Eyal Shani was born in in 1959, his culinary passion first instilled in him by his grandfather, an agronomist and a dedicated vegan. As a young man, Shani studied cinema at the Beit Zvi School of Performing Arts, and in 1989 he opened his first restaurant, Ocianus, 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. In 1999 a second branch of Ocianus was opened in the seaside town of Hertziliya, and many restaurants have followed.
In 2008, together with his partner Shahar Segal, Shani opened the HaSalon (“the loungeroom”) in Tel Aviv. Together, under the umbrella of The Better Guys they own nine successful restaurants in Tel Aviv, two in Vienna, three in Paris, one in Melbourne and three in New York.“People came to Israel from all around the world but the policy of the government in the beginning was to cut all the memories from Europe and from the Arab countries and to create a new Israel,” he says. “So they created a new Israel but they forgot to create a kitchen for the new Israel, nothing to eat. Now, the Israelis are mixing between the (culinary) fashions that are happening all around the world and cooking their own small memories from their grandmothers.”
Shani is considered to be one of the leading figures in the Israeli culinary scene, appearing on the panel of judges during the past nine seasons of Israeli MasterChef.
“It seems almost unfair to compare Miznon pita to any other pita.”, declared The New Yorker in 2018, while Bloomberg’s advice to anyone planning to visit HaSalon was blunter: “Be ready to party.”
Yotam Ottolenghi named Abraxas North on a list of the world’s best restaurants published in Newsweek in which chefs were tasked with finding "the finest, oddest, most memorable dining hotspots in the world."
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