Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
There are plenty of publications around the city who like to list their top restaurants in Philly, and plenty of people who would argue which is better and why any number of these lists are wrong. We only have one opinion, in which we are steadfast: Zahav is the single best restaurant in Philadelphia, full stop. Whether you’re basing your criteria on service, food, drinks, or ambiance, Zahav comes out in front on all counts.
When you are finally able to get in (reservations are understandably backed up), there are a few options. You could order a la carte, but you might as well at least go with the Tayim—for $45 per person, each gets to share their selection of small salads (“salatim”), hummus and laffa, and then order two small plates and one grilled plate before dessert. Or you could go all out with the Mesibah (“party time”) for $54 per person and get the salatim, hummus, and laffa before having some small plates selected for your table, and then Zahav’s famous lamb shoulder.
Whatever you do, make it a point to eat here—even if you have to make your reservation two months in advance. With all of his ventures in Philadelphia, Mike Solomonov can’t seem to fail, and this is the best and brightest of them all. If something as simple as the hummus can support an entire stand-alone establishment, just imagine what the rest of the food could do.
EAT YOUR FILL OF…
Grilled Haloumi – One of the small plates, the haloumi is always on the ever-changing menu in one form or another, usually with seasonal accoutrement. We prefer the autumn iterations, but any time of year is a good time of year for this dish, which finds the cheese seared on the outside and accompanied by a sweeter puree. For example, the current (as of this writing) incarnation features strawberry amba (a tangy Middle Eastern sauce), pistachios, and pickled green strawberries.
Grilled Duck Hearts – While they may not sound appetizing, these melt-in-your-mouth, cooked-rare duck hearts always seem to make it onto our table. We’re adventurous eaters, but some things can be a hard sell—rest assured that Solomonov has the chops to make this one of the standout dishes on their menu.
House Smoke Sable – Another of our must-orders. The smoky fish sits atop a slice of grilled—but still soft—challah bread, accompanied by a soft egg yolk. When combined, the entire dish is a delectable umami bomb of savory, fatty, smoky goodness. This should be at the top of everyone’s list.
Roasted Lamb Shoulder – The crème de la crème of Mike Solomonov’s repertoire. The availability isn’t guaranteed—they only have a few on hand each night, and as each shoulder takes three days to make, they can’t whip one up on the fly. Once it’s smoked at Zahav’s sister restaurant Percy Street BBQ, it’s braised in pomegranate molasses until it’s tender and then put in the oven to crisp the outside. Add a side of crispy rice and you’ve got yourself a Persian feast that we would put head-to-head against any other dish in the city.