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My Philly Bites: Zahav

January 21, 2015

Zahav and I never coexisted in Philadelphia together.  And it’s such a shame because as I discovered on this trip, the modern Israeli restaurant that has garnered so much critical and popular appraised is quite wonderful.  Perched on a small hill in Society Hill, Zahav was a little hard to find but we found our way there with hearty appetites and empty stomachs, ready to feast.  And feast we did.

The menu at Zahav is organized into salatim and hummus to start, small plates and then followed by al ha’esh, larger plates grilled over coals.  There were so many delicious choices that the only way to properly sample all of the dishes was to order the taste of Zahav for the table and share every little morsel.  Salatim and hummus with laffa as appetizers, eight mezzes, four al ha’eshes and four desserts meant that it was easier to eliminate those that we didn’t want, rather than what we wanted.  That might sound easy, but trust me, it was a tough decision but we finally came to a consensus and were ready to start the feast.

Silky smooth hummus with olive oil, cumin, garlic, lemon and parsley was served with fluffy house baked laffa bread.

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And accompanied by six little plates of salatim, daily selection of colorful salads.

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A look at my first helping for a taste of everything.  I went back for more of course, a little bit of the beet salad and some of that smokey babaganoush and the refreshing tabbouleh salad too.

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When we finally had enough, the mezzes started to arrive.  The first to arrive was tender grilled duck hearts with pickled green tomatoes, green matbutcha, and Shabazi onion rings.

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Followed by a bowl of heart warming Yemenite beef stew with braised short rib reminiscent of Grandma’s cooking for AH…

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… fried cauliflower florets flavored with a dip of labneh blended with chives, mint, dill and garlic…

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… then an addicting plate of crispy haloumi cheese on a bed of sweet dates, pickled onions walnuts and urfa.

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Roasted brussels sprouts dusted with Bulgarian feta and pickled lemon for a little bit of green.

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But we went right back to more meaty options like this light and refreshing kibbe naya, a Middle Eastern lamb tartare with artichokes, olives and bulgur wheat.

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A duo of meaty flauta whose name unfortunately escapes me…

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Next up was the beautiful house smoked sable served in a challah basket with a fried egg inside…

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Followed by squash konafi with kashkaval cheese, the ubiquitous kale and pickled peppers for a little brightness…

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… and finally thin slices of crispy lamb’s tongue with pickled turnips, squash tehina and sumac.

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Luckily, the mezzes were small enough that when shared among four people, it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as it might seem at first.  This was a good thing because we still had four plates of delicious al ha’esh to sample.  The first to hit our table was the juicy kofte, a mix of ground beef and lamb, served on top of a bed of flageolet beans with peppers and tomatoes.

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Sirloin shishlik might have sounded a little simple but the meat was grilled to perfection with crispy nibs here and there.  Embraced by eggplants in the form of babaganoush on the bottom and bright caponata on top, the sirloin was anything but boring.

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One more plate of meat, this time, a duck kebab with pistachio pilaf, pickled onion and a little bit of fig jam for sweetness.

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Finally, a plate of the sea in the form of a nice light piece of crispy branzino with celery root, apples and tzatziki.

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By now, we were stuff but I love Middle Eastern inspired dessert so I happily ventured ahead with the last part of the meal but not without a cup of sweet mint tea, full of fresh mint leaves.

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Out of the four desserts, my favorite was the moist honey bread pudding with a light yogurt ice cream.

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The dense flourless chocolate cake with walnut baklavah rolls was rich and indulgent…

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… while the pear sorbet with pomegranate, honey and oranges appeared almost healthy.

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And finally, a traditional dessert, the kataifi with a generous scoop of ice cream on top to round our dinner here at Zahav.  

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Our feast here was pretty much as extensive as I could have ever hoped for a first visit.  It was as if I was trying to make up for lost time.  With so many different options at Zahav, you are bound to find a few dishes to your liking and if you and your friends happen to have a big appetite like us, you can always share all the dishes so you don’t have to chose.  After all, sharing is what makes a meal memorable isn’t it?

Zahav | 237 Saint James Place, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | http://www.zahavrestaurant.com/

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