Philadelphia Restaurants

Zahav

  • 237 St. James Pl. Map It
  • Society Hill
  • Mediterranean
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 01/10/2017

Fodor's Review

Chef Michael Solomonov has brought great buzz to several restaurant locations in Philadelphia. With his latest entry, steeped in the milk and honey and hummus and lamb of his native Israel—as well as the cultures that have left a mark on that Promised Land—he's done it again. Taking advantage of its dramatic perch above one of the city's oldest streets, the stripped-down Zahav relies on architectural features such as picture windows and soaring ceilings to create spectacle. The open kitchen, on view behind leaded glass, is the true stage. There, a small staff mixes and matches a melting pot of flavors for a modern Israeli menu whose highlights include house-baked laffa (flatbread), kebabs of impossibly tender chicken cooked over hot coals and served with sumac onions and Israeli couscous, and addictive florets of fried cauliflower served with a lemon-and-dill-spiked lebneh (yogurt cheese). The legendary smoked and pomegranate juice-braised lamb shoulder should be reserved in advance.

Restaurant Information

Address:

237 St. James Pl., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19106, USA

Map It

Phone:

215-625–8800

Restaurant Details:

  • No lunch

Published 01/10/2017

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Fodorite Reviews

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Aug 14, 2017

Mission Accomplished - We’ve Been Trying to Dine Here for Years

My spouse and I dined at Zahav for dinner on a Saturday evening in late June 2017. Zahav is open for dinner only on Mondays through Saturdays. You can reserve a table via telephone or using the online Open Table reservation system. We suggest booking your place as soon as permitted (60 days in advance) because of the popularity of the restaurant. However, if you cannot confirm a table, it seems that the restaurant accommodates walk-ins at the well-liked

bar. Zahav is located on the grounds of the Society Hill Towers on St. James Place (near Second and Walnut Streets) next to the Ritz Theatre and overlooking Dock Street. Some limited street parking is available, or you can park in a nearby public lot or in the garage at the Sheraton Society Hill. The restaurant opened in 2008, and it remains one of the most frequented restaurants in the city. Zahav, which means “gold” in Hebrew, offers modern Israeli cuisine. The restaurant interior features cavernous high ceilings, gold-colored walls and floors, and hand-carved wooden booths and tables in a variety of configurations, some of which share a long wooden banquette on one side. You can also dine at a small counter/bar under a tiny draped fabric “awning” that offers stools with a glimpse through the kitchen windows. You can also request to dine in the quieter side room. (The noise level in the main dining area is high.) Philadelphia restaurant group CookNSolo operates Zahav, Abe Fisher, Dizen Goff, Federal Donuts, and Rooster Soup Company. Chef/owner Michael Solomonov was born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh until age 19, when he returned to Israel for a few years. Because he did not speak Hebrew, he could only find work in a bakery, which ignited his culinary career. He has won several James Beard awards, and he has been recognized by publications such as Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, and Esquire. The small plates at Zahav are meant for sharing. We started with some complimentary laffa bread (baked to order in the wood-fired “taboon”/oven), which we supplemented with an order of classic tehina hummus (served with a bit of green tahini, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with cumin and chopped herbs). On the advice of our server, we ordered another five dishes to share between the two of us. From the mezze (small plates) section, we tried the kibbeh naya (a bright acidic raw minced lamb and bulgur mixture that we spooned into lettuce wraps), sabich (breaded eggplant with tomato and hard-boiled egg), and duck hearts (with eggplant and black chickpeas). Our server also delivered a complimentary order of saganaki (fried cheese served with a fruit sauce). From the al ha’esh (coal-grilled) section, we shared the brisket kofte (meatballs with roasted red peppers, olives, and apricots), and the chicken skisklik (marinated in spices and served with pickled mango and pomegranate), which came with a rice pilaf side dish. For dessert, we ordered the signature konafi (shredded phyllo dough topped with citrus marmalade, orange sherbet, and pistachios). Zahav offers a full liquor license, including beer, wine, and cocktails. We sampled a refreshing Lemonnana (like a boozy fresh lemonade with lemon verbena, bourbon, and mint). Zahav also offers a sort prix-fixe tasting menu, where you choose a specified number of small and large plates for a set price per person. Service was a bit uneven: our first five dishes came out in rapid-fire succession and quickly filled up our tiny table for two, but then we waited for 20+ minutes until our “main” courses appeared, and another 10+ minutes for our dessert. We enjoyed the total time spent at the restaurant, but we would have preferred for our dishes to arrive with better pacing, especially considering the diminutive size of our table. We liked our dinner at Zahav – we do not often have the opportunity to spend the evening in such a vibrant atmosphere while enjoying delicious ethnic cuisine.

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