NEW YORK – After reaping praise for his restaurants in Paris, teaching the Viennese to eat pita, and being credited for what some call the worldwide cauliflower revolution – is Israeli chef Eyal Shani on the way to conquering the Big Apple? Haaretz has just learned that the chef, together with partners from Israel and the United States, plans to open the sixth branch of his pita restaurant – Hamiznon (The Buffet) – in New York.
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Apparently, the restaurant will open in March or April 2017. At first, there will be one Hamiznon in Manhattan, and later, if the response is positive, additional branches will be opened around the United States.
These details were confirmed by someone connected to Shani, but the source refused to provide any more information.
Shani’s New York debut has been the subject of numerous rumors in recent years. His people have apparently conducted negotiations with many different groups, mainly Israelis working in the city.
Hamiznon, the fast-food branch belonging to Shani and his partner, Shahar Segal, first opened in January 2011 on Tel Aviv’s Ibn Gabirol Street. At the time the new eatery was considered an unusual addition to the local street-food scene, since Shani served “gourmet pitas” that were not particularly inexpensive and contained fillings that deviated from those used in the usual cheap and familiar genre.
After Ibn Gabirol the partners added another two branches in Tel Aviv (on King George Street and in Ramat Hahayal) and took everyone by surprise when, almost three years ago, they opened a fourth, kosher branch in the Marais neighborhood of Paris. The latter has been very successful and attracts a clientele far beyond Israelis looking for something that reminds them of home; it was even included recently on Traveler magazine’s list of the 250 most recommended restaurants in the world.
Exactly a year ago Shani opened his second European venture, this time in Vienna. Already at that point, he declared that New York was also on the agenda.
Shani’s entry into the Big Apple signifies yet another stage in the penetration of Israeli food in the city, where slowly but surely Israeli cuisine seems to be gathering momentum, affection and popularity. In the past decade a series of Israeli-born chefs – most of them unknown back home – opened various establishments in the city, and a new stage has also become evident: Leading Israeli chefs are starting to make inroads there as well. The present wave was led by Uri Scheft and his colleagues, who have opened two successful branches of the Lehamim bakery (or, as it’s called in New York, Breads Bakery), followed by Meir Adoni, who is scheduled to open his Nur restaurant there in the coming weeks.
The New York Times food supplement has already heralded the opening of the latter as one of the most interesting events of this fall. It will be interesting to see how Eyal Shani’s gourmet pita and cauliflower dishes will be received.