There has been much excitement and hype about the opening of HaSalon at 404 Washington Avenue in Miami. After all, it was the Miami opening of a renowned Tel Aviv restaurant by Israeli celebrity chef, Eyal Shani, and he was being backed by the Major Food Group of Carbone fame – likely to be a winning combination (or is it?).
I was lucky enough to snag a counter seat at the Tel Aviv HaSalon, especially since it is only opened two days a week there and the hottest restaurant in town. But it lived up to its hype with the freshest vegetables, ambitious dishes, and notable highlights, along with a serving a high-energy atmosphere and party vibes. It had a well-earned reputation. Chef Shani was a real trailblazer for his time and has over 20 restaurants worldwide with different concepts. I also dined at Abraxus North in Tel Aviv which was also fantastic.
This new spot opened in the former China Grill and Lobster Grill space. Lucky for them they didn’t have to change too much in decor. The arched tiled ceilings are still there. There are two bars, a large one at the entrance and a smaller one at the back. There is also a chef’s counter where you can watch the chefs prepare while you are eating. In Israel, this was the best place to sit if Chef Shani was working. The tables are all wooden, mixed and matched but solid enough to hold the guests. As the night progresses, the volume goes up, and people have had a few drinks in them, guests begin dancing on the tables and wooden chairs.
They cover each table with simple butcher paper and many dishes are served on wooden boards or cardboard. The staff dresses all in black. There is not a mask worn insight and the tables are jammed packed. Although they have just recently opened an outdoor terrace for safer and quieter dining, you should probably not go unless you’ve already had Covid or don’t mind getting it. There are two seatings. Earlier for serious eaters and later for people more interested in drinking and dancing. The crowd is young, dressed to impress, and really a show in itself. If you are older like me they will try and seat you in the worst seats in the house, but you must object and prevail. The third time moving was the charm for us.
The chef believes in sharing food and they place dishes in the middle of the table for all to enjoy. They come out as prepared. They actually came out way too fast and we felt rushed, which is upsetting when you are paying exorbitant, some would say astronomical prices to dine here.
He cooks a lot on the wood-fired grill and tries to source local produce. So in Miami, a lot comes from farms in Homestead, and he serves ingredient-focused dishes. But there are hits and misses and almost every dish was over-salted.
The menu is divided into, “Vegetable Creatures”, “Pasta made from the sun”, “Alive fish from the blue Abyss”, and “Cow, lamb, chicken. All under humane certificate”. The prices range from $23 up to $280. Our dinner for 4 people with one glass of wine and two cocktails was $560 and we tried to steer clear of the more expensive items.
The “Burrata tomato benedict on a tomato mosaic” was a nice presentation and I’m sure once tomatoes are in season this dish will be outstanding. The “Whole Roasted baby cauliflower, the famous one.” is one of the restaurant’s famous dishes and is worth ordering. The “Terrifying Hammer” was prepared tableside and would have been incredible but our server over-salted the beef carpaccio and it was inedible (they removed it from the bill once we complained). The “Homestead tomato pasta” you can pass on, it was a bowl of tasteless, salty mush. The “grilled giant prawn halves coated with tomato heart” was a better bet, but two prawns at $64 is a tad hefty wouldn’t you say? Another expensive plate but cooked to perfection was the $91 “Whole Chicken flattened with a rock” and served with potatoes.
They showcase a nice selection of craft cocktails, wines by the glass, and bottles.
Dessert seems to be an afterthought here. There is no menu, there is just a weak chef’s selection that looks better than it tastes.
The Major Food Group usually does a much better job in the kitchen and I hope things improve here. But having said all that, it is still worth checking out for a fun, high-end, high-energy evening. Don’t forget to bring a full wallet.
Recommend with hesitation.