Boston, meet Uri Scheft’s tantalizing babka. And get ready to say hello to Ayal Shani’s world-class, Mediterranean-inspired whole roasted cauliflower.
These are the signature dishes of two of Israel’s trendsetting chefs who’ve chosen Boston for their new North American eateries.
Scheft, the acclaimed Israeli Danish baker, and his business partner, Or Ohana, opened Bakey (www.bakeybabka.com) this past fall. They chose a bold and ambitious location for the bakery/cafe, at 151 Tremont St., across from the city’s historic Boston Common, which attracts a broad swath of office workers, students, local residents, and tourists.
Later this winter, Shani will launch his latest outpost of Miznon, his hugely popular restaurant with 23 locations in Israel, Melbourne, Vienna, Paris, and New York.
Miznon will open in the Seaport District, the city’s vibrant and still-evolving neighborhood along Boston’s waterfront.
Scheft is the former owner and cofounder of Breads Bakery in Manhattan, where his mouthwatering, laminated dough babka catapulted him onto the world stage.
The author of “Breaking Breads” is also the owner of Lehamim Bakery, with six locations across Israel. He launched Bakey in October with Ohana, CEO of Lehamim, who relocated here with his family in 2019 to helm the Boston bakery.
In scouting their first U.S. location to expand Lehamim, the pair found a passion for Boston.
“For us, it’s called love,” Scheft said in a conversation at Bakey. He was just in from Israel, where he lives, to train bakers and help with other opening logistics.
“We saw great places with coffee, but we felt that the pastry was left behind,” Ohana said, recalling their first visit to Boston.
Both were impressed with the youthful vibe of the city and its entrepreneurial start-up culture.
“I wanted to be the bakery start-up, to show a new way of bakeries, with a leaner menu but always something fresh that you can try out of the oven,” said Ohana.
To add to the sensory experience, they have brought the oven and the bakers to the front of the cafe, up close to the customers.
Throughout the day, bakers are turning out small batches of delicately layered, buttery loaves of chocolate, cinnamon, and almond babkas; braided challahs and challah rolls; and trays of savory burekas and cheese sticks, another of Scheft’s popular offerings. The flavorful Muesli rolls, hot from the oven, are dotted with cranberries, Medjool dates, hazelnuts, and pumpkin, sunflower, and poppy seeds.
They are promoting a pairing of their pastries with high quality coffee from Seattle roasters Caffe Umbria.
Any baked goods that are not sold right away are donated to the nearby Women’s Lunch Place, a daytime shelter.
The aromas are heavenly and the airy storefront cafe is a buzz of activity. When an oven timer chimes, Ohana pulls out the chocolate babkas and brushes an Israeli-sourced vanilla syrup over the hot loaves laced with chocolate. The result is a sweet, flaky babka that melts in your mouth.
Other tasty menu items include sandwiches with egg salad or whitefish, among other spreads.
They’ve been warmly welcomed by Greater Boston’s burgeoning Israeli community, including Tatte Cafe and Bakery founder Tzurit Or and Nir Caspi, cofounder and CEO of Cafe Landwer, who have been helpful, Scheft and Ohana said. “I always felt as a welcome guest,” said Ohana.
Meanwhile, Shani and the Miznon team are excited by their Seaport location, at 107 Seaport Blvd., with a target to open sometime this winter, according to Mika Ziv, a New York-based spokeswoman for Miznon.
Shani is renowned for highlighting fresh ingredients that sparkle in his simple preparation inspired by the multicultural Israeli cuisine. His whole roasted cauliflower has gained star appeal and is now replicated the world over.
“Eyal’s concept, at the core of his kitchen, is respect for all the ingredients, meats, vegetables, and fish, to look at it in a new way. It’s like a high-end meal inside a pita,” Ziv said in a phone conversation.
The menu will feature items from Miznon’s pita-based sandwiches including falafel, wild mushrooms, lamb kebab, and chicken. Other dishes include the baby cauliflower and a Hraime Skillet of hake in tomato sauce.
Expanding Israeli-based eateries in Boston is a welcome opportunity, according to Meron Reuben, Consul General of Israel to New England, whose mother and Scheft’s have been friends for decades.
“It’s wonderful to take people to savor Israeli cuisine and see how far it’s come in last few decades,” Reuben told The Journal in a phone conversation.
“The Jewish table has always grown with good food,” he said.