warm pita with olive oil and za’atar
baba ganoush – creamy eggplant, green garlic, olive oil
tershi – pumpkin spread with crispy garlic and chili oil
ikra – paddlefish caviar spread with shallots
hummus – lamb ragú, crispy chickpeas
foie gras – rose tahini, carob molasses, toasted challah
crispy halloumi – kohlrabi, persimmon preserve, hazelnuts, carob molasses
milk and honey – labneh cheesecake, mixed nut granola, burnt honey ice cream
warm chocolate babka – poppy seeds and halva ice cream
apple upside-down cake – sweet potatoes, pistachios, sweet cream
Owned by Alon Shaya and a best new restaurant nominee in countless publications during 2015, Shaya sees the Chef departing Domenica to take on modern Israeli cuisine in an upscale, Magazine Street environment, reservations with less than 2-weeks notice almost an impossibility since the restaurant opened its doors.
Stylish and lengthy, a small hostess podium up front while a patio offers al fresco dining behind a stone oven turning out hot Pita Bread in back, it was just past the 4pm transition from lunch to dinner that a seat at the full-service counter reserved for walk-ins was sat down at, the bartender proving both friendly and efficient with good recommendations, though at times the length of the bar and number of drink orders made simple duties such as refilling water or clearing plates feel like a bit of a task.
Minimalist in its design with unnecessary music playing soft enough that it can thankfully be ignored, Shaya’s menu embraces small plates much like many Middle Eastern restaurants, some of them essentially just a few bites with others meant for sharing, a $15 “for the table” trio comprised of Babaganoush, Ikra and Garlicky Pumpkin all great for slathering on the pillowy charred Bread pockets, as was the complimentary Za’atar with toasty Sesame Seeds and the aromatics of Sumac.
One of those menus where everything sounds good, the best bet being to arrive with a group – or at least to come hungry – Hummus at Shaya is served traditionally with Tahini or topped in five other configurations, the version topped with Lamb Ragu and crisp Chickpeas highly recommended by the bartender-come-server and absolutely delicious whether eaten by itself or when scooped onto a second round of piping-hot Pita.
Not shying away from luxury ingredients or lofty prices, the tiny slice of Foie Gras certainly not worth $20 by way of its size, but making up for quantity with quality, the addition of Molasses to both it and crispy blocks of Cheese presented beneath ribbons of Kohlrabi was an inspired choice that saw both plates come across sweetened without being ‘sugary,’ the same to be said for a trio of $9 desserts from which the Upsidedown cake ate something like Sticky Toffee pudding while the Chocolate-swirled Babka was actually bitter at some points, the Labneh Cheesecake anything but traditional, and all the better for it as the creamy cylinder found balance in a quenelle of ice cream that tasted like Bit-o-Honey Candy atop a bed of crunchy Granola.