Ever surprise what occurred to that guy who was selling a tomato for $24? Not solely has he survived the pandemic, however his enterprise is rising as if it have been in a hothouse stuffed with hydroponic veggies.
Celebrity Chef Eyal Shani — who bought roundly roasted by my colleague Steve Cuozzo in 2019 for charging $24 for a single tomato that wasn’t even that huge — is poised to develop his international restaurant empire by a dozen places since final yr’s COVID-19 lockdowns started.
And sure, his stratospherically priced Hell’s Kitchen hang-out, HaSalon continues to be charging $24 for a tomato — when it may well get them, that’s.
“Ultimately, that was the factor that introduced most of our clients into the restaurant,” Shani informed Aspect Dish. “You’ll be able to’t consider what occurred after the article was within the newspaper. It was so crowded. Folks needed to know who was that loopy man who offered a tomato for $24.”
Shani sat down with Aspect Dish final week at Hudson Yards, the place he and companion Shahar Segal are slated to formally open their sixth Large Apple venue — with unapologetic plans to name it Bare Tomato — on Wednesday. They’ll even be opening a seventh new idea eatery downtown, at 61 W. Eighth St., upping their whole to 37 places worldwide from 25 when lockdowns started in March 2020, Aspect Dish has discovered.
Final week, Shani opened his fourth HaSalon in Miami with companions Main Meals Group of Carbone fame. He’s additionally increasing a series of eating places beneath the Miznon moniker, which implies “cafeteria” in Hebrew. (Accordingly, Miznon costs aren’t as eye-watering as these at HaSalon, the place wallet-conscious diners may choke on a $149 striped bass.) New York presently has 4 Miznon places.
All of that is although the pandemic compelled the globe-trotting chef to decelerate, fearing that he was certain to “lose every little thing” at the same time as he sheltered in place in Israel.
“I stayed residence for 3 months and located my household once more,” Shani stated. “I had time to be with my spouse and daughter and my large tortoise. I made breakfast, lunch and dinner. I purchased the meals, put it within the kitchen, cleaned, cooked and served, even arranging the plates. It was utterly my very own territory and it was one of many happiest intervals in my life.”
Whereas Shani’s eating places have been open in Israel after a three-month closure, the reopenings took longer in New York due to labor shortages.
“All of my cooks and waitresses bought cash from the state and made lovely events,” he stated. “They didn’t wish to return as a result of that they had cash from the federal government. However when the federal government stopped paying, all of them got here again.”
There may be nonetheless “a giant downside” with the worldwide provide chain, he added, however he makes do.
“There’s a whole lot of issues we will’t get, however we work with small farms so we get the greens we’d like, and we’re importing fish from Tokyo, Portugal and Italy,” he added.
As for the $24 tomato?
It’s nonetheless on the menu — when it’s out there. It’s hydroponic, from upstate New York, and he buys them for $7 every on the Union Sq. farmer’s market.
“I’m placing myself into it, with salt and the most effective olive oil, and reaching a style that’s unbelievable,” he stated. “I can’t discover it in Italy or Israel. It’s the finest tomato I ever ate.”