In Fiddler on the Roof, Lazar Wolf was into Tzeitel.
In Philadelphia, we’re into Laser Wolf.
Named for the wealthy butcher in Fiddler, the newest Israeli eatery from James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov and partner Steve Cook is serving up charcoal-grilled meats and a rotating menu of salatim - the staple salads of Israel and the Middle East - in their shipudia, Hebrew for a restaurant which serves meat cooked on skewers.
The restaurant, which opened this week in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, is the eighth restaurant concept from Solomonov and Cook’s CooknSolo group. The pair’s “Israeli village”, as Solomonov has called it, includes the iconic Zahav, hip Federal Donuts, and pitaria Merkaz, which opened in 2019. Andrew Henshaw, Zahav’s longtime chef de cuisine, is overseeing Laser Wolf’s menu.
“This concept actually preceded Zahav,” Cook said. “Back then, we couldn’t have pulled something like this off. I was actually struck the most when we were in Israel for our research trip for our most recent book, Israeli Soul. We ate at so many different shipudiyas. Each one was ultimately all about salads and charcoal, but all were unique with their execution. I remember Mike and I were both so struck by that. That moment was when we felt it was finally the right time to open our own shipudiya in Philly.”
Solomonov agreed. “Steve and I wanted to open a shipudiya a long time ago, even before Zahav. Laser Wolf feels like we’re coming full circle. We finally have the confidence to execute such a stripped down concept,” he said.
Meat items at Laser Wolf include Romanian beef kebab, lamb merguez, and chicken shashlik; salatim, served with hummus and pita, might include dill and lentil tabbouleh; the Lybian staple pumpkin chershi; and “not-so-traditional” kale babaganoush.
Drinks focus on citrus-forward cocktails jazzed with Israeli flavors, like the “Salty Lion” with gin, arak, grapefruit, mint and salt, or a “Passion Fruit Cooler” with passion fruit, lime, fresh orange juice and cilantro. Israeli vintages will highlight the wine list.
It’s a good year for lovers of salatim; in June, Breads Bakery owner Gadi Peleg opened Lamalo in New York, where traditional and remixed salatim drive the menu.
For now, Laser Wolf will serve dinner only. Bonus points for the restaurant: In its logo, which features a vulpine head, “Laser Wolf” is rendered in Hebrew characters.