Two of the best dishes we tried had tomatoes as their main component: the Our world famous tomato pasta and Naked heirloom tomatoes mosaic. The latter comprises thin slices of the fruit on a slab of marble that’s simply seasoned, and the former is Shani’s go-to meal made with hand-squeezed Maggie tomato juice and garlic.
They’re not the only dishes you’ll find the fruit in. Three sauces — a fresh Yemeni green chilli, garlic and olive paste named zhug; Maggie tomato salsa; and sour cream — come in different permutations for the rest of the items on the menu. They’ll probably be the only constants with the list of oddly named dishes refreshed daily; one of the many things going on at the restaurant.
It can be a bit overwhelming if you step into North Miznon in the thick of dinner service. On Shani’s second last day in the country when we visited, the restaurant was in full swing; past the green doors were waiters zooming around tables, in the background a cacophony of multiple conversations happening simultaneously, and sounds of prepping and cooking floated up from the open kitchen counter at the back. Save for the lack of music, one could be forgiven for forgetting about the pandemic.
As the MasterChef’s first full-service establishment in Asia, the name is derived from their fast-food pita store down the street and his restaurant North Abraxas in Tel Aviv. Like his other eateries, North Miznon is an attempt to transplant the generous Mediterranean-leaning home-style casual dining fare he’s known for and will see executive chef Or Hakmimi take over when he leaves.
Few items on the menu (we’re told they’re translated from Hebrew, hence the grammar and very evocative descriptions) are borrowed from its sister restaurants wholesale such as the Our world famous baby cauliflower and Burning yellow potato filled with sour cream topped with a sharp cut salad. And, how could we forget, the briefcase-sized steaming focaccia that’s chopped up with a cleaver then drizzled with more olive oil. The slices of focaccia are given out free so bring along a spare stomach.
The food is just as Shani describes his cooking philosophy — using tried and tested methods and inventive presentation on fresh, local produce. A great example is the Sirloin beef carpaccio on the rock that comes as a monstrous pile of medium rare meat strips dripping olive oil on the floor as it’s brought to the table. It’s perfectly cooked and a tad underseasoned (as you’ll find with more than one dish here) but the rock it comes on has no other purpose than for visual effect. (We’re told Shani insists on ‘rustic’ plating.)
After a few dishes, the same base flavour profiles tend to get a little repetitive, which is why the Wild grouper & Mediterranean vegetables roasted in clay oven, olive oil, wine stood out so vividly. The Spanish grouper is massaged with extra virgin olive oil, roasted with plum tomatoes, onions, fennel, thyme and sage (that’s lit on fire before it’s served) then finished on the stove with a splash of white wine. All the aromatics combined with that finale of white wine affords the tender fish so much complexity from such a simple recipe, which best encapsulates the feeling of home-cooking North Miznon is trying to achieve.
With the food doing most of the heavy lifting, the drinks programme is still pretty conservative as the team looks to expand their selection. There are only four wines by the glass — a French red, an Italian white and Prosecco, and an Israeli rosé — and 22 bottles mostly hailing from France. Proof & Company takes charge of the cocktails that heavily feature herbs and spices in tribute to the hodgepodge of influences from the Middle East and Mediterranean that make up Israeli cuisine.
If it’s not clear by now, they do things differently here: desserts are laid out on a table buffet-style for wait staff to plate orders on their own; vegetables are used as decoration along the walls and on the counter; the kitchen rings a loud bell when a dish is ready to be served; and the menu is printed in Comic Sans on flimsy sheets of regular A4 paper.
But it is exactly these quirks and unpolished edges that give North Miznon one of the strongest personalities we’ve encountered in a while. Meals served as large sharing plates (or on various shapes of stone) on tables covered with disposable brown paper remind you that no one cares if you make a mess, as long as you have a good time with good company. And if you’re lucky, someone might even come by to pour you a shot of grappa.
North Miznon is located at 110 Amoy Street, Singapore 069930. Opening hours are from 5.30pm to 12 midnight on Wednesdays to Sundays. Tel: 8028 5204 *Opening hours might change according to Covid-19 regulations*