Zahav, Philadelphia

So, it’s only been about six months since I had my amazing experience at Zahav for restaurant week in Philadelphia.  At first, I was avoiding writing this post because I knew it would just make me want to go back.  Then, when I went to write about it, I realized the only picture I forgot to take was of the most outrageous thing we ordered (you’ll find out soon what that was)… BOO!  But as my monthly dinner with my girlfriends is coming up this week, I decided that it’s been way too long and I just couldn’t keep this one from you any longer.

Let me tell you a little bit about Zahav… it is a beautiful modern Israel restaurant located in Society Hill in Philadelphia.  The chef and owner Michael Solomonov was born in Israel, raised in Pittsburgh, and learned how to cook back in Israel.  He really brings something special to the Philly restaurant scene.

I went to Zahav for restaurant week which was a great idea.  When I go out with my girlfriends, we try to order as many things as possible and share everything.  It’s always so much fun.  Since Zahav is pretty expensive, going for restaurant week was the perfect thing for us to do- we EACH got to pick two starters, one main dish, and one dessert.

In addition to the menu that we got to choose from, Zahav provided us with Salatim (SEVEN different salads), Hummus, and Fresh Laffa.  The laffa is similar to flat bread or Naan but is lighter, fluffier, and pretty much the most delicious thing ever.  I have been craving Laffa bread since discovering it in Israel, and Zahav totally gets it right.  I’d come back to Zahav just to get this part of the meal.  Everything was so good.

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We also ordered a pitcher of their signature drink, Lemonnana which also reminded me of Israel.  The drink was refreshing and sweet- Jim Beam, Muddled Mint, Fresh Lemon, and Verbena.

After some serious decision making and friendly debate, we picked out our order.  Now, you wouldn’t normally have debate when ordering food, right?  Well this debate was over a very interesting item on the menu:  Grilled Duck Hearts.  Before you click away in disgust… remember I mentioned that I messed up and forgot to photograph the most interesting thing we ordered!  The Duck Hearts (prepared with Date Tehina, Crispy Onions, and Stone Fruit).  It doesn’t get more interesting than that.  Ricki convinced Mer and I to try them, and we finally gave in.  We did try them, but I honestly did not like them at all!  Our bravery was rewarded though, with several other amazing dishes that we had shared.  Try not to drool!

Crispy Haloumi
Dates, walnuts, apple

Fried Cauliflower
Labaneh with chive, dill, mint and garlic

Marinated Brussel Sprouts
Whipped feta, babaganoush, sumac

Beef Cheek Pastilla
Braised greens, coffee

Kofte
Ground beef and lamb, cumin, peppers, carrots

Hanger Steak
Eggplant two ways, sesame, pine nuts

Merguez
Ground lamb, figs, shallots, cilantro

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Everything was amazing.  I especially enjoyed the Haloumi and will now be on the lookout for this cheese at other restaurants too.  

As if all of these dishes weren’t enough (We were STUFFED at this point), we each got to pick a dessert.  Ricki, who has been to Zahav several times, had been absolutely raving about the Halvah Mousse, so we ordered that along with the Konafi and Rugelach.  All three were outstanding.  Totally worth the calories, and worth the trip… for sure.  And Ricki was right, the Halvah Mousse was the star. 

Halvah Mousse
Chickpea praline, berries

Konafi
Ricotta, apples, labaneh ice cream

Rugelach
Hazelnut praline, date puree

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I was right about something too…  I am now having some serious cravings for Zahav.  I knew this would happen!  

Zahav actually offers the same type of menu on a daily basis, for $39pp… so you can do this too even though it’s not restaurant week!  Hint, hint… boyfriend.

Modo Mio, Philadelphia (PART 2!)

I rarely have enough time to write a post about a restaurant shortly after we’ve dined there.  Life gets in the way, I forget, or I simply just have too many fabulous recipes to share with you to write about a restaurant.  Let’s face it, one of the most amazing meals I’ve had in Philly was two months ago at the famous Zahav with my girlfriends (an Israeli FEAST in which I tried DUCK HEARTS!!) and has yet to make it on the blog.  I’m not the best with timeliness here.

Now that you know this, maybe you’ll understand just how good my meal was this past weekend at Modo Mio.  Sound familiar to you?  It should, since just a month and a half ago I raved and raved about it while bragging about how wonderful my boyfriend Dave was for taking me there.  You heard me:  I am writing about a restaurant I went to just a few days ago… and for the SECOND time.  This place just deserves that kind of attention.

Just a recap:  Modo Mio is an adorable little Northern Italian BYOB in the Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia.  They offer a “Turista” menu every night, where you can order an Antipasti, a Pasta, a Secondi, and a Dessert, for $35/pp.  

When I found out a few days prior that our favorite foodie friend Donny was coming to visit, I knew I had to pick a good place for dinner.  We caught a late reservation and also reeled in our friends (another) Dave & Betsy (actually, her and I are both Elizabeth!  Weird!).

Dave, Donny, (my) Dave and I were all on the same trip to Israel and have remained good friends since, trying out some seriously awesome restaurants along the way.  Modo Mio only seemed appropriate to share with this hungry crew.

The thing that made me most excited about this dinner (other than the fact that we had our very own big round table) was that everyone wanted to do the “Turista” tasting option… and wanted to SHARE.  This meant we basically get to try the entire menu with only the exception of maybe six items.  OMGOMGOMG!  Our server explained that the menu had just changed, as it does every 4-6 weeks, left us with some delicious bread and porcini flavored oil, and we got down to work.

I think this was the most impressive menu decision making ever, we finished in five minutes… checking off which dishes we wanted directly on the menu.  Talk about efficiency!  (oh, also confirmed with our server that we’re the first people to do this.  Love.) We decided to pay an extra $5 for the whole fish of the day & for the Broccoli Rabe side.  After ordering 5 of each course… we sat back… drank some wine… and got ready for a feast of bites (literally).  Get ready for your tummy to grumble… here we go!

Antipasti

Cozze:  Mussels, Red & Spicy

Cozze: Mussels, Red & Spicy

We nearly fought over the broth from the mussels... wow!

We nearly fought over the broth from the mussels… wow!

Polpo:  Grilled Ocopus, Spicy Chick Peas, Raisins, Almonds, Lemon, Arugula

Polpo: Grilled Ocopus, Spicy Chick Peas, Raisins, Almonds, Lemon, Arugula

Carpaccio:  House-Cured Pork Loin, Crispy Gorgonzola, Cherry Fennel Compote

Carpaccio: House-Cured Pork Loin, Crispy Gorgonzola, Cherry Fennel Compote

Carciofo al Mattone:  Crispy Artichoke, Black Olive, Mint, Goat Cheese, Rosemary Honey, Pangrattato

Carciofo al Mattone: Crispy Artichoke, Black Olive, Mint, Goat Cheese, Rosemary Honey, Pangrattato

N'duja:  Calabrese Sausage, White Bean Pancake, Fried Egg, Honeyed Mushrooms

N’duja: Calabrese Sausage, White Bean Pancake, Fried Egg, Honeyed Mushrooms

Pasta

Vincis Grassi:  Rich festival Lasagne, Meat Ragu, Porcini, Besciamella, Fresh Pasta Sheets

Vincis Grassi: Rich festival Lasagne, Meat Ragu, Porcini, Besciamella, Fresh Pasta Sheets

Agnolotti:  Mascarpone & Artichoke Stuffed Ravioli, Almond Butter

Agnolotti: Mascarpone & Artichoke Stuffed Ravioli, Almond Butter

Gnocchi:  Potato Dumplings, Speck, Gorganzola, Spring Peas & Cream

Gnocchi: Potato Dumplings, Speck, Gorganzola, Spring Peas & Cream

Special Pasta: Ziti w/ Oxtail Ragu

Special Pasta: Ziti w/ Oxtail Ragu

Bucatini Amatriciana:  Thick, hollow Spaghetti, Pancetta, Spicy Plum Tomato, Pecorino Romano

Bucatini Amatriciana: Thick, hollow Spaghetti, Pancetta, Spicy Plum Tomato, Pecorino Romano

Secondi

Melanzana Ripiena:  Tomato Braised Stuffed Eggplant, Molise Style, Mint, House-Made Ricotta

Melanzana Ripiena: Tomato Braised Stuffed Eggplant, Molise Style, Mint, House-Made Ricotta

Trota:  Prosciutto-Wrapped Brook Trout, Porcini, Strawberry, and Basil Salad

Trota: Prosciutto-Wrapped Brook Trout, Porcini, Strawberry, and Basil Salad

Pesce Arrosto: Whole Roasted Branzino

Pesce Arrosto: Whole Roasted Branzino

Guance: Veek Cheek "Chef's Choice, trust him" (yes this is directly from the menu)

Guance: Veek Cheek “Chef’s Choice, trust him” (yes this is directly from the menu)

Agnello:  Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chop, Goat Feta, Date Gremolata, Dandelion, Hard Cooked Egg

Agnello: Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chop, Goat Feta, Date Gremolata, Dandelion, Hard Cooked Egg

Our Side & Desserts

Broccoli: Bitter Broccoli, Pepperoncino, Garlic, Lemon, White Beans

Broccoli: Bitter Broccoli, Pepperoncino, Garlic, Lemon, White Beans

(clockwise) Rosemary-Olive Oil Cake, Apple Blondie w/ Vanilla Bean Semi Fredo, Tiramisu

(clockwise) Rosemary-Olive Oil Cake, Apple Blondie w/ Vanilla Bean Semi Fredo, Tiramisu

Flourless Chocolate Cake & Basil Panna Cotta

Flourless Chocolate Cake & Basil Panna Cotta

As if these gorgeous pictures don’t say enough as it is… let me tell you, this was such an outstanding meal.  The five of us “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed with literally every bite we took.  Each dish was better than the last and we loved everything we tried.  

If you live in the Philly area and haven’t tried Modo Mio yet… pick up the phone and make a reservation… what are you waiting for?!

Betsy & I before dinner

Betsy & I before dinner

Han Dynasty, 20-Course Tasting

For those of you living in or around Philadelphia, you HAVE to try Han Dynasty.  For those of you not near Philly, i apologize in advance because you’re about to be VERY jealous!

Han Dynasty is a small Chinese restaurant in Old City Philadephia (there are a few other locations now, including University City & Manayunk!) that on the first Monday of every Month does a TWENTY-COURSE tasting.  Yes.  You did hear me right.  TWENTY COURSES.  Holy hell!

I have actually done this once before with my friend Ricki (I ate my meal next to her friend from med school who happened to be a Prince from the middle east… I had no clue) and I could not wait to come back.  My friends Mer & Mike (from Moho Creative, remember?) are huge fans of Han Dynasty and helped me put together a nice group of people to do the tasting for July.

Here’s how it works:  You get 20 dishes, for $25 cash.  Each of them come out at different times onto the middle of a lazy susan and everyone takes a few bites of each.  Han Dynasty is known for their Dan Dan Noodles & of course their SPICY food.  Each dish has a spice-rating from 1-10.  Everything is cooked in chili oil.  HOT!

Chicken in Chili Oil… this one was served cold. Nice simple start but spicy!

This one was Beef with Tripe. I tried the tripe the first time I did this… and did not want to try it again! But everyone else did!

Here, we have Green Bean Noodles in Chili Oil, Cucumber in Chili Oil, and Cold Sesame Noodles. The Cucumber is awesome, it is a nice break from the super spicy stuff… and the sesame noodles are DELISH.

The famous Dan Dan Noodles. MMM

Dumplings in Chili Oil

Won Tons in Chili Oil

some kind of spicy chicken dish… I missed the name of this one! Bad food blogger, bad!

Tofu with Peppercorns

Pork w/ Garlic Sauce

Cumin Lamb… YUM!

Twice-Baked Fish… i really liked this

Chicken… with a million peppers (named by me!)

Pork w/ Hot Sauce

Dessert- Shrimp w/ Honey Walnuts… yummmmmmmmmmm

The Verdict:

This was definitely NOT as good as the first time I did the 20-course tasting at Han’s.  We only got 17 courses (okay, its still a ton but not 20?!) and the service was TERRIBLE.  The whole thing took almost 2.5 hours, if not that.  There were a few points in the meal where we waited at least 20 minutes between courses.  They were not very good about refilling our waters- very important considering the mass amounts of chili oil that we were consuming.
There were a few other strange encounters, one being Han yelling at a member of our table… the other being our waiter telling us tip was not included, then proceeding to count out the cash we gave him in front of us.  Weird.
With all of this being said… I think that this was a fluke though, the food at Han Dynasty is absolutely fantastic.  I highly recommend trying it out for a regular dinner first.  Mer and Mike have been here maybe six times in the short few months they’ve been living in Philly.  It’s that good.