Just a preface: there is no drunken debauchery in this story, so if you’re here for embarrassing tales of my co-workers, get out while the gettin’s good.
There will be enough embarrassing Lance stories to go around, though.
Is there an event more anticipated each year than the office holiday party, a time when you can let down your hair a bit with the people you spend more waking time around than anyone else? Or an event as fraught with indecision and controversy? Where should you go for dinner? Will everybody have something to eat? How do you find that perfect place, while also taking advantage of the fact that you’re going on somebody else’s dime?
In years past, we’ve done everything from P.F. Chang’s (meh) to a mom ‘n’ pop Italian restaurant (please just refill my water glass, I beg of you!) While all had their merits (like deep-fried meatballs), there was this feeling that our office had to up the ante a little.
Enter: Zahav, one of the best-reviewed restaurants in the city, home to James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov. People have been raving about it since it opened: it’s one of only four restaurants in the city with the highest rating from local critic, and my former prof, Craig LaBan (Craiggy, the baguettes! Hurry up!).
I knew I’d never have another chance to go to this restaurant, not due so much to the cost as to the menu: it’s Israeli-inspired, and anything close to resembling Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food is an immediate non-starter for Lance. Therefore, I had to enjoy this rare opportunity.
The office party was a plus-one, and since I like to parade Lance around like a trophy spouse (I mean, seriously, have you looked at him? He’s smokin’), he was required to attend. The morning of, as Lance was driving me to the train, he asked me to look up the menu to the restaurant. He was concerned that there wouldn’t be much for him to eat, since nothing was fried or had “chicken fingers” in the name.
As I was going through the menu items, Lance’s face contorted into a progressively scary, disgusted Medusa-like monster.
“DUCK HEARTS?” he screeched. “GRILLED LAMB TONGUE??”
“Oh come on,” I pleaded. “Keep an open mind. Oh hey, look: grilled baby potatoes!” If anything, Lance likes a good starch.
“WHAT’S IN THEM?” he demanded.
“Err…” I stammered, looking at the ingredients. “Ground lamb and pine nuts…”
“ME ANGRY!!!!” he bellowed, and tossed me out of the car.
Yeah. Lance was definitely not excited. He’s a terribly picky eater (if there’s something on his plate that isn’t a shade of brown, then it’s a good day), and has a penchant for chain restaurants. If it’s even vaguely ethnic, he’s not touching it with a ten-foot pole, unless it’s been through the Americanization filter on Foodstagram.
Lance’s retort to all this was, “Well, what the heck are you going to eat? It’s not like you would enjoy any of this stuff!”
Well, that’s sorta true. I would not go near an animal tongue and nearly collapsed at the sight of a pig’s-face-as-delicacy when we went to another hoity-toity restaurant a few years ago. Ick.
BUT, on the flip-side of that, I was willing and eager to expand my horizons a little bit and try some food that was supposedly delicious. I am not wild about Middle Eastern food in general, but I am game for something new and different. And something that I wasn’t paying for.
And it was really good. From the salatim, a selection of eight mini-salads, to the housemade laffa bread and hummus-tehina, to the epic lamb shoulder with fried pilaf and the “messy butt” chicken (a name we obviously misheard but never figured out what it was actually called)–it was all expertly created and, to me, very flavorful and delicious. Not usually my cup of tea, but it was good.
Lance, aside from a bite or two of inoffensive dessert, didn’t eat anything.
“All these smells are going to make me barf,” he said.
The dinner wrapped up around 9:00PM, each of us going our separate ways and nobody needing to have a cab to cart their drunk-ass home. All in all, a highly enjoyable meal with a good group of people.
“You’re taking me to Shake Shack,” Lance said, handing me the car keys. “I’m starving.”
So yes, after spending three hours at one of the city’s best restaurants, we drove twenty blocks so Lance could have a concrete and some crinkle-cut fries.
“Oh my God,” he sighed with a greasy smile on his lips. “This is like the best burger I’ve had in my life.”