The chef behind Philadelphia’s modern Israeli restaurant Zahav was born near Tel Aviv and frequently returns to Israel for culinary inspiration. Recent trips helped shape the menus for his forthcoming Philadelphia restaurants: hummus spot Dizengoff and Abe Fisher, which will serve cuisine of the Jewish diaspora. Here, Michael shares highlights from his travels.
Cooking Lessons in Galilee
“Erez Komarovsky is the first contemporary baker to introduce artisanal bread to Israel. He is known for his chain of eponymous bakeries and gives cooking workshops at his home in Mizpe Matat in the Galilee mountains. Classes combine Israeli and Lebanese recipes, since his home is near the Lebanese border. Erez bakes insanely good breads in a tabun [clay oven] with ingredients from his organic gardens and olive groves. When I visited, he made a twist on a falafel sandwich stuffed with lamb.”
“Acre is a magical place. The historic port city was a strategic site during the Crusades. Uri Buri is a famous no-frills seafood restaurant where I ate raw crabs and sardines (93 Haganah St.). The chef-owner, Uri Jeremias, also owns the 12-room Efendi Hotel (right). The hotel combines two old homes that were restored over the course of eight years with the help of Italian artisans. Order tapas in the hotel’s Byzantine-era wine cellar.”
Doubles from $320, efendi-hotel.co.il
Brown TLV Urban Hotel
“This is a really cute boutique hotel with a sick roof deck that has great views of the city skyline. There are just 30 rooms and the pricing is quite affordable. There isn’t a restaurant but guests can choose from one of three nearby cafes for breakfast.”
25 Kalischer St., Tel Aviv, 972/3-717-0200, brownhotel.co.il
Old City Market and Tarshiha Market
“There is always a line out the door at Hummus Said, [at the Old City Market] in the northern city of Acre. The doors close when the hummus runs out.” At Tarshiha Market, “Try the passion fruit sorbet at Bouza. This ice cream shop in Tarshiha sources ingredients from local farmers.”
“The Mamilla is the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The design is modern and beautiful and you can’t beat the location. You’re steps from the Old City and the Jaffa Gate and within walking distance of a lot of high-end shops.”
11 King Solomon St., Jerusalem, 972/2-548-2222, mamillahotel.com
“This restaurant is 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills and is run by chef Tomer Nir, who worked at the Fat Duck in the U.K. He is cooking really impressive food and goes foraging for ingredients like wild sumac. The restaurant serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. Expect to find dishes like leg of lamb roasted in a paprika marinade, or frika risotto with artichoke, gnocchi chips, black carrots, and oranges. No one is doing food like this in Jerusalem.”
Nataf Secretariat, Nataf, 972/2-570-0954, ramak.co.il
“Chef Jonathan Borowitz is doing interesting European-Jewish food at this unassuming restaurant. I had poached eel tongue, and my reaction was, ‘oh my God that is good.’ He also makes pickled herring with aioli and dashi. Everyone talks about his shpondra, which is a sandwich of slow-cooked short ribs basted in the juice of its own fat until it turns into a confit. That is stuffed into a challah roll and baked and topped with pickles.”
48 Nahalat Binyamin St.,Tel Aviv, 972/3-510-1001
Tel Aviv’s Top Chef
“Meir Adoni trained at such renowned restaurants as Arzak in Spain and Alinea in Chicago. He’s known for his tasting menus at Tel Aviv’s white tablecloth Catit (57 Nahalat Binyamin St.). Next door at his casual spot, Mizlala, the menu is influenced by Moroccan, Iraqi-Jewish, and Yemeni cuisines, with new takes on classics, such as Palestinian steak tartare with pine nuts, tahini, and yogurt (left), and cilantro sourdough bread.”
“The Israeli folk-rock band Asaf Avidan and the Mojos is one of my favorites. Look for their albums at Third Ear music in Tel Aviv.” 48 King George St.
“Julie’s is a little hidden down an alley on Rehov Shabazi in Neveh Tzedek. Owner Julie Ozon opens up her kitchen and prepares home-cooked lunches that are awesome. Think stewed fava beans spicier than hell and really good marinated fennel salad. She is a total character, and man can she cook.” Neveh Tzedke, Tel Aviv
Illustrations by Sameul Kerr. Photos courtesy of Erez Komarovsky, Efendi Hotel, Sarit Goffen.