Restaurant Editor Bill Addison is traveling the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
What is Israeli cuisine? The food at Zahav offers the most thorough and sensuous answer in America. Israel's cooking is the melting pot of the Middle East; a glance at Zahav's selections of hummus begins to tell the story. First up is the ubiquitous version, whipped with tahini and emboldened by garlic, lemon juice, cumin, and olive. Another includes foul (fava beans), a popular variation in Palestine and an ancient favorite in Egypt. The can't-miss riff, though, hails from Turkey: It arrives warm and sunny with melted butter. The bread served alongside, pulled fresh from the wood-burning oven most nights by chef and co-owner Michael Solomonov, is the pita-like Iraqi laffa. Order hummus with salatim, small plates of salads that often begin meals in Israel, and in the mix appear carrots glazed with North African harissa and tabbouleh in the Lebanese style, heavy on the parsley. The region may face constant political strife, but on the plate unity reigns.
Eventually, upscale-ish Middle Eastern restaurants may be a cliche. >>