Zahav is an Israeli restaurant in the Olde City section of the city. It a great place to go for a drink or for a big meal with family and friends albeit with one of the least efficient chair and table layouts we’ve ever seen.
Israeli Salad Martini: Israeli salad is tiny pieces if cucumber, onion, and tomato–this martini mixed those fresh flavors (minus the onion) with gin. So tasty.
Marbled Rye: I’ve been on a real rye kick for a while now (there’s a whiskey love triangle forming between me, it, and bourbon). The marbled rye was always going to be the drink that I got because its got a rye that the restaurant infuses with caraway and was mixed with celery soda water in a glass on the rocks. The drink was more complex then I expected and all of the very old-fashioned flavors of these seeds made for a great drink to accompany all the strong flavors in the meal.
Salatim and Hummus/Pita
As I learned from my Israeli co-worker, many traditional meals from this part of the world begin with a large selection of salads. Zahav offered 12 varieties of pickled, fresh, and dressed salads at the beginning of the meal. This was accompanied by a large serving of hummus and brick oven baked pita (which was replenished when we finished the first one) This course was simply brought: Some places bring bread as a ‘free’ appetizer, Zahav brings almost an entire meal!
Josh – Holly just said it all, but I really want to emphasize the giant pitas we kept getting and also how these were hands down the best pitas I’ve ever had (warm fresh out of the oven, seasoned, and the perfect texture).
Holly – Crispy Haloumi
Haloumi is a hard cheese that is often found in Mediterranean cooking. Having wanted to try it for a long time, I braved the pairing of peaches and found that it was delicious (and the peaches didn’t even bother me!) The richness of the cheese and the sweet of the peach was a perfect pairing.
Holly – Tomato Soup
This was more like a beef and vegetable soup in flavor: it had tiny lamb meatballs and lots of veggie texture. Very tasty
Josh – House Smoked Sable
I’m a sucker for smoked fish now (after the smoked trout at MidAtlantic turned me onto smoked fish in general). The sable did not disappoint and was surprisingly buttery for a smoked fish too.
Josh – Kibbe
Kibbe are like the middle east version of a hushpuppy. A dough is made from bulgar and is wrapped around ground meat and deep fried. These were really delicious and the meat was a beef and lamb mixture with some seasonings.
Josh – Hanger Steak
This dish wasn’t big, but then none of the dishes were on their own. The steak was two smaller cuts of beef cooked perfectly with a great mushroom sauce. They had a great char on the outside (but not burned) and there was just so much flavor going on.
Holly – Kofte
Kofte are like Mediterranean meatballs. They were definitely tasty, but not the most interesting thing I had to eat all night. It was served over carrots and peppers. The richness of this dish was actually too much after all of the food I had just eaten, and I couldn’t finish it!
Josh – Almond-Apricot Rugelach
We both honestly didn’t have any room for dessert, but I powered through on mine. It’s pretty easy to power through when there’s a desert as tasty as this one. The pastry dough was great and the almond apricot mixture in the filling was a great way to finish a meal.
Holly – Halvah Mousse
I had no idea what this was when I ordered it, but I wanted to get something that Josh didn’t order. It was a rich mousse of tahini with blueberry sauce. It was good, but actually too rich for me after the ridiculous amount of food I had just eaten.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the design of Zahav. It was (I’m sure) meant to look like an outdoor area in Israel, but it was a little cliché. The floors were travertine, the walls were clad in a limestone in a textured brick finish. The side dining area featured a working fountain and large semi-circular booths with flowing fabric “tents” above. It was a pretty literal take on what (at least the stereotypes of) Israel is like. The problem was not that it was ‘theme-y” (although I am not usually a fan of theme restaurants), but it was just planned poorly! There were very few seats in a restaurant that easily could have fit 10-20 more seats. Stock-looking booths of all things were used in the center of the main dining area. The fabrics used all looked cheap. This was a place that I am sure is usually pretty pricey, but everything about it felt too cheap and too Disney for Philadelphia. I was disappointed from the second I walked in–I was expecting a new modern Israel (that I know exists from the accounts of my coworkers) but I was given a played-out stereotype that wasn’t even executed well.
The Overall Experience
Service-wise, Zahav did just about everything right. Our waiter was attentive, there was great food and drinks and it is just a cool place.
I do feel I have to mention that the whole time we were there we had stuffy/runny noses or were sneezing. Invariably I think that the quality of the pitas was directly related to this. There was a lot of flour and seasonings in the air from the fire oven they cook the pita in that just got to me and Holly. It’s a testament to the place that despite the onslaught of allergies we really enjoyed our food and our experience.
We had the pleasure of Restaurant week prices, so food was 35 dollars each for all courses and both of our drinks came in under 10 dollars. I can’t stress enough just how much food and how great a value that food was that we got for this price. We’ve enjoyed restaurant week prices at a lot of places, but this was hands down the best bang for your buck value I’ve ever seen or experienced. I’d imagine things are more expensive usually, but I’d go back in a heartbeat to sit at the bar and a drink a marbled rye while munching on some pitas and other appetizers.
Overall Experience: 5/5
Will We Visit Again:
Yes, if only to sit at the bar drinking marbled rye cocktails and eating pita after pita dipped in their delicious hummus.