The latest idea from The Good People restaurant group, Naked Tomato burst onto the New York scene December 1, 2021 in The Shops at Hudson Yards, adjacent to Miznon, their fast-casual “elevated” Israeli street-food-in-a-pita place. While Chef Eyal Shani and partner, creative visionary Shahar Segal say Miznon cuisine tends to walk New York streets in a portable pita, Naked Tomato is all about sitting, connecting and breaking barriers.
The name is Chef Shani’s joyous nod to the uproar caused by the $24 hydroponic tomato on his HaSalon New York menu. Few are aware in what high esteem Shani holds a fresh tomato, or the months-long search he undertook to find the perfect, most flavorful specimen. For Shani, a peeled naked tomato represents multiple deep meanings: perfection, joy, warmth, focus, happiness, hospitality; no one is more philosophical about a tomato, and this chef adamantly refuses to establish a restaurant without finding one.
With his heart so firmly attached to the fruit, it’s logical that his newest restaurant iteration, and its core idea (the chef eschews the idea of “concepts”) be named Naked Tomato. For this, Shani returned to his Mediterranean roots, creating an elevated Israeli skewer concept, serving two-foot-long chicken, beef and lamb skewers over 20 complimentary and replenishable small plate salads, including matbucha, eggplant, roasted bell peppers, tomato foam with schug, octopus, lavan, freekeh and a variety of tahini and eggplant. Patrons will dine on the same fresh vegetables Shani sources for his HaSalon menu at a much lower $30 to $40 price point.
Chef Shani, who with partner Segal, confirm they have “ideas” not business plans, dreamed up Naked Tomato one November 2021 night in Miami as he catered an evening fundraiser in a private home with one singular chef assistant; the others were busy training for his South Beach HaSalon restaurant opening. As he describes his epiphany, “I decided that the marble counter would be the first course, then I put the main course on the first course and suddenly, something amazing happened. I got another perspective,” says Shani. “The mezze made such a beautiful background, like a kaleidoscope, changing the picture of the first course, combining them into something vibrant and elegant; that is my way of cooking and thinking about food,” he avers.
It’s a style of food Segal points out could be found decades ago at Israeli gas stations, now with Shani elevating it into the chef’s original style. The philosophical Shani believes people see their plates – and restaurant tables – as personal territories when they’re out to eat, and designate borders between tables. He’s created Naked Tomato to break down those walls.
“A plate is a kind of territory. It belongs to you. I cannot stand it,” says the chef. “Even animals share their food; they hunt and eat together. I want to share my food with you and you with me,” he says. “You’re coming to a restaurant to create a deep relationship, so why not share food.” By design, the spacious 80-seat restaurant is a cacophony of Israeli, Arabic and American music, clattering plates, the whir of waiters between tables and a din of conversations.
“The salads are fresh and sunny and you’ll be full, but you’ll order and eat the main course because it’s delicious,” says Segal. “The vibe is music, laughter, people, conversation; somewhere you go for a quick lunch or a fun dinner and the best Mediterranean food you’ve ever had.”
About The Good People
With a philosophy of being in the “heart opening business” rather than the hospitality trade, The Good People group believes each of their 40 restaurants around the world is “a mixture of Eyal Shani’s food and my theatrical vision, which aims at the noble cause of touching people and making them feel warm and happier for a moment in time” says partner Shahar Segal. Seven of their restaurants are in New York City and include the new Shmone, a Greenwich Village eatery with an intimate atmosphere and market-driven menu; Miznon, where the pita serves as an aromatic vessel filled with high cuisine that Chef Shani says makes his food mobile throughout New York City streets; North, an Upper West Side dinner locale featuring a daily-rotating menu of Israeli cuisine in its simplest form; HaSalon, from Chef Shani’s original spirited Tel Aviv restaurant that features an open kitchen for chefs to create inventive Israeli haute cuisine in a convivial atmosphere three nights a week, and Naked Tomato, a relaxed, Mediterranean mezze-style restaurant, serving two-foot-long chicken, beef and lamb skewers over 20 complimentary and replenishable small plate salads, designed to share in a high-energy Hudson Yards spot.
About Hudson Yards
Hudson Yards is the newest neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group. A template for the future of cities, Hudson Yards is Manhattan’s first LEED Gold Certified Neighborhood; home to leading retail brands in every category from luxury to fast fashion, including experiential concepts and first-ever stores from popular online retailers; restaurants and food experiences by world-renowned chefs and restaurateurs; dynamic cultural institutions; modern residences offering unparalleled amenities; more than five acres of public plazas, gardens and groves; the world’s first Equinox Hotel; state-of-the-art commercial office space for industry leaders including Facebook, WarnerMedia, BlackRock and more; and eventually a new 750-seat public school. For more information on Hudson Yards, please visit www.HudsonYardsNewYork.com
About Chef Eyal Shani
Shani was born in Jerusalem in 1959. His culinary passion was first instilled in him by his grandfather, an agronomist and a dedicated vegan, who exposed him to local markets, fields, and vineyards from a young age.
In 1989 he opened his first restaurant “Oceanus” in his home town of Jerusalem. There, he developed a unique culinary language based on regional Mediterranean products: olive oil, fish, tahini, fresh seasonal vegetables and of course, the tomato.
Since opening his fine dining restaurant, HASALON, in Tel Aviv. Shani is now the inspiration and the leading chef of 40 highly successful restaurants worldwide. Joined by his partner, Shahar Segal, the duo operates Port Said, Romano, Miznon, North Abraxas, HaSalon and Malka in Tel Aviv, as well as Miznon locations in Vienna, Paris, Melbourne, Singapore and New York.
He is considered to be one of the leading figures in the Israeli culinary scene, starring in the TV series “Food for Thought” and appearing on the panel of judges during the past six seasons of Israeli “Master Chef.”
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