Philadelphia, US: Best places to eat - chef Michael Solomonov's picks

THE EXPERT

A champion of Israeli cuisine, Michael Solomonov is the executive chef and co-owner of Philadelphia's trailblazing Zahav, among other restaurants. He is the co-author of three cookbooks and a multiple James Beard award winner. He appears at three events during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, March 19-29. See melbournefoodandwine.com.au

COFFEE

I love to start my mornings at OX Coffee, just off South Street, owned by two old friends, Max Cudworth and Will Gross. It's an independent specialty cafe and roaster focusing on coffee that is harvested, processed and roasted sustainably.  It's this compact, inviting and warm little space. My home away from home. My go-to order is their Gibraltar – it just presents their espresso so perfectly. See oxcoffee.com

BREAKFAST 

Nothing beats Pho 75. Whenever my business partner Steve and I need to take a moment to ourselves, we eat here. It's got this major dining hall vibe with an immigrant-run ethos, and it's my favourite way to start a morning. I always order the #9 brisket pho. The meat on top marries perfectly with the aromatics of the pho, and it's served with a bouquet of herbs and bean sprouts. It becomes this ritualistic build-your-own experience that I cherish. See phoseventyfive.com

SNACK

Located in the heart of Philadelphia lies the Reading Terminal Market, full of local vendors and deliciousness. There, you'll find Tommy Dinic's, which has the best and most quintessentially Philly sandwiches – and not a cheesesteak in sight. Dinic's sandwiches are beautiful in their simplicity. I always go for the brisket sandwich – the brisket is braised and sliced, then topped with sharp provolone cheese and long hots on an Amoroso roll. Totally Philly. See tommydinics.com

LUNCH

In Queen's Village, is Kalaya, the best Thai experience I have ever had, because they perfectly balance refined techniques with traditional flavours. The owners, My-Le Vuong and Nok Suntaranon, know who they are and present their food unapologetically.  Honestly, I could say I love every dish at Kalaya, but my utmost favourite is their eggplant, pad ma kua yao tao jieow. It's stir fried eggplant with salted soybean, miso, Thai basil, and long hots (peppers). So much flavour and so much spice packed into one dish.  It'll blow you away. See kalaya.net

DINNER

Each plate at Zahav tells a story of the generations of cooks before me. Honouring the hundred or so cultures and techniques that make up Israeli cuisine, dinner at Zahav is the culmination and celebration of that melting pot. The feast begins with fresh, hot pita and hummus – the heart and soul of Israel – filled with pools of fruity olive oil and fresh chickpeas. Shortly after your first few bites, an array of bright, seasonal, local vegetable salads or salatim flood the table. It doesn't stop there. This is a meal bursting with flavours and history and overflowing with warmth and hospitality. A dinner that celebrates tradition and culture, conviviality and community. See zahavrestaurant.com

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