This award winning restaurant deserves all the hype. This ambiance, service and food make it a place you'll either return to again and again or a place you'll remember forever.
Phone: 215 625 8800
Address: 237 St. James Place
Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 5pm - 10pm, Friday and Saturday, 5pm -11pm
I've been meaning to experience Zahav for way to long. Since it's opening in 2008 it's been unwaveringly regarded as one of Philadelphia's top restaurants. It's been profiled in national newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Esquire and Bon Appetit. It was awarded 4 bells by premier Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig Laban. After watching chef/owner Michael Solomonov bro-down with Travel Channel star Anthony Bourdain I could resist it no longer. In the episode Solomov serves as Bourdain's unofficial Philadelphia Tour Guide, taking him to after-hours dive bar, The Pen and Pencil for "car bombs", to Pho 75 for noodle soup and to his own Zahav for mouth watering, slow roasted Lamb Shoulder and other Israeli inspired dishes. Solomonov, the chef and owner of Zahav, and the chicken and donut joint Federal Donuts, was born in Israel. Though he spent years cooking Italian fare with Mark Vetri, his true passion was always Middle Eastern food.
Situated between the Society Hill Tours and the Ritz East Movie Theatre, Zahav stands out. The building is on a slight hill with floor to ceiling windows and a large gold sign. The name Zahav means "gold" in Israeli and considering the amount of accolades the restaurant has received it is a very fitting moniker. I arrived on a busy Thursday during restaurant week. The restaurant is beautiful inside, with high ceilings, stone walls, and a warm glow. The open kitchen gives you a glimpse into the frantic pace of a chef while relaxing at your seats. The floor to ceiling windows and elevation make you feel like you're on a cliff overlooking Old City. Waiting at the bar for a table to open up we perused the drink menu. They offer a few select craft brews, a large selection of Israeli wines and some inventive cocktails. I ordered the Marble Rye, a pumpernickel and caraway-infused Rye with Celery Soda since I'm a fan of both whiskey and only subtly sweet mixers, but the celery soda was overpoweringly bitter and I was reluctant to continue testing out the cocktail menu at $12 a pop. I switched to the Cava which ended up being a great compliment and palate cleanser to the barrage of flavors to come.
Our server, who was warm and casual yet professional, guided us through the unfamiliar menu. We ordered the tasting menu which is served family style and includes 5 courses. While we were still making our selections a puffy piece of warm house baked laffa bread arrived on our table served with hummus. Then came 8 tiny plates of Salatim, which are a daily selection of "salads." The colorful little bowls where each big on flavor. My favorite was a cold cumber, onion and olive oil salad. Once we placed our order the small plates began to arrive at quickly. Everything was beautifully prepared. The grilled duck hearts were brightened by crisp apple slices. The fried cauliflower with chive, oil, mint and garlic was decadent snack. The Kibbe Naya, which is raw lamb with bulgar, black harissa and baby romaine sounded intimidating but ended up being totally approachable and one of the best things I ate. All of the tiny plates, added up to one excellent, fulfilling meal.