For Philadelphia restaurant fans, the names Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov — joined under the CookNSolo umbrella — are synonymous with adventurous, hearty food. Just look at the successes they’ve had with Old City’s Zahav, South Street’s Percy Street Barbecue and the citywide fried-chicken-and-donuts chain Federal Donuts.
Recently, the pair opened two spots on 16th and Sansom : Dizengoff , an ode to hummus, and Abe Fisher.
Though Dizengoff is exceptional, it’s the latter that has the greater buzz, due to its modernist take on the Old World tastes of the Jewish Diaspora — “the food that we grew up on, only now turned upside down,” says Yehuda Sichel , co-chef alongside Solomonov at Abe Fisher.
Though the original concept was dreamed up by Cook and Solomonov , credit Sichel , 28, for designing and executing the restaurant’s twists on Jewish family cuisine, such as smoked sable, gefilte fish and schnitzel.
“We’re looking to reinvent staples of Jewish dishes and make them really awesome,” he says.
Sichel , a Baltimore native who trained at the Jerusalem School of Kosher Culinary Arts in Beit Shemesh , Israel, first came to the attention of the CookNSolo pair in 2008, shortly after Zahav , which features Israeli fare, opened.
“I was super-impressed by Zahav’s high level of cooking,” says Sichel . He joined the Zahav team, and then made the move to Citron and Rose, a kosher restaurant on the Main Line CookNSolo was consulting for.
Now at Abe Fisher, he has a lot more culinary freedom.
“Citron and Rose had restrictions due to being kosher,” says Sichel . “With Abe Fisher’s take on Jewish food, we have no restrictions. We’re in Center City and not the suburbs. “That makes a difference. We can have fun doing odd pairings.”
The delicious oddity at Abe Fisher — where tradition meets innovation — is where Sichel shines the brightest.
Describing the veal schnitzel tacos, Sichel mentions his Hungarian grandparents’ goulash and schnitzel: “I took the idea of trendy fish tacos and redefined it with braised veal shoulder in goulash with paprika and other Hungarian spices.” The sable cake is modeled after Baltimore-style crab cakes that Sichel grew up with, and the stuffed trout gefilte fish is his “personal interpretation of the classic,” served seared and hot rather than the typical cold dish.
Sichel is proud of the fact that Abe Fisher doesn’t “do traditional.”
“We’re doing food we enjoy to eat,” he says. “I think as long as it’s from our kitchen, people will like it. I’m that confident.”