Eater’s roving restaurant critic Bill Addison, who travels from New York to Los Angeles with stops everywhere in-between to find the country’s top restaurants, just named Zahav one of the 38 essential restaurants in America. This is the fifth time in the five years Addison has compiled the list that Zahav made the cut — one of only five eateries to be included every year. The Israeli restaurant, from James Beard Award winners Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook, is also on Eater Philly’s list of the 38 essential restaurants in Philadelphia.
Addison spent 34 weeks on the road, eating almost 600 meals in 36 cities, to put together the national Eater 38.
“The one-word mantra that steers my thinking, and also the city-based Eater 38 maps upon which the list is modeled, is essential,” the reviewer writes. “Which places become indispensable to their neighborhoods, and eventually to their towns and whole regions? Which ones spur trends, or set standards for hospitality and leadership, or stir conversations around representation and inclusivity? Which restaurants, ultimately, become vital to how we understand ourselves, and others, at the table?”
When it comes to Zahav, Addison talks about chef Solomonov’s “respectful and contemporary translation” of Israeli cuisine. He writes:
The recent limelight on Middle Eastern foods in America, which is overdue and still very much emerging, can in part be traced to Michael Solomonov, the chef who owns Zahav (and about a dozen other restaurants) with Steve Cook. Solomonov, born in Israel, brings a respectful and contemporary translation of that nation’s clearinghouse adaptation of its region’s varied cuisines. Dinner should always begin with salatim — warmly spiced vegetable salads that light up the table in their shades of red, green, gold, and purple — and Solomonov’s justly lauded hummus, maybe in a Turkish variation bathed in melted butter. Grilled duck hearts, roasted carrots with labneh, the signature smoked lamb shoulder lacquered with pomegranate molasses, riffs on kanafeh (a shredded phyllo dessert) with seasonal fruits: These communal plates all foster kinship, further cultural understanding, and of course bring immense enjoyment.
Read the full list of America’s 38 essential restaurants here.