Naked Tomato by Israeli Chef Eyal Shani Opens in New York's Hudson Yards
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NEW YORK (PRWEB) February 07, 2022
The latest idea from The Better Guys restaurant group, Naked Tomato burst onto the New York scene last month in The Shops at Hudson Yards, adjacent to Miznon, their fast-casual "elevated" Israeli street-food-in-a-pita place. While Chef Eyal Shani and partner, creative visionary Shahar Segal say Miznon cuisine tends to walk New York streets in a portable pita, Naked Tomato is all about sitting, connecting, and breaking barriers.
The name is Chef Shani's joyous nod to the uproar caused by the $24 hydroponic tomato on his HaSalon New York menu. Few are aware in what high esteem Shani holds a fresh tomato, or the months-long search he undertook to find the perfect, most flavorful specimen. For Shani, a peeled naked tomato represents multiple deep meanings: perfection, joy, warmth, focus, happiness, hospitality; no one is more philosophical about a tomato, and this chef adamantly refuses to establish a restaurant without finding one.
With his heart so firmly attached to the fruit, it's logical that his newest restaurant iteration, and its core idea (the chef eschews the idea of "concepts") be named Naked Tomato. For this, Shani returned to his Mediterranean roots, creating an elevated Israeli skewer concept, serving two-foot-long chicken, beef, and lamb skewers over 20 complimentary and replenishable small plate salads, including matbucha, eggplant, roasted bell peppers, tomato foam with schug, octopus, lavan, freekeh and a variety of tahini and eggplant. Patrons will dine on the same fresh vegetables Shani sources for his HaSalon menu at a much lower $30 to $40 price point.
Chef Shani, who with partner Segal, confirm they have "ideas" not business plans, dreamed up Naked Tomato one November 2021 night in Miami as he catered an evening fundraiser in a private home with one singular chef assistant; the others were busy training for his South Beach HaSalon restaurant opening. As he describes his epiphany, "I decided that the marble counter would be the first course, then I put the main course on the first course and suddenly, something amazing happened. I got another perspective," says Shani. "The mezze made such a beautiful background, like a kaleidoscope, changing the picture of the first course, combining them into something vibrant and elegant; that is my way of cooking and thinking about food," he avers.
It's a style of food Segal points out could be found decades ago at Israeli gas stations, now with Shani elevating it into the chef's original style. The philosophical Shani believes people see their plates and restaurant tables as personal territories when they're out to eat, and designate borders between tables. He's created Naked Tomato to break down those walls.
"A plate is a kind of territory. It belongs to you. I cannot stand it," says the chef. "Even animals share their food; they hunt and eat together. I want to share my food with you and you with me," he says. "You're coming to a restaurant to create a deep relationship, so why not share food." By design, the spacious 80-seat restaurant is a cacophony of Israeli, Arabic, and American music, clattering plates, the whir of waiters between tables, and a din of conversations.
"The salads are fresh and sunny and you'll be full, but you'll order and eat the main course because it's delicious," says Segal. "The vibe is music, laughter, people, conversation; somewhere you go for a quick lunch or a fun dinner and the best Mediterranean food you've ever had."
Naked Tomato is located on Level 2 of The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, 20 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001. For reservations, visit Resy.com. Follow Naked Tomato at http://www.instagram.com/nakedtomatonyc.
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