New York is next on the menu for a celebrity Israeli chef


Whole roasted cauliflower as interpreted by Eyal Shani, an Israeli celebrity chef, is about to make its debut in New York. The chef’s signature dish will be on the menu at a branch of Miznon, his global group of casual counter-service restaurants, opening at Chelsea Market in a couple of weeks.

The burnished head of cauliflower, first boiled in salt water that’s “always moving, like the sea,” as the chef put it, then gently massaged with olive oil and roasted, becomes a meltingly tender, pull-apart dish. Shani claims to have been the first to create it after noting a roasted head of cauliflower at the home of Shahar Segal, a filmmaker and advertising executive who is his partner at Miznon.

Whether or not he was first, whole cauliflower and cauliflower steaks have become popular around the world. And to hear this 59-year-old chef with impressively sculpted hair tell it, the cauliflower is only one of his achievements, including, as he claims, inventing “the first carpaccio in the world made from fish.” He also boasts about his tomato sashimi. “The world started copying me, and nobody gave me credit,” he said.

A self-taught chef who started his career in Jerusalem in 1989 with the high-end seafood restaurant Ocean, Shani became known for his bouillabaisse. “It was the best bouillabaisse because it was straight out of Julia Child’s book,” he said.

He eventually closed Ocean and spent several years consulting, catering and being a television celebrity chef.

With Segal, he opened Miznon in Tel Aviv in 2011. It now has a dozen locations, in Tel Aviv; Paris; Vienna; Melbourne, Australia; and now New York. He saw it as a way to bring his food to a younger, more budget-minded audience.

“Young people did not come to my other restaurants because they couldn’t afford it,” he said.

“I decided to give them street food, pita, with a difference, not with the usual shawarma and falafel but with fillings like shrimp in cream sauce and seared rib-eye,” he said. Traditional garnishes like onion slices, pickles and tahini sauce are added.

In New York, Miznon, whose partners include Moish Ziv, an owner of Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, is finished in wood and tile and has a long counter in front of an open kitchen. There’s seating at tables in the restaurant and outside in the concourse, and on stadium-style benches. There will be no waiter service, but runners will bring orders to those who opt to eat in.

The menu, in addition to the cauliflower, includes “Run Over Potato,” a baked potato flattened like a carpaccio using a meat pounder and served with sour cream and herbs. But the focus is the slightly puffy, freshly baked, tender pitas with inventive fillings, including lobster with crème fraîche, ratatouille and egg, a Reuben pita and a moussaka pita.

“Pita is the most genius bread in the world,” he said.

And he did not claim to have invented it.

Miznon, Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave. (15th Street), 212-463-9600, miznonnyc.com.


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