The chef behind the Israeli late-night party restaurant HaSalon and casual pita eatery Miznon is bringing both restaurants to the Venetian Resort as early as late 2022.
So what is HaSalon? “That is a very difficult question,” says chef and owner Eyal Shani. “It’s not a concept. It was a thing that was created from a real passion to shake the world.”
About 15 years ago, he and his partner Shahar Segal started with a passion to cook — but wanted to work twice a week, not seven days a week. And so the first HaSalon was born. Twice a week (and for about 40 people a night), Shani would cook a new menu with vegetables he harvested that day and Segal would DJ. Now with locations in Ibiza, New York, and Miami, and soon also in Toronto, London, and Paris, HaSalon is open for two seatings, usually three nights a week, and serves a constantly changing menu of meat, fish, and vegetables. As the night progresses, climbing onto the tables to dance is encouraged.
Shani’s dishes are generally Israeli in nature, with influences from French and Japanese cooking. The chef, who now owns over 40 restaurants worldwide and appears on Israeli “Master Chef,” says he largely credits the ingredients themselves with inspiring their preparations. “We’re coming in in the morning, bringing all the ingredients, putting them in front of us. We’re not putting them in the refrigerators because we want the ingredients to seduce us,” says Shani. From there, he entrusts his chefs to do with the day’s ingredients as they see fit, and then he takes their results and assembles a menu. That’s how he ends up with menu items like “General salad from the embers of creation” or “The longest, thickest, juiciest Lamb kebab in town” or “Spinach melting into its own leaves, swirled in a cloud of Parmesan” and, of course, “Terrifying Hammer. A dish you can’t miss. Truffle upon request.” Tasting menus at the Miama HaSalon run about $68 a person.
Despite the fantastical language on the menu, Shani possesses a profound reverence for the food he cooks, often conjuring words like “vibration” and “energy” when talking about them. He describes vegetables as “mysterious creatures,” assigning an almost moral value to their consumption. Vegetables don’t bleed, after all — even if his $24 tomato caused a minor stir on the internet a few years ago.
For the Las Vegas location, which is slated to open in 2023, Shani is in the early stages of reimagining the massive and multi-roomed space that he’ll be taking over. The 11,000-square-foot space at the Venetian was previously occupied by David Chang’s Majordomo Meat and Fish. He mentions reworking what had been the Majordomo raw bar into an open kitchen — and filling it with instruments he’s never used before. “I’m not trying to analyze it yet,” he says of the restaurant design. “Just feel it in my body.” In New York, giant shutters conceal the windows of HaSalon at night, cueing the moment the restaurant transitions from a calm meal to a party. Music blares, lights flicker, and customers climb onto the furniture. Shani likes the juxtaposition of the “decadence and purity” — of people dancing inches away from cooks who are still working.
In the small area across the hall that used to house David Chang’s quick-service slider restaurant Moon Palace, Shani is opening the sixth U.S. location of his pita restaurant, Miznon. The Israeli street food stall will open by the end of this year.
Each time Shani opens a Miznon in a new city, he says he endeavors to “analyze the culture and the dreams that are coming out of that city and trying to translate them into a dish that I can put inside a pita.” Ambitious. In Paris, that looks like putting beef bourguignon in a pita. “It’s the best bourguignon in Paris,” says the chef. In Vienna, pita is stuffed with schnitzel. “It is one of the best schnitzels in Vienna,” he says. A pattern is emerging. Pitas in London are stuffed with a full English breakfast and cottage pie. So what goes inside a Las Vegas pita? He admits that he isn’t quite sure yet how he’ll do it, but “it will reflect the feelings of gambling.”