• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

New York’s trendiest restaurant is chef Michael Solomonov’s most Israeli establishment to date

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Sep 2, 2022

(New York Jewish Week) – It’s 95 degrees and an extremely humid summer evening on the rooftop of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the open kitchen of the hip new restaurant Laser Wolf looks even warmer than hot Wythe Avenue. below.

According to chef Michael Solomonov, co-owner of the bustling establishment, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be at an Israeli shipudiya, or skewer house, where kebab-style meats are cooked over charcoal grills. .

“It’s hot as shit and there’s smoke everywhere,” Solomonov, 44, told New York Jewish Week, describing a typical shipudiya. “It looks a lot like a restaurant in Tel Aviv.”

Yes, Laser Wolf – named after Lazar Wolf, the butcher shtetl from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” – is located in possibly Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhood, atop a $100 million hotel complex. dollars opened in 2019. But it’s also perhaps the most Israeli thing the famed restaurateur has ever done.

“There are some great little restaurants like this – with this concept – and that was really the catalyst to open an Israeli restaurant [establishment like this] in the United States,” Solomonov told our group of three, seated at a table overlooking the East River and the Lower East Side skyline in the distance.

Laser Wolf, located atop the Hoxton in Williamsburg, offers views of the Manhattan skyline. (Caleb Guedes-Reed)

“Meat on a stick over embers blasts anything you can do,” he added.

This clearly rings true for restaurateurs, as after opening in May, Laser Wolf quickly became the ‘restaurant of the summer’. (During the restaurant’s first few weeks, reservations reportedly ran out within minutes, according to Brooklyn Magazine.) Laser Wolf was included on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of “World’s Best New Restaurants,” and the New York Times named it one of America’s most “exciting” restaurants.

The rooftop restaurant is certainly not Solomonov’s first big hit in the culinary world. Along with his business partner Steve Cook, he owns a host of famous restaurants in Philadelphia, including Zahav – which is credited with helping start an “Israeli food revolution in the United States”, winning the James Beard award for best restaurant in 2019 – and Abe Fisher, known for his contemporary take on Old World Jewish cuisine.

Solomonov and Cook have also written two cookbooks on Israeli cuisine: “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” which won the James Beard Book of the Year Award, and “Israeli Soul: Easy, essential, delicious”.

But for Solomonov — who was born in Israel and moved to Pittsburgh when he was 3 — Laser Wolf, his first outpost in Brooklyn, represents a return to something more basic, more authentically Israeli.

“We felt like we had to make good food to be a celebrity chef, but the only thing we would eat was this Israeli [skewer] experience,” he said. “It’s the utilitarian way of eating.”

Colorful bowls filled with salatim surround fresh hummus. (Caleb Guedes-Reed)

Like a shipudiya in Israel, meals at Laser Wolf are served family-style and include an array of starters as well as desserts. Dishes such as spicy shawarma cauliflower ($45), brisket kebab ($48) and tuna shishlik ($54) start with smooth whips of hot, fresh hummus and pita, which are brought to the table by hipster waiters in floral-print buttonholes and bright colors. rimless sunglasses. Hummus sits at the center of a constellation of shiny silver bowls containing colorful vegetable salatim, or Israeli salads, such as pickled green tomatoes with cucumber and harissa, Israeli pickles and pineapple with celery .

While the charcoal-grilled skewers are the main attraction, Solomonov said Laser Wolf also aims to highlight the diversity of Israeli flavors, which draw inspiration from the diverse lands and cultures Jews have inhabited over the centuries. . He pointed to an eggplant salad slathered in dill and roasted tomatoes and described how the dish, amba-spiced eggplant, is dusted with mango powder. “It’s Iraqi,” he explained. Meanwhile, schug, he said, a deep green hot sauce, originated in Yemen, while matbucha, a tomato and pepper salad, originated in Morocco.

“If you were in Israel 20 years ago and you asked an Israeli what the best Israeli restaurant was, he would not have had an answer, because there are Iraqis, Palestinians, Ashkenazim, and you have all the street food to match,” he said. . “But I feel like the idea of ​​Israeli cuisine takes all those things. You have to take all those different components and synthesize them.

Mike Solomonov.

Solomonov checks in on a table. (Colby Kingston)

In a nod to New York’s very un-Mediterranean climate, the Laser Wolf’s open-air concept is also designed to take on the winters. There is heating on the roof, a spokesperson said, and the space can be insulated from the elements as needed.

For now, however, diners are still soaking up the summer vibes. “People love it,” Solomonov said, raising his voice slightly so he could be heard over the growing din of our guests, which included groups of men in suits and 30-somethings on dates.

“There’s so much going on,” he added. “It’s loud and you share and yell at your dining partner with your mouth full. It’s a very Israeli experience.

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