Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Friend is Mad at Me. Thanks Zahav.

The other night a big foodie friend of mine came into town with his new girlfriend.

He has been living in Middle-of-Nowhere-Michigan and informed me that he was virtually DYING from good-meal-deprivation (aka the reason I couldn't move out of the city). He wanted to eat some good food and impress his girl.

I assured him that I would make reservations for an eating extravaganza. I called a couple of sure shot places (Amada, Vetri, etc.) but on a Friday night it was hard to get a table. I decided to try a new spot, a place where I had been wanting to go, Zahav.

In the back of my mind I knew that this was probably a poor choice for my guests but I decided to be selfish and indulge my undying quest to try a gazillion new spots.

So, Zahav... First impression - The door was too inconspicuous (someone actually asked if it was the back entrance). Second impression - it appeared as if we were the only people dining that night who weren't eligible for the senior discount. Third impression - it was way too bright. Turn that shit down Zahav! I'm trying to look hot not perform surgery or translate a Russian novel onto a postage stamp... shit.

Each place was set with a paper placemat on which the menu was printed. Wow. Diner-style. Nice.

We ordered a bottle of Prossecco to start ($45) and, as she poured, the waitress told us of how we should order. "First we recommend that you start with the traditional Israeli salad. It is $7.00 per person and the salads change daily. Today the salads are...." She went on to tell us that we should order a large hummus, a shit ton of cold mezze, hot messe, and at least one main course for each person (This recommendation seemed like less of a recommendation and more of a requirement. I sensed that lack of compliance would result in the stink eye and possible expulsion).

She was selling hard and we bit.

Salads were ordered all around. The salads came out on a teared platter. Just under a dozen varieties appeared ranging from twice cooked eggplant to traditional Israeli cucumber salad. I didn't meet one I didn't like although I was surprised to find that our table of 5 got the same serving as our neighbors, a table of two... Hmmm... Did they also pay $7.00 a person? Now, I have never been good at math, but that just don't seem right.

Next came the hummus. There were four types to choose from. We chose the Turkish Hummus which was made with butter instead of olive oil and was served warm. Verdict - Take it or leave it. I have inarguably had better hummus. A lot of times it has been at dive bars where they aren't supposed to be good at it, nor did they highlight it on their menu, or serve four varieties.

The bread they served with the hummus (laffa) was good but nothing mind blowing. Note: it was $12 for a small "large" bowl of hummus (fuuuuccck you).

We were ready to order another bottle of wine. To be honest, I already felt like I was being swindled so I ordered the cheapest white on the menu at $35.00.

At this point we also ordered our food. After ordering our waitress informed us that we had not ordered nearly enough - (13 items for 5 of us) and that we should get more.

The first of the foods appeared - Balkan-Style Mackerel. I thought the dish was good but almost no one else did. They all thought it was "fishy". To be fair Mackerel is a fishy fish especially when it is salt-cured. Regardless of this it was not a big hit.

The Crispy Moroccan Cigars (Ground Beef wrapped in a filo in the shape of a cigar and then deep fried) and Malauch (flatbread served with Haminado - traditionally eggs left in the sun to cure but at Zahav made with coffee to replicate the brown color the egg takes on- and crushed tomatoes) came next. I have two words for you - Grease Festival.

The Crispy Haloumi (fried sheeps milk cheese cubes served with date paste and pine nuts), was good but came along the Moroccan Pastilla which was a big flavorless disappointment.

The best and worst of the meal came with the main course.

The Kineret (cubes of salmon served on top cous cous) and the Monsieur Merguez (House-made Merguez - lamb sausage served outside of the casing) were both outstanding. The Galil (baby eggplant with tehina) was bitter and unappealing and the majority of it remained uneaten.

Talk to me Michael. Wha' haapen?

We had a few other uneventful dishes and decided to finish with desserts.

We were a table full of chocolate lovers so naturally we ordered the Warm Chocolate Cake. Our waitress apologized and told us we had old menus and that the chocolate cake had been replaced by some sesame-paste bullshit. My dining guests were appalled. "That's like saying 'We used to offer free back rubs but now we offer a punch in the eye'."

We ended up choosing the "New school" - Konafi (fried shredded filo) with a dark chocolate center and a sour Labaneh ice cream - and the Honey Cake (honey colored cake served with coffee ice cream). Both were very "ehh" and were left unfinished.

Having said all of that, I did appriciate the fact that I saw ingredients on the menu that I don't see anywhere else in Philly and a few things were truly tasty but over all "boooo..." A shame too, w/ the Chef and owner combo (Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook) I had high hopes.

Uncle Jimmy says:
P.S. a website would be nice. It isn't 1992.
Zahav - 237 Saint James Place Philadelphia, 19108 (near the Ritz Five Movie theater and where Sfizzo used to be)


swandalake said...

Hey Uncle Jimmy,
How about including addresses with your rants? Thanks, Swandalake

swandalake said...

Hey Uncle Jimmy,
How about including addresses in your comments? Swandalake Fahrquahr