Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Tomorrow morning I take off for the Foodbuzz Food Blogger Festival in San Francisco. This is an inaugural event for Foodbuzz, the online food community who provides food related advertising on my site. Aside from hosting the festival, Foodbuzz goes out of it's way to get foodies together to share new experiences in cities across the U.S. They hosted an amazing dinner at Fork for Philly bloggers last year, and just a few weeks ago we met up again at Zahav in the name of Foodbuzz.
Because we were all adventurous and willing to share, every person at the table ordered the three course tasting menu. This is probably one of the most worthwhile tasting menus in the city at just $36.
I'm a sucker for a good cocktail, especially if it involves some sort of lemon or lime component, I can't help it, citrus makes me weak in the knees! I thoroughly enjoyed the Lemonnana, a bourbon cocktail with muddled mint, fresh lemon juice and verbena. You can order this pretty drink by the pitcher, too!
Complimentary pickles and olives, as well as a three compartment tray of condiments (Za'atar, green chili paste and harissa) were brought out first and our knowledgeable server let us know the condiments were to be used throughout the meal to accentuate all of the dishes. Unfortunately, the little dish was lost amongst the many plates on our table, but fortunately no one felt that any dish was under seasoned enough to warrant the use of the additional condiments. The tasting menu starts with a tower of 8 salads, all vegetarian, and all but one gluten-free! As well as a large bowl of traditional hummus served with laffa bread and cucumber slices for our gluten-free diner. My favorite salads included the spiced pickled pumpkin, the stewed okra and the cous cous tabbouleh with pomegranate seeds.
The first round of small plates included a take on moussaka, served in it's own little skillet, eggplant was laced with kashkaval cheese and tomato. Fried cauliflower was served with labaneh sauce with chive, dill and garlic. Not being a huge fan of cauliflower, I liked the dish least at the table, it wasn't as crispy as I would have liked, but the sauce was divine. A generous portion of chopped liver was served with rye toast and sauteed cippolini onions. And lastly, the grilled duck hearts blew everyone away. Served atop dirty rice with toasted pine nuts, the duck hearts were meaty but tender under your teeth and melted in your mouth. I would jump at the chance to eat this dish again.
Stuffed peppers were also a big hit. Small paquillo peppers were loaded up with duck confit and almonds, then served with a warm salad of grapes. Sweet, savory and an unexpected win in my book. Also a big hit were the beef and lamb meatballs, spiced with cumin and served in a light tomato sauce over rice and beans. Similarly, a grilled merguez sausage was delicately spiced mixture of lamb and beef served with cous cous and a peppery matbucha sauce.
What tasting menu is complete without dessert? None in my opinion, and that's why Zahav's tasting menu is so wonderful. A wonderful starter, three small plates and dessert! I ordered the chocolate cake with tahini frosting. The cake was dark and rich with chocolate flavor, while the tahini frosting was lightly flavored with sesame but a bit on the grainy side.
Zahav brings a true taste of Israel to Old City and has one of the most worthwhile tasting menus available in Philly. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can leave Zahav feeling satisfied and perhaps exploring foods they never would have tried elsewhere. Don't skip trying a cocktail, they're totally worth it.
237 Saint James Place
(At the base of Society Hill Towers)
Philadelphia, PA 19106