The Society of Gluttony’s Magical Mystery Meat Tour of Aught-Nine brought us to Old City’s Zahav, where another massive roasted animal was put before us. This time, the barnyard treat was a lamb–lamb shoulder to be more anatomically exact. Having already devoured a roasted pig at Amada, widely considered one of Philly’s best restaurants, we now found ourselves in front of a pile of lamb deltoids at Zahav. This Israeli restaurant was recently named the city’s best restaurant by Philadelphia Magazine, the region’s foremost authority on Jerry Blavat, botox injections, and cuisine (not necessarily in that order). Like Amada, we felt a little rough around the edges for the scene, but the allure of charred flesh gets us to do crazy things–like wear deodorant.
We had scheduled the affair as part of the restaurant’s Mesibah dinner, the contents of which are outlined here:
Now, I don’t speak Hebrew, but after having the Mesibah, I’m fairly certain that it translates into “a metric shit-ton of food.” Thankfully, the food was awesome. Because of the size of our party (10), our friendly waiter told us that he would choose the salatim and mezze (salads and small plates, respectively) based on what were the most popular dishes.
Thankfully, one of the SoG’s most devout members, Kyle, had found something on the web site called The Jerusalem Grill.
The Jerusalem Grill. The name tempted us. Sounded exotic. Vaguely dangerous. Like an interrogation technique of the Israeli Army.
The description further enticed us: “Mixed offal (all the good stuff), charred sweet onion.”
This was in the SoG wheelhouse. We specifically requested it, with no real clue of what those mystery meats may be.
In the meantime, we mowed through the salatim course, which was a nice variety of Middle Eastern-influenced dishes like baba ganoush, tahini and other small dishes filled with chick peas, roasted peppers, and eggplant. They were unique and nearly uniformly delicious.
Then, the Jeruselum Grill arrived.
Our server was eloquent in his description of contents of the plate, which I have roughly broken out below:
Now, our last foray into animal testicles went horribly afoul, but we were willing to give it a go again. And these duck testicles were not only shockingly large–though maybe we got the mallard equivalent of Peter North–but they were actually damn tasty, albeit with an odd, spongy texture. I personally thought the duck’s heart was the best thing on the plate, as they were meaty, gamey and packed with flavor, but the tender rabbit kidneys also drew raves with a rich, smokey taste.
Of course, no SoG recap is complete without a pic of Franck eagerly throwing testicles into his mouth:
Among our other mezze courses were an amazing fried haloumi cheese, which is something I would gladly eat every day, and a very tasty chopped liver, which made a stong case to have the phrase “what am I, chopped liver” permanently stricken from the lexicon:
But the main draw of the meal was the lamb shoulder (and the jokes associated with SoG member Joe Beal’s notoriously sculpted deltoids). Two full plates arrived with the main dish, featuring glistening hunks of roasted lamb, studded with pommengrantes and chick peas:
This amazingly tender cut of meat easily fell of the bone, requiring little more than a fork to distribute it to the ravenous table of carnivores. Within a few tastes, we discovered the optimal way to eat it: a bit of the meat, a few flecks of the charred ends, some coagulated fat (lamb mayonnaise as Kyle called it) and a few spoonfuls of gravy. This carefully considered equation made for an insanely good bite of food.
The lamb was really good, though it was not quite as transcendent as the roasted suckling pig at Amada. However, the other dishes at Zahav really made this dinner something special. We were even treated to a selection of desserts, an SoG first. And honestly, the desserts were one of the real high points. I would go into more detail, but vast amounts of wine were beginning to take hold. There was something in the creme brulee category, something chocolatey, and a few other things. My foggy recollections were justified when the bill arrived:
Indeed, it was a pricey night, but really an amazing selection of food that we don’t usually encounter. Near the end of our meal, chef Michael Solomonov stopped by our table, and he was pretty enthused that we enjoyed the Jeruselum Grill so much, speaking about the other organ meats that sometimes grace the dish. It was our kind of conversation; our kind of people.
We left stuffed, drunk and happy–to the point where one of our more typically camera-shy members felt the need to enjoy a seat in the grass outside the building.
It can be difficult to compliment a restaurant with words sometimes, but I think this photo conveys our utter satisfaction with Zahav. Or maybe he was just ‘faced. Regardless, it was a great night.