Tag Archives: Israel

Shaya – Amazing Israeli food in New Orleans

We always love to get Cajun and Creole food when we are in New Orleans, but we are also impressed at how much international cuisine and fine dining is present in the city. On our latest trip, we were excited to learn about James Beard-winning chef Alon Shaya’s eponymous modern Israeli restaurant in the Garden District, Shaya (4213 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA).


The key feature of Shaya is the impressive wood-burning stove in the corner of the bright, airy restaurant. The stove was running at full tilt during lunch, and it was fun to watch the pita being pulled out of the oven and being brought right to the table. The menu at Shaya is vegetable-focused and that shines through the menu. For lunch one of the most popular items is the salatim – where you select from a variety of small plates to share (3 for $15 or 5 for $23). Salatim means “salad” and refers to the assortment of cold dishes that serve as a kind of appetizer for Israeli meals.


We were really excited to sample some salatim that we had never heard of: Ikra (whipped cream cheese, caviar and shallots), Lutenitsa (roasted pepper, eggplant, garlic and tomato) and the more familiar Labneh (yogurt with peppers and radishes) and Tabouleh (parsley and bulgar salad). Each of the salatim had a unique flavor profile, and we loved the lush, creamy flavors of the Labneh and Ikra, and the piquant peppers of the Lutenitsa (also popular in Balkan and Eastern European cuisines).


We had also heard great things about Shaya’s hummus, which comes in varieties from plain tahini ($9) to more exotic takes with curry, eggplant, or lamb ragu. We selected a variety with asparagus and crispy shallots, which was perfect for early spring. The hummus was creamy and rich and we absolutely could not get enough of the pita, which we sopped up every morsel of hummus with. Fortunately, you can get as many pita refills as you want.


Beyond the salatim there were soup and salads (including matzoh ball soup and a fresh cucumber salad), small plates (ranging from halloumi cheese to the ubiquitous avocado toast), and sandwiches like the classic Israeli staple, the sabich. For the rest of our lunch we selected L’s favorite: falafel ($12) and the lamb kofte ($15) along with the roasted Brussels sprouts. The kofte was shaped into more of a patty, and was topped with tomato jam, herbs, tahini, and served over a bed of white beans. It was like the best kebab you ever had and a burger had a baby, with a sprinkling of spice. The falafel was our favorite variety, crispy and bright green from the high herb content, and they were each clearly fried to order.


The grand finale was the chocolate Babka cake, served in a small cast-iron skillet. We are huge fans of babka, a sweet brioche loaf marbled with chocolate, and Shaya’s version was divine – and drenched in a caramel sauce (there now appears to be a cinnamon variety on the menu). Shaya reminded us a lot of Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia, another modern Israeli powerhouse, which is a good thing. However, the fresh pita really sent Shaya over the top. This place is the real deal! Alon Shaya is opening up 2 more restaurants, and we can’t wait to see what else he has in store.


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Zahav, a taste of modern Israel

israelWhen we are traveling, there is nothing we like more than checking out the top spots in all the towns we visit. We drove to New York this fall, and on the way we stopped in Philadelphia. And as we heard, the top place to go when in Philadelphia is Zahav (237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA). Zahav has gotten a lot of press recently for chef and co-owner Michael Solomonov’s innovative take on Israeli cuisine. It is notoriously hard  to get a reservation at Zahav, though if you are willing to eat at 5 pm (as we did at the last minute), you should have a little more luck.

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A Giant Jelly Donut / Sufganiyot Cake for Hanukkah

israelHanukkah starts tomorrow – so it’s about time to start prepping some holiday treats. One Hanukkah treat we detailed in years’ past was sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnut associated with Hanukkah. However this year we can do one better – how about a huge sufganiyot cake? Food 52 has an inspired recipe for the sweet Hanukkah treat that’s perfect for sharing with the whole family.

Sufganiyot cake by Food 52

Sufganiyot cake by Food 52

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Holiday Eats Around the World: Sufganiyot for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah in America is often associated with latkes, however, an equally delicious treat is popular for Hanukkah in Israel – Sufganiyot – a type of a jelly doughnut. There has long been a tradition of associating fried foods with Hanukkah due to the importance of oil to the holiday, and Sufganiyot is a mash-up of North African and European traditions. Here is a recipe for Sufganiyot, with a classic jelly filling – though you might find them with any manner of exotic fruit or cream fillings. For another twist, try these Sufganiyot-inspired cupcakes.


Sufganiyot for Hanukkah- by Avital Pinnick

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Portugal: Joshua’s Shoarma Grill

Joshua’s Shoarma Grill
Vasco de Gama Mall ( Various Locations in Lisbon)
Lisbon, Portugal

We finally made it up to the Parque das Nações in the North-East of Lisbon, home to the city’s superb Oceanarium (we highly recommend it). When approaching the Parque das Nações from the metro you will encounter the super-modern Vasco de Gama mall, which was appropriately decked out for the holidays. At the top of Vasco de Gama is a food court, with tapas, stir-fry, a Brazilian kilo restaurant and some Portuguese chains, including  Joshua’s Shoarma Grill. We actually read about this restaurant in our copy of Cozinhas do Mundo em Portugal (“World Cuisines in Portugal”), and we figured it would be a good stop on our quest for Middle Eastern food in the heart of bacalhau country. Joshua’s Shoarma Grill is a basic fast-food endeavor, with a selection of beef and chicken shewarma, falafel and some Mediterranean-inspired salads.

For about 7 euros apiece we each ordered a combo platter with a small drink and fries. True to type, M got the chicken pita and L got the falafel pita (we are creatures of habit). The funny thing about foreign fast food is that small fries and drink really does mean small (maybe 8 oz) – as opposed to an American “small soda” that is really 24 ounces. Very interesting. L enjoyed the falafel, though you can tell that they were not perhaps freshly cooked. M though his sandwich was way too greasy, unfortunately. The fries were a little limp and sad. A redeeming grace was the garlic sauce. Like Ali Baba Kebab, one of our recent finds, Joshua’s is a good place for a quick Middle Eastern fix. Overall L liked the falafel at Joshua’s better, but M decided Ali Baba Kebab was a better pick for carnivores. If you are in the vicinity of the Parque das Nações, prices tend to be a little inflated, so Joshua’s is a great pick for bargain hunters.

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The cross-cultural Sabich

Cross-cultural food hybrids are some of our favorite eats – so we were very interested to learn about the Sabich in Saveur – an eggplant sandwich that is a product of cultural exchange between Israel and Iraq.


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Israeli Falafel in Paris: L’As Du Fallafel

L’As du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers
75004 Paris

One of the few repeat destinations we visited on this small trip to Paris was L’As du Fallafel. We remember being impressed with the falafel four years ago, so we were excited when our friends that lived in Paris suggested we visit there again. As you might guess, the specialties at L’As du Fallafel are falafel, shewarma and the like. Approaching the restaurant you know it must be good, because even at an odd time like 3 PM – it was completely full, with a line for both take-out and restaurant service. One famous celebrity fan is Lenny Kravitz – a fact of which the owners are very proud – and there are photos and quotes of Lenny Kravitz plastered over nearly every wall and also on the outside of the restaurant. You can see evidence of the popularity below, a huge line to get in, even at 3PM (note also the Wikipedia article).

However, the line is not for nothing, L’As really delivers. The specific type of falafel at L’As is Israeli, which happens to be one of our favorite types, and one we have tried extensively on all of our travels and back in Chicago. Each falafel sandwich (€7.50) came with grilled eggplant (delicious), cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and was doused in tahini sauce. As you can see below – this was no paltry sandwich. Though we had to wait for over ½ hour to simply sit in the restaurant – our food came out lightening-quick. The falafel were fresh and perfectly spiced, and arrived piping hot. We can’t imagine how many falafel they turn out in a week – at least several thousand, we’d bet. The crispy fries were nothing to scoff at either and the chicken shewarma (€9.50) was freshly carved off of the spit. We think perhaps that L’As du Falafel has grown in popularity since we were there last- we do not remember nearly as big of a crowd – maybe it is all of the Lenny Kravitz fans swamping the place? If you are craving some good, relatively cheap falafel in Paris, this place is certainly your best bet.

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Israel: Mekupelet

Thank goodness for the internet. I recently was the recipient of an assortment of snack-sized Israeli chocolate bars, and none of them, and I mean none had any sort of roman letters. Since I don’t read any Hebrew, and I was curious as to what type of log-like confection I was eating, I turned to Google. All I typed into Google was “Israeli candy” “chocolate” and “log” – but somehow I still got directed to the right place! The candy I had was Mekupelet, a famous Israeli candy similar to the Cadbury Flake bar – milk chocolate specifically extruded in a flaky form to look like a log. Markos Kirsch attempted to compare the two, but they were pretty much running neck and neck, with no clear winner.

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