James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya will bring crabmeat-topped hummus, fresh pita, and and an Israeli version of a fried oyster po-boy to Magazine Street this Friday when he throws open the doors to Saba restaurant (5757 Magazine Street).
“We’re really gearing this entire place to be for the neighborhood,” Alon Shaya told Eater. “You’ll be able to bring your kids [and] you can come a few times a week if you wanted to and never feel like you’re over-indulging.”
Meaning grandfather in Hebrew, modern Israeli restaurant Saba is Alon Shaya’s first restaurant under Pomegranate Hospitality, a company he formed after his contentious split with John Besh. He’s also opening Safta, Hebrew for grandmother, in Denver, Colorado.
The heart of the dining room is the wood-burning oven in full view that, like Shaya restaurant (the eatery Alon Shaya opened with John Besh just down the street), churns out fresh pita. This version, though, is “better than it’s ever been,” with a blend of flour that Bellegarde Bakery is milling for the restaurant, Alon Shaya said.
Though Israeli food (with influences from the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa) anchors the menu, Louisiana cuisine also figures into the restaurant.
For example, the restaurant is serving Louisiana blue crab and butter in hummus. Plus, the lunch menu will include an “Israeli spin on a fried oyster po-boy” with Saba’s curry blend and tucked into a pita, Saba chef de cuisine Cara Peterson said. Taking cues from the New Orleans brunch canon, Saba is serving a “healthier” version of brandy milk punch made with clarified milk.
There’s a caviar menu, plus family-style plates like harissa roasted chicken and several versions of hummus. Lamb kabobs, octopus with shawarma spices, and eggplant with peas and zhoug come from the kitchen’s charcoal grill that Kenton’s used for its wood-fired oysters before it shuttered in the location this past March.
In the coming weeks, expect a “really killer brunch with smoked fish and bagels, chopped liver, and potato salad — and all of the things that your grandfather would love to eat at a New York deli,” Alon Shaya said. Freret Street’s Humble Bagels will supply the bagels.
Importantly, the restaurant is directly addressing some issues that plagued Besh’s restaurant group by adding “cultural training” for everyone in the organization, honing in on diversity in the workplace, harassment, and discrimination. According to Alon Shaya, the the restaurant is “really focused on our core values as a company to create a really safe and comfortable work environment for everyone on board.”
Saba will be open Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday from from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. followed by a “midday menu” from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). After a few weeks, Saba will add brunch from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
On opening day, the restaurant will only serve dinner. The restaurant has partnered with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to raffle off dinner at Saba’s Table, a 14-seat private table at Saba. The dinner, on Saturday, May 5 (opening weekend), will include a five-course meal with wine pairings, gratuity, and conversations with Alon Shaya with proceeds going to NOAHH.
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