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PHL

Review

Max Grudzinski

Zahav

$$$$
Written by
Max Grudzinski

If we asked you what you’re doing for dinner two months from now, you’d probably wonder how we got your email address and block us indefinitely. You’d also probably have no idea because, unless you’re planning a vacation or a particularly elaborate birthday party, you likely don’t make plans two months in advance.

If you’re interested in eating at Zahav at any point in your life, you’re going to have to change that. And you really should, because even after two months of drawing sharpie X’s on your calendar, you’ll find that the food is so good you may consider making a protest sign when you’re asked to leave at the end of the night.

Max Grudzinski

The Israeli restaurant in Society Hill has been around for more than a decade at this point, and even as other top restaurants in the city become easier to get into, Zahav is still almost impossible to get a reservation at unless you treat it like a Dave Matthews Band concert in 2009 and book it as soon as the reservations come out online. And it’s not because they’re offering any kind of unique dining experience or doing anything special with the space - it’s somewhat dated looking, and they strangely blast club bangers at random intervals - it’s because the food is a constant stream of things that keep outdoing each other. Eating here is like being dropped in a room with a herd of puppies who want your attention and keep seeing who can jump higher and bark louder. Oh, you’re enjoying your perfectly warm and sweet haloumi? But look! Over here! There’s a creamy hummus topped with spicy broccolini that you haven’t finished yet, and some crispy branzino with tzatziki that someone else might eat if you don’t get to it first.

Max Grudzinski

Everything here comes in small portions, which means you can and should try plenty. Whether you do the prix fixe menu (relatively reasonable at $48) or a la carte, the salatim (a selection of six vegetable salads that changes daily) and hummus are where you want to start. From there, you can pretty much close your eyes and point to the menu. It’s all well-executed and delicious, and there will probably be a point in the meal where you’ll wonder if eating here counts as actually having taken a trip to Israel (unfortunately, the sounds of Sandstorm will bring you back to Philly). There’s fried cauliflower sitting in a heap of labne, a tuna tartare with more flavor than any we’ve had before, and hanger steak served on a skewer with a side of harissa that we would grow a beard for just to find flecks of it there weeks later.

What you really need to know about Zahav is that, even given all of the hype this place has worked up over the years, you will always leave feeling like the two-month wait was worth it. And it should be, because you just waited two months for a reservation.

Food Rundown

Salatim

A selection of six vegetable salads, this changes frequently. In our experience, though, it’s all great. Definitely order some laffa bread with this for dipping if you don’t get the hummus (which you should).

Hummus

Zahav is known for its hummus, and we agree that it’s pretty lovely. You can pick between the classic tehina version, the tehina topped with whatever their daily topping is, and Turkish style - made with butter and garlic. It also comes with some grilled laffa bread that is bigger than the plate it comes on. It’s perfect.

Fried Cauliflower

The menu at Zahav changes frequently, and the fried cauliflower dish is the only one that’s stayed the same since they’ve been in business. It comes on top of labneh, and is a perfect starter for the table.

Squash Kataifi Nests

The idea of eating a nest for dinner is an interesting one. Mostly because when we think about nests we think about branches that hold baby birds from falling to their deaths. These ones, however, are made from fried squash, and while they do kind of look like a bird’s nest, they taste (presumably) much better.

Tunisian Tuna Tartare

Simply done, with lemon, harissa and olives. It’s good, you’ll enjoy it, the end.

Haloumi In Brik

This is everything we’ve ever wanted cheese to be. A little sweet (thanks to the apples), a little savory, and served warm. If this isn’t on your table, we’re disappointed in you.

Grilled Duck Hearts

People talk about these a lot. Our thought is that it’s probably to subliminally brag to their friends that they ate a duck heart and are therefore more cultured than everyone else. Not to say these aren’t good, but they’re not the best thing on the menu. Get them if you’re intrigued, but not a must-order.

Hanger Steak

One of our favorite things here is the portion size. It’s like they know you’re going to want to eat a lot, so they make that a whole lot easier on your body by making even the “entree” dishes appetizer-sized. We appreciate this a lot, because by no means to we want to eat a full steak after having already eaten a tub of hummus and at least five other appetizers. But we really do love this steak, which comes on a skewer with a plop of harissa sauce next to it and not much else.

Branzino

A perfectly cooked piece of fish, with some tzatziki, Asian pear, and cucumber. It’s only about four bites of food, so make sure you’re not multitasking while eating. The stakes are just too high.

Chocolate Kanafi

Get this. Get it every time. Even if you’ve been here before and want to try something new. The chocolate konafi is rich and warm, and the labneh ice cream on top takes it to the next level.

Concord Grape Sorbet

LIke we said, get the chocolate konafi.

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