When Michael Solomonov, Steve Cook and Andrew Henshaw were trying to come up with a name for their new Israeli grill restaurant — traditionally known as a shipudiya in Hebrew, meaning “skewer house” — they had endless options for Jews famously involved in the animal flesh business. They could have gone with Esau, who hunted wild game for his father, Isaac; they could have made use of the Kohanim, who ate the sacrificial offerings (they even salted it first); or Moses, of course, who instructed the Israelites to slaughter lambs, at God’s behest.
So who did they settle on? Why, Lazar Wolf, the butcher from “The Fiddler on the Roof,” of course.
Laser Wolf, as they decided to spell it, opened up its doors for the first time on Feb. 6. Located in Kensington, Laser Wolf is dinner-only, and will seat 90 alongside a 12-person bar, with an outdoor area, in the warmer months. It’s designed to have the feel of an evening at Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem, with all the “magnetic” energy of that market, Solomonov said.
“Steve and I just want to do what we love,” he continued. “What we love happens to be kebab stalls in Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, where, even in the middle of the night, people are feasting on kebabs and salatim. There are these crazy tables covered in bright, colorful tablecloths. We’re striving for the guest experience here to feel like the same hustle and bustle you would expect at the market in Jerusalem.”
For the design restaurant itself, CookNSolo turned again to Boxwood Architects, who they had previously tapped to create Abe Fisher and some Federal Donuts locations, in addition to Goldie and Dizengoff.
“We’ve worked with Boxwood Architects for our last few projects in Philadelphia, and we love what they do,” Cook said. “Mike and I simply share a memory or a feeling about what we hope to evoke in the space. Boxwood paints that picture for us.”
Solomonov and Cook had long wanted to open a restaurant in the style of Laser Wolf, even predating Zahav’s opening. The menu, Solomonov believes, will allow diners to “experience Israeli cuisine in the most traditional style.”
What will distinguish Laser Wolf from CookNSolo’s other Israeli ventures in the city — Zahav, Dizengoff, Goldie, K’Far and Merkaz — is the focus on the charcoal grill and the salatim.
Translated literally, salatim means “salads,” but it actually refers to a traditional Israeli course consisting of dips, spreads, salads and more small dishes, all served cold.
Among the salatim, Laser Wolf will sling out some dill and lentil tabbouleh, pumpkin chershi, braised fennel and kale baba ghanoush, alongside your basic pita, hummus and tehina.
Laser Wolf also boasts an extensive drinks menu, focusing on citrus-heavy cocktails alongside a rotating beer and wine list.
Off the grill, options will include chicken shishlik in a guava marinade and Romanian beef kebabs, alongside tuna in a harissa glaze. Henshaw specifically highlighted the “Palestinian-style” branzino for two, with ginger, garlic, Aleppo and dill seed.
“That blend of fresh flavors works so beautifully with the char from the grill,” Henshaw said.”
Henshaw, a Lehigh Valley native and a devotee of the Margate Dairy Bar, has never worked as an executive chef before, though he spent the last five years working in the kitchen at Zahav. He had also led the recipe-testing for the “Israeli Soul” cookbook put out by CookNSolo.
The challenge of his own kitchen is exciting for him, just as much as the potential rewards are.
“I just want to make people happy,” he said. “I want to see their eyes light up when their food comes to the table. Creating an experience for guests — this is why I do what I do.”
And if you can’t quite take Henshaw’s word for it, take Solomonov’s.
“I’ve never met anyone who knows their way around a grill better than he does,” he said.
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