Food Industry

Miami Needs Michael Solomonov's Dizengoff

Michael Solomonov's Dizengoff is as simple as an ashram. Step inside, and to the left find two meager tables next to a towering wall lined with newspapers and magazines printed in blocky Hebrew. It takes three, maybe four more steps to arrive at the cashier who stands below a white letter board bearing the day's offerings. Hummus is the only choice.

Order a classic, dosed with a hefty amount of the sesame seed concoction called "tehina" and dusted with rusty paprika. What else will fill the table depends upon the day. Some days it's ground lamb with pistachio, mint, peas, orange, and cinnamon. Others, it's the roasted tomato salad called matbucha crowned with a hardboiled egg. 

This is what Miami needs. But at the moment, it's not happening. Instead, the James Beard Award-winning chef whose Philadelphia restaurant Zahav, which sits at the pinnacle of the nation's growing obsession with Israeli cuisine, is slated to open an outpost of his fried-chicken-and-doughnut joint Federal Donuts in Wynwood in the near future. 

This isn't a tragedy. Fednuts, as it's called by some, has become a Philly institution since opening in 2011. Eater earlier this year named it the nation's best purveyor of the two fried favorites. In the offing might be blueberry marscapone, sesame tahini, and pink lemonade rounds paired with coconut-curry fried chicken. 

Though Solomonov's birds might explore new territory in Miami (if anyone needs more than Joe's Stone Crab), the city is already caught up in the doughnut craze that has inundated the States for years. Max Santiago's smash hit the Salty Donut will soon open around the corner from Solomonov's forthcoming space. Velvet Creme is slated to come back to life with its own outpost, even as Broward County's Mojo Donuts plans a Miami expansion.

There is something beautiful in the simplicity of the humble doughnut, but there's far more intrigue in the world that Dizengoff explores with pillowy, freckled pitas and silky chickpea dip. Last week, a tawny bowl of the stuff was topped with ground beef heavily spiced with zaatar and drizzled with runny, tart yogurt. Another brought red peppers and eggplants, roasted until supple and then punched up with pine nuts and parsley.

It seems too simple to function as a freestanding restaurant. But as diners divvy up their pitas and start swabbing pieces through hummus, it becomes clear this is all anyone needs. A bright Israeli salad of cubed tomato and cucumber riding alongside provides a shot of freshness to balance the rich dip.

What's more is that Miami is in the midst of its own Middle Eastern renaissance. In Miami Beach, places such as Byblos and Cleo became fast favorites thanks to their vibrant cuisine. You can find more of that at 27 Restaurant & Bar. And Aventura's Etzel Itzik Deli is a longstanding hub of Israeli cuisine where the sabich platter — with pickled mango, hard-boiled eggs, and eggplant — is bested only by the people-watching. 

As addictive and squeal-inducing as doughnuts might be, the addition of Federal Donuts doesn't push Miami's boundaries as a food city. They're a guilty pleasure, something to indulge in on the weekend or at work on a Friday. Dizengoff's hummus is the kind of stuff you could eat every day.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson