Assaf and Tal Hadad missed the food of home. The pair were born in Hadera, about a 40 minute car ride north of Tel Aviv but moved to Ariel, in the occupied West Bank, when Assaf was 12. The pair grew up surrounded by the rainbow of cuisines.
“Ever since I could remember I would stand on a little stool watching my mother and grandmother cook,” Assaf said. “My grandmother is Moroccan and my mother is Persian, so we grew up with incredible ingredients and dishes.”
That meant a whole universe of spices and flavors easily distinguishable from the beautiful, mostly beige Ashkenazi cuisine – stuffed cabbage, chopped liver, and pickled herring – that often define Jewish food. Much of that’s changed in recent thanks to likes of London’s Yotam Ottolenghi, Philadelphia’s Michael Solomonov, New York City spice wizard Lior Lev Sercarz and cookbook author Adeena Sussman.
Some of that technicolor diversity is now available at their cafe Hadekel1, for which they partnered with Asaf Ely, who worked for iconic Israeli chef Meir Adoni, and named for the address where they lived in Ariel. It’s especially best at their recently launched brunch which for a mere $30 brings a crusty, puffy Jerusalem bagel sprinkled with za’atar alongside a changing lineup of five to six tapas dishes and a shot of Lebanese, anise-flavor liqueur called arak.
“If there’s something that is missing over here, especially in the kosher world, it’s the vibe,” Assaf said. “We wanted more than just a restaurant to eat and go home, we wanted a place to enjoy, to hangout, to meet new people and that’s what we’re trying to create.”
On a recent Sunday the lineup included a roasted sweet potato covered in cascade of yogurt, a smoky eggplant tartar with dried rose petals, pistachio feta and tahini, pickled carrots and cauliflower, the almond paste called skordalia topped with a Moroccan pepper salad, black olives and tzatziki.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Throughout the rest of the week the place’s lineup includes sandwiches like the coco sabzi ($12) on the Zak The Bakers sourdough with a herbed omelette topped with tahini, sliced tomato and red onion. The highlight, however, is the sabich boureka ($11) in which the traditional Iraqi dish of eggplant, hardboiled egg, tomato-cucumber salad, tahini and the pickled green mango condiment called amba are piled onto the same puff pastry used to make the savory pastries often filled with cheese or potato called bourekas.
The holy kubanah ($14) is another can’t miss in which this rich Yemenite pull apart bread, think of the love child of a savory monkey bread and challah, is topped with beet-cured salmon, tomato butter sauce, salted spinach and two poached egg to create what Assaf called the “perfect Israeli-Mediterranean eggs Benedict.”
For a while such a place almost didn’t exist. When Hadad moved to Miami about a dozen years ago he was in sales, but at the urging of his then girlfriend now-wife Maya he attended culinary school and eventually became the opening chef for Fuego, a high-end Kosher steakhouse on Miami Beach.
After seven years he knew he wanted to cook the flavors of his youth and took the risk to go out on his own, first opening Hadekel1’s neighboring Foozo Pizza.
“I did this to follow my own path,” he said. “I wanted to bring people the food from my house, all of those Persian and Moroccan flavors I grew up with.”
Hadekel1 2500 NE 186th St., Miami; Hadekel1.com