I always have a hard time catching up on the Flog after a long vacation; after all, writing about 10 days of meals is a little daunting. What usually ends up happening is that I wait too long and the details get fuzzy. I had many wonderful meals in Philly, but Zahav was the best of them all, so I wanted to get in my write up before all the delicious details left my head.
In full disclosure, I have to tell you that I went with Marc and his friends, who are friends with the Chef/Owner Michael Solomonov. He crafted an amazing menu and stopped by the table, not once, but twice to check in on us. Zahav is known for modern Israeli cuisine – not that I could have told you what the meant before this meal.
We started with the Turkish hummus and hot laffa bread (similar to pita, but thinner and this was dusted with za’atar spices). Now, when I went to Zatinya and tried the much lauded hummus, I was disappointed, but not surprised, after all, how good can hummus be? Well, Zahav is the answer to that question. The hummus was buttery and smooth as silk, but what really blew me away was the temperature – it was served warm! What a revelation! I’ve been eating cold hummus with carrots my whole life and this made me look at it in a whole new light.
We also had a number of “salatim”, a delightful array of salads and spreads including beets with tahini, baba ganoush, marinated carrots, and tabouli. We gobbled it all up with more warm laffa.
We moved on to appetizers – an amazing hamachi crudo (although, I’m not sure how it was Israeli - I think it was dressed in Yuzu, a decidedly Asian ingredient), a chicken liver mousse on callah bread, sweetbreads, and crispy haloumi with corn and peaches. The chicken liver may have been my favorite bite of the evening. It was at this point that Solomonov came out to say hi and as he walked away, I staged whispered, “I love you…”
I’m sure we could have stopped there and been very content with our meal thus far, but the best was yet to come. If you order in advance, you can have the whole-roasted lamb shoulder. The chef explained that it was a 4 day cooking process including brining, smoking and roasting. It is finished with a pomegranate glaze and served with fresh chickpeas and crispy Persian rice. This lamb was truly extraordinary, so moist and succulent. It’s hard to believe I gave up lamb for 2 years, once. This would have brought me back to eating it, immediately. Marc declared it his favorite bite of the whole trip.
There was still more food to come; we got to try 3 of their desserts. The first was a roasted apricot, served with sorbet and housemade Turkish delight. I love Turkish delight and enjoyed the sweetness of the summer fruit. The Kataifi is a phyllo dough that looks like shredded wheat; it was wrapped around chocolate and topped with ice cream. Anita, one of my dining companions swooned and said, “It tastes like philosophy class,” I never got a chance to ask her what she meant, but it was my favorite comment of the night. Lastly, there were crispy phyllo cigars over lemon sherbet, cantaloupe, cardamom. I have to be honest, while the desserts were all enjoyable, they didn’t astound me. Perhaps it was because the meal had set such a high bar, it was impossible to meet those expectations. No matter, I was full before the lamb hit the table and I couldn’t manage more than a few bites of dessert, anyways.
Our service was wonderful, but again, that may have been because we were known to the Chef. But, anyone can get the lamb by ordering the Mesibah tasting menu, which includes: the salatim, hummus, laffa, a selection of mezze, the lamb shoulder and a dessert. I think it’s excellent deal for $48 per person.