Israeli food lovers have waited for this year for a long time — the country’s cuisine is finally having its moment in the sun. In the United States, Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov has become the cuisine’s unofficial ambassador.
Answering the question: “What is Israeli cuisine?” is just about impossible. The young country’s culinary identity is still being formed both in Israel and abroad by chefs and food writers like Solomonov, Janna Gur, Naama Shefi and Einat Admony. The best-selling cookbook “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi transformed Israeli food from a niche topic to one of 2013’s major culinary trends.
For Solomonov, 35, this year has been in the making since 2008, when he opened the acclaimed upscale Israeli restaurant Zahav in Center City, Philadelphia. This fall, he took a group of American chefs to Israel to introduce them to the country’s food and to prepare a dinner in honor of his brother David, who was killed while serving in the IDF. Solomonov also filmed a two-hour special on Israeli food for PBS and announced plans to open a hummus spot called Dizengoff in Philadelphia next spring.
When asked to explain Israeli cuisine through a single meal, Solomonov described an extraordinary lunch of Romanian, Arab and Persian dishes.
“That’s how you explain [Israeli food], so many different things happening at once in one place… You see history happening not only with culture, but also with food in front of your eyes, and it’s a beautiful thing. I think it’s pretty unique.”