Major Food Group to Open Miami Beach Outpost of Tel Aviv's HaSalon

HaSalon in New York City
HaSalon in New York City Photo by Melissan Hom
If you thought it was hard to get a table at Carbone, just wait until the newest Major Food Group (MFG) endeavor opens in a few weeks.

Prolific Israeli chef/restaurateur Eyal Shani, who owns more than two dozen restaurants — ranging from pita joints to high-end affairs — and is a judge on MasterChef Israel, is bringing his Mediterranean experiental eatery to the former China Grill space in Miami Beach.

HaSalon opened in Tel Aviv in 2008, serving upscale renditions of Israeli classics like kebabs, grilled fish, and salads — with a high energy component that involves singing and occasional chair dancing.

In 2019, an outpost of HaSalon opened in New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood (there's also one in Ibiza). On the HaSalon New York's Resy page — alongside general COVID dining regulations, there's a dance advisory:

HaSalon is an interactive dining experience. You may notice servers or staff singing/dancing/performing. As our guest PLEASE DO NOT climb on serving counters or bar stools to dance or stand. Please be aware that any voluntary dancing on tables or chairs is at your own choice and risk and is not encouraged by our staff. Dance, sing drink, but please do so in a safe and reasonable manner. Thank You.

MFG partner Jeff Zalaznick tells New Times to take the chair dancing with a grain of za'atar. "The truth of the matter is that this is a dinner party. It's about the free-spirited nature of Israel. You can't take everything literally."

Zalaznick says he fell in love with Shani's food and with HaSalon after spending time in Tel Aviv. Though most Miamians haven't yet tasted Shani's food, Zalaznick vouches for it. "If you ask any food critic or chef in Israel what the ten best restaurants are, eight of them will be Shani's," he says.

Born in Jerusalem in 1959, Shani fell in love with cooking through his grandfather, who took him to various farms and markets. In 1989, Shani opened Oceanus in Jerusalem with a culinary style that focused on the staples of Mediterranean cooking: olive oil, fish, tahini, fresh seasonal vegetables, and tomatoes.

Zalaznick says that although the cuisines are different, HaSalon reminded him in very many ways of Carbone. "The soul of the concept is so intertwined with what we do at Major Food Group. Carbone is a super elegant-yet-entertaining dining experience serving food that's colorful and fresh. We take classic dishes and bring them to a higher level. That is what the food at HaSalon is."

He adds that opening in the former China Grill space adds a layer of history to the restaurant. He describes going to China Grill as a teenager. "That rainbow tower was like a beacon for me. To open a restaurant there is to come full circle."

When HaSalon Miami opens in mid-November, it will be very similar to the New York location: There are two seatings nightly. The early seating (6 p.m. in New York) will offer a dining experience set to classical music. A later seating, at around 8:30 p.m., gets you the party atmosphere, wherein anything from Israeli dance music to ABBA might be played.

Don't let the party distract you from the food, though. A Miami menu isn't available yet, but a New Yorker review of the New York location describes dishes such as the "dinosaur," a giant cut of bone-in beef, softshell crabs, and a single peeled tomato, cut into chunks and "doused with olive oil and salt", priced at $24.

"It was a very nice tomato, but, for that price, it should come with a massage and a pedicure," the reviewer quipped.

Miamians likely won't bat an eye at a $24 tomato if there's a chance to dine at the new "it" restaurant. HaSalon promises not to disappoint. In Tel Aviv, Zalaznick admits that the restaurant is "pandemonium" and that "you're more likely to speak to the President than get a table."

If you're still trying to figure out whether HaSalon is haute cuisine or dinner theater, Zalaznick advises to not put the restaurant into a preconceived box of any kind.

"Shani is trying to create a place where you can get the best food without the austere nature of what fine dining has become. If you go to Tel Aviv, part of the soulfulness is that people eat, they talk and laugh. They stay. They dance. Shani is sharing a bit of his soul with everyone."

With the holidays approaching, Miamians who like to see and be seen might consider asking Santa for a reservation at HaSalon. 

HaSalon. 404 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Opening mid-November 2021.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss