If you've ever been to New Orleans, chances are you've heard of Alon Shaya, the James Beard Award winning chef whose modern take on Israeli cuisine changed the city's food scene. Shaya began his career in New Orleans under celebrity chef John Besh at the Besh Restaurant Group. He was the executive chef of the Italian restaurant Domenica and it's casual spin-off Pizza Domenica and also the restaurant Shaya - his namesake and a more personal project that reflected his birthplace, Israel.
In the fall of 2017, Shaya was fired by the Besh Restaurant Group and opened Pomegranate Hospitality Group. Saba - meaning grandfather in Hebrew - is the flagship restaurant from Shaya and Pomegranate Hospitality Group. Saba opened its doors May 4, at the corner of Magazine Street and Nashville Avenue. and has already become the hottest reservation in town.
Similar to Shaya, Saba is a modern Israeli eatery with influences that stem from the Middle East, Europe and North Africa, Saba reflects a collection of moments where food and culture have crossed paths, offering a taste of this ever-evolving cuisine.
It's hard not to compare the two restaurants, as the menus aren't that different. Chef Shaya brought along Zachary Engel, who won a James Beard Rising Star award as the chef de cuisine at Shaya and is now Pomegranate's culinary director. And yes - the pita bread also came along. According to Shaya, the pita cooked at Saba is actually better!
The hummus, apparently, is also better. And it can be topped with blue crab, wild mushrooms or lamb with pickled apricots. A selection of caviar is served with potato chips at Saba. And the family-style entrees include red snapper with green tahini and harissa-roasted chicken.
Saba also uses plenty of local products. The gelato is from Piccola on Freret Street. Blue Oak BBQ in Mid-City is making Saba's pastrami. And Humble Bagel will bake the bagels for the weekend brunch that, with its smoked fish and chopped liver, is a homage to New York City delis.
A wood-burning oven in a semi-private dining room gives some diners a peek into how the pita is made. Shaya calls it “the pita café.” In it, there’s a long table that seats 14 people, perfect for big groups. The partition that once separate the bar from the main dining room has been removed to give the space a more expansive feel and to allow for more tables.
“We want this to be a great neighborhood hang out spot. We’ll have amazing outdoor seating right on Magazine Street and then also we have a little lounge area setup in the restaurant where people can just hang out and have drinks, catch up with friends. That’s going to be a big part of what we’re all about,” Alon Shaya said.
Saba is popular and reservations are hard to come by. The new restaurant, however, has lots of outdoor seating and a bar that are perfect for the solo traveler. Each morning, if the weather is nice, reservations for outdoor tables will be made available.
Saba is located at 5757 Magazine Street and is open Wednesday through Thursday 11 a.m to 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.