On Thursday, Lior Lev Sercarz, the founder of La Boite in New York City teamed up with Michael Solomonov to host a dinner at Zahav for spice enthusiasts and food lovers of all kinds. A couple drove down from Manhattan and a man flew all the way from Florida just for this special dinner, and they were definitely right to do so. The night started off in the intimate private room at the back of the restaurant. After drinks were served, both Michael Solomonov and Lior Lev Sercarz come out to greet us and introduce themselves, although there’s not a person in Philly who doesn’t know! Michael has been using La Boite’s exquisite spices in his restaurants as spices are a large part of Israeli cooking, adding depth and flavour to his Mediterranean dishes. If you’ve ever been to any of Solomonov’s restaurants, you know you will not find a bland thing on the menu.
The menu for the night showcased the spice blends I started off with the original tasting menu appetizer, but as a “reducetarian”, I switched over to a vegetarian version after seeing it was a possibility. The vegetarian versions were perfectly aligned with the meat versions, containing the same flavour profile and was incredibly well executed.
The course started off with this smoky charred monkfish cooked in a delicate juice with three celery and apple tortellinis. This silky yet refreshing filling in the tortellini paired very well with the flaky, crispy, yet tender monkfish fillet. It was small enough as a starter, just whetting the appetite, but substantial enough to satisfy on its own.
The next dish was a beautiful beef carpaccio with preserved lemon and crispy spiced cauliflower sprinkled with za’atar, the “OG spice”. The vegetarian course served Zahav’s famous crispy cauliflower with an herb-y tsaziki sauce. The creamy tsaziki was the perfect complement to the almost buttery crust of the cauliflower and the sweet black currants that decorated the dish.
The next dish was the lamb sweetbreads with broad beans and morel mushrooms. I didn’t get a picture of the dish but it was almost identical to the cremini mushroom version below, except that the mushrooms were pieces of meaty lamb. The morels gave an extremely flavorful umami to the dish, with its chewy, earthy taste and the cremini mushrooms were coated in ras el hanout, contrasting perfectly with the creamy dill broad beans.
The rib eye stuffed with lobster served with english peas and roasted carrots was served as the main dish. This luxurious and rich dish was definitely a hit. The vegetarian course offered a beautiful charred eggplant with a velvety tahini sauce that oozed over the sweet, cooked down eggplant. The peas and carrots remained the same as the rib eye dish, adding pops of sweetness in every bite. It was definitely one of the highlights of the night, I ate every single bit off my plate!
A tasting meal is not over until dessert! This dessert featured smoked cinnamon in a white chocolate cake served with a rich pistachio butter and a passionfruit custard and granita inside of a passionfruit shell. This unexpected combination surprised your tongue and heart with a new and addicting flavour. I couldn’t help but scrape up the last drops of passionfruit and pistachio butter. The moist cake was just sweet enough, with a delicate crumb. The granita lent a fresh element to the rich and creamy passionfruit custard and buttery pistachio paste. It was like a magical work of art, with each ingredient playing its part, balancing each other in perfect harmony.
As if one dessert wasn’t enough, the night ended on another sweet note with a glass of sahlab sprinkled with toasted almond crumbs and two chewy almond butter cookies. With some hot mint tea, it was the perfect wrap up of this incredible dinner. It was such an honor to be in the presence and to experience the magical explosion that occurs when two talented culinary genius’ come together.
Of course, no one left the dinner without a copy of The Spice Companion in their hands. This complete guide is a culinary encyclopedia of all the spices. It includes dish ideas made with each spice and is a must-have for anyone who loves food and/or loves to cook. Praised by Ina Garten, Yotam Ottolenghi, Dorie Greenspan, Eric Ripert, and Gail Simmons, this book is not something to miss. The photography included in the book are stunning and the writing is impeccable. Even the black and white design of the inner sleeve reveals the thought, love, and care put into the creation of this piece of art. A highly recommended read for every foodie, buy yours today.
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