Wednesday, December 16, 2015

36 Hours in Philly: Michael Solomonov Edition

Like I mentioned on Monday, I'm going to be sharing the amazing Michael Solomonov eateries that we enjoyed during our weekend in Philly. The four of us are intense about our food - we love to eat - so once we sat down to plan out our day, we were all in a tizzy once we spontaneously came to the decision to hit up three Michael Solomonov restaurants.
Last time I was in Philly, I went to Dizengoff and thoroughly enjoyed the hummus. So, S and E suggested we go to Zahav for dinner. The only available reservation was at 10PM so we decided we could eat lunch, a big happy hour with food, and a late dinner (basically, three meals plus the breakfasts we individually ate before meeting up) and as we were browsing lunch and happy hour ideas, we decided to dedicate the day to Michael.

FEDERAL DONUTS
We ordered two half chicken baskets, one with za'atar seasoning and one with chili garlic glaze.
The chicken was incredible. The one with the dry spice was intensely flavorful and the skin was crispy and chicken itself was really tender. The one with the glaze was spicy and bright and again, the meat itself was so good.
The chicken baskets come with a honey donut, which is one you cannot order on its own. It's only available with an order of chicken and it's insanely delicious. It's a soft, fluffy donut soaked in honey.
After our chicken, we decided we wanted a little more sugar so we got a hot and fresh donut with vanilla spice (these are made to order) and then we got a chocolate donut and a lemon meringue donut from the pre-made rack. The chocolate donut had little crunchies all over it and the dough itself was cakey and soft and not overly sweet. The lemon meringue donut was covered in a torched meringue and the glaze was intensely lemony.
ABE FISHER
For happy hour, we went to Abe Fisher. We started the evening with cocktails. I stupidly forgot to take photos of all of them, but they were all great. I got the 'blonde on blonde' which was bright and fresh, thanks to the lime juice, and it was expertly mixed by our friendly bartender. I also tried 'the fedora,' the 'silver white winters,' the 'mind games,' and the 'before it's too late.' Let me clarify that I took sips; E, S, and M ordered these and I was just trying them. I did not sit at happy hour and down five cocktails on my own, though if I did, would that be so terrible?
The best thing about this place is that they bring you free amuse bouche! So, to start, we were brought little buttery pastries with a pink lady apple puree. It was like a one-bite apple pie.
For happy hour, everything on column one of the small plates menu is reduced to $7 (down from $10) so we basically got one of everything. The brussels sprout caesar salad was the first dish to come out. It was sublime. The dressing was briny and delicious and I really enjoyed the sprouts, the baby kale, the grape halves, and the pumpernickel croutons.
After our salad, they brought out another complimentary amuse bouche of savory rugelach. One of them had caramelized onion and the other was an herb poppy. Our server asked if we wanted one or both and of course we each opted for both. Both were flaky and delicious.
The second dish to come out was the mini sandwiches. I normally don't care much for rye bread, but the bread here is insane. These toasts were topped with a salmon tartare salad; delicious.
We were also served latkes with salmon gravlax. The latkes were tender with a really crunchy exterior and the pile of ingredients on top was so good. The salmon was cut into small cubes and it was super tender and flavorful. This was one of my favorites (along with the brussels sprout salad).
The charred green beans came out next. The skinny haricots verts were cooked until toasty and served on top of an unctuous yolk-based sauce.
The "chopped liver" was a liver mousse, which was rich and flavorful. It came with thick pieces of rye toast and pickled red onion. The mousse was superb.
The final plate to come out was the sweet potato. Little pieces of smashed sweet potato were placed on a bed of some sour cream-based sauce and sprinkled with spicy peppers and caramelized onion. It was delicious and like a fancy take on loaded potatoes.
For dessert we shared the honey tart, which was the best tart I've had. I loved the flaky crust and the honey-flavored custard. The pear added a brightness and freshness and we all had fun eating the candied bee pollen.
We were given one final free amuse bouche, which was an espresso blondie and then we were off to rest up and digest before our late night dinner.
ZAHAV
We managed to get seated a few minutes early at Zahav, which was great because we were all starting to feel a little tired. Our waiter brought us some pickled vegetables to start.
I loved the open kitchen with the windows and we were happy to see that Michael himself was cooking that night. I was a creepy stalker that tried over and over to take photos of him.
We decided that we might as well go all out and so we opted for the 'tayim' prix-fixe option, which basically meant that we could pick 8 dishes off of the mezze list, 4 dishes off of the al ha'esh menu, and we'd each get a dessert.
We started with the tehina hummus which was served with big pieces of laffa fresh from the wood burning oven. Seriously, I will never touch store bought hummus again; I've even tried making Dizengoff hummus at home and even though it's so good, nothing beats the real deal.
Our salatim was served soon afterwards. We were given a beet spread, a roasted bell pepper spread, a roasted eggplant spread, pickled napa cabbage, pickled carrots, and pickled green beans. I loved the eggplant and the roasted pepper the best.
Once we'd had our fill of the salatim, we requested that they start bringing out our mezze. The first dish to show up was the shredded brussels sprout tabouleh with pomegranate seeds. It was covered in a pile of grated aged feta. I loved this tabouleh and I need to try to make it at home. The pomegranate added brightness and the shredded sprouts were a delicious and earthy alternative to parsley.
This persimmon salad was amazing too. And even though I usually hate black olives, they added a much needed briny, earthy flavor that toned down the potential for the persimmons to be overly sweet.
The hamachi crudo was definitely my favorite. It was super fresh and the cilantro leaf was a perfect accompaniment.
The sable piled on top of a piece of challah was amazing too. The challah had an egg cooked into the center (like those 'egg in hole' toasts) and the sable was tender and smoky.
We were also brought a complimentary platter of charred cauliflower on a green aioli. Though I'm not a big fan of cauliflower in general (I despise the texture), I did enjoy the flavors.
The stuffed grape leaves were also a crowd pleaser. The leaves themselves were toasty and crisp and the stuffing was spiced strongly and tender and delicious.
The fried potato was my least favorite dish, mostly because the frisee was overdressed and overwhelmingly salty. However, the potatoes themselves were smashed and fried making the skins crispy and delicious..
The grilled haloumi with fig jam was my second favorite. I don't know why haloumi is so difficult to find in my local stores; I know it's big in the UK. Hopefully it picks up in popularity because it's delicious. If you've never had haloumi, it's basically a cheese that's hearty enough that it can be grilled (without going all gooey and ruining your pan) but it goes soft in the center; it's a literal grilled cheese.
The lamb tartare with lamb bacon was a surprisingly yummy dish. We were all kind of apprehensive about raw lamb, since lamb tends to be gamey, but I loved the flavors and spices in this. It came with little pieces of butter lettuce to make lettuce wraps with and I liked the contrast of the fresh lettuce to the rich and unctuous lamb.
After our mezze, it was time for the mains from the al ha'esh menu. We started with the beef and lamb kofte, which was great. I love Mediterranean spices and flavors. They're spicy and smoky and intense.
The branzino was some of the best fish I've had stateside (because nothing beats the fish you eat when you go on tropical holidays where the bounty was caught fresh just hours before consumption) with a deliciously crispy skin and a tender flesh.
To accompany our various meats, we were given a bowl of pilaf with black-eyed peas and pickled onions. This made us happy because it reminded us of Korean food to have a rice and an acidic side dish.
Though I don't like to support the industry of foie gras (because it's unusually cruel), I have to admit that this was probably my favorite entree. The texture of the sausage was super soft and buttery and again, the spices were unreal.
The lamb merguez was also a surprising favorite. Again, I tend to avoid lamb because it can be gamey but with all of the strong spices and seasonings, all you could taste was how rich the lamb was.
For dessert, we rounded up two pistachio tarts, the coffee custard, and an apple sorbet and shared. The pistachio tart didn't have much pistachio flavor, but it was rich and buttery.
The coffee custard was creamy yet light and the marshmallow topping was luxuriously sticky and decadent.
The apple sorbet was super bright and fresh and helped to tone down the richness of the other desserts.
It was such a good day in general but especially in terms of our epicurean adventures.

xoxo.

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