  Most certainly not, but am I going to automatically drag any/every diehard NYC-dweller/lover to Zahav when they visit for a night?  No way … well, maybe on night 3 or so.  That said, for a $20 lunch [during restaurant week], it’s a superb deal – probably tied with Amada for bang-for-the-buck.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

26 September 2011 at 4:12pm

Posted in in Philadelphia, Restaurant Reviews

Tagged with ,

Zzzzzz is for Zahav

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g says: Zahav was one of the few places that t had ventured without me, so I knew we would eventually end up there — because I was really interested in what Israeli food tasted like, and also so you could hear my take on their acclaimed food as well (important for any fair and balanced blog). It was a hot Friday evening, and we were looking for something to do. Walk over to Old City from Rittenhouse? Sure, sounds like a great idea. No matter that it was hotter than Hades and we were walking further than we would on any other day with much cooler temperatures — we were going to DO something. (It really did seem like a good idea at the time…) Anyway, it was 95 degrees at sunset, and we ventured off into the night. Besides the profuse sweating, my dress blowing up in the wind, and getting slightly lost, we arrived at our destination without much incident. But we were admittedly gross, tired, and desperately wanted to use the restroom to freshen up – a couple of hot messes, indeed! Maybe we should have realized then that the evening wouldn’t be quite as smooth as we were expecting…

7/2010, 9:30pm, Party of 2. We walked in right on time for our reservation and were greeted by two well-dressed guys — one friendly, the other not so much. Not-so-much showed us to our table swiftly, and even pulled out my chair for me (what a gentleman)! I was thrilled to be there for about 5 seconds until I started noticing how many servers were constantly bustling all around us (and a bit too close to me for my taste). I get a little claustrophobic, so I scanned the dining room for other seating options. There were plenty of tables as well as seats at the bar, so I suggested to t that we ask to switch tables quickly before we were too settled in.

Now, I completely understand that restaurants seat their diners at specific tables to keep order in their dining rooms, and I would never normally ask to move, but I was feeling really anxious so I thought it was worth the embarrassment of being one of “those people.” t asked our server, who had stopped by for a minute to introduce himself, if it would be possible to switch to one of the other open 2-seater spots. To which he replied that we would have to leave our seats and ask the host ourselves. I was perplexed. I’m no expert, but isn’t that his job? Once we wrapped our heads around this new concept, we walked back to the front desk and posed our request. Friendly guy was professional and accommodating. Not-so-much was clearly annoyed — he would have to walk us about 30 feet to our table again (the nerve of us). The new table’s location was totally fine, and I was happy, though I wondered why the seating thing was such an issue to these people. My guess is that not-so-much acts like not-so-much to the rest of the staff as well, and our server wasn’t looking to mess with him.

Our server is a whole other story. He looked like a nice enough young fellow, but I felt like we didn’t look nice enough to him because he kept staring off in space when he would speak to us. I thought maybe he was new and nervous (scared of not-so-much, still?) but t seemed to remember him from his first visit, and it has been a while since then. He warmed up to us a little throughout the meal, though, so I wasn’t feeling quite so awkward by dessert time.

What’s that? You’re tired of me yammering on about the people and want to hear about the food? Well, here goes: we both ventured the tay’im, the smaller of the two tasting menu choices, and ordered different items so that we could try more dishes. I anticipated some of the best food I would have all summer (with such rave reviews, how could it not be?) but felt overall the dishes were a little hit or miss. The hummus and flatbread were simply divine — sorry, Audrey Claire, you have been booted from my #1 hummus spot, because this stuff is amazing! The salatim (8 different little salads) were also fairly tasty, but didn’t seem like something that I could not make for myself at home. For entrees, I chose the fish kofte (total hit! they were delicate and savory, and not too fishy either), tahcheen (a bit of a miss for me, but there was just some sort of spice in the rice that I wasn’t wild about), and the hanger steak (another hit, as I very much liked the flavors of the steak and pureed eggplant, but this just wasn’t seeming so special to me – there are a few other restaurants I have in mind that do their hanger steak just as well and better). t went for the watermelon salad (could have been a hit, but the watermelon wasn’t quite sweet enough), grilled veal tongue (hit on the meat, miss on the accompaniment), and duck two-ways (a half-hit … duck one way was a hit, but the other way – a dry ground duck patty – was a miss). My cashew baklava won in the battle of “who-ordered-the-better-dessert,” but that’s mostly because t’s pistachio cake with cherry compote was a bit dry — there was definitely potential there. Like Marlon Brando, it could’ve been a contender.

While neither of us were wowed by very many of the dishes, I certainly wasn’t unhappy with anything that came out of Zahav’s kitchen. I think t was a little disappointed that he had such great food on previous visits, and this time it was so-so. I, too, was looking for the wow-factor, but found it to be a little bit of a snooze.

But I think I have learned a very important lesson from this experience (besides the one about not trying to walk 25 blocks before dinner in a heatwave): Israeli food isn’t really my thing. To me, it is certainly good, but not cravable. I feel similarly about Greek food — rarely will you ever hear me talk about being in the mood for Greek food. I have nothing against it, and would absolutely accept an invitation to dine at a Greek restaurant, but I would not choose it over other types of cuisine. It must be the traditional flavor profiles that just aren’t my favorite, or maybe a few spices rub me the wrong way (get it? spice? rub? MAN, i am on fire!)

All in all, we had a fun evening out, and we ran into nothing that a glass of cava couldn’t fix. On a return trip, I think I would probably just fill up on hummus and baklava… which actually wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

t says: Just in case you’re wondering about that veal tongue … It looked like a piece of scrapple … in the shape of a tongue. The taste of the meat reminded me of oxtail, but the texture was different, as the strands of meat were finer and shorter. Overall, it was an interesting and delicious meat to eat, but not so delicious that I’d want to try and cook it at home. In short, it wasn’t as good as beef cheek.  Out of all the dishes we had, my favorite style of food was that watermelon salad.  Yes, it was an overall “miss” – but the way the flavors evolved in your mouth was intriguing and unexpected.  A lot of Zahav’s other flavors, while being bold, seldom evolve like this on the palate – and that’s what I like the most when I eat.

On another note – don’t mess with g when she’s on fire.  Not only is she funny (she is funny), but she can get pretty fiesty.  I mean look at that title – pretty harsh, right?  I knew the food might not have been sneeze-worthy – but I didn’t think it was snooze-worthy, either …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 July 2010 at 8:55am

Zahav: Impressive Flavors with a Superb Finish

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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