At his groundbreaking Zahav, chef Michael Somonov is diving deep into Israeli cuisine, developing deep flavors, and demanding quiet contemplation of what he’s able to accomplish. He takes a slightly different tack at Abe Fisher, his ode to Jewish-American cuisine, more inspired by Eastern European Jewish staples than Israeli. It’s fun, silly, and most importantly, really tasty.
His menu is divided into four sections, three of which are small plates: One through three increase in price from $11 to $15 each, and “For the Table” is a selection of two larger-format entrées.
Gribenes — crispy chicken skin — are doused in buffalo sauce and served on lettuce wraps with celery and Roquefort emulsion. Chopped liver is still made with the usual onion-heavy recipe, but it has the consistency of a fine mousse and is served with dainty thick slices of homemade rye bread and pastrami-onion jam. Bite-size matzoh balls are served deep fried in a gratin dish, topped with tomato sauce, melted pecorino, and plenty of dill. Individual roccoli and Cheddar kugels are dusted with everything bagel breadcrumbs. Kreplach are filled with corn and served with chanterelle mushrooms, kale, and black truffle. A Reuben is made with corned pork belly and pickled green tomatoes. A potato latke is topped with beef tartare. “Health salad” and Manischewitz even make appearances; the former atop a veal schnitzel taco and the latter as the base of a sauce for hanger steak. Solomonov is also serving what might be the world’s most playful take on foie gras torchon: with peanut butter, jelly, and a cinnamon raisin bagel.
As for those family-style entrées, we’ll just let the menu descriptions speak for themselves: Hungarian duck: Chinatown style with kishke, steamed buns, schmaltz rice, and garnishes; and Montreal short ribs: whole smoked short rib plate with housemade rye bread and garnishes. Does this even count as “fusion” anymore?
When a James Beard Award winner gets his hands on old Jewish recipes, the outcome is clearly going to be unexpected. And not only that: The menu changes regularly, so you never know what he’ll think of next.