Chef & Owner Rafael Hasid
Rafael Hasid (better known as "Rafi" to his friends and regulars at Miriam) is a native of Tel Aviv, Israel and opened up Miriam Restaurant in 2005 after graduating from the French Culinary Institute in 2001 and working as a chef in Le Pere Pinard and Yamamoto's in NYC.
Rafi named his restaurant after his mother, who still resides in Israel but makes the trip out to Brooklyn every year to spend time in the restaurant. Every year Rafi hosts a "Biblical Feast" menu where he celebrates the back-to-earth philosophy of eating simple, and uses quotes from the bible in the specific instances where the foods were mentioned.
At Miriam Restaurant the cuisine is uniquely, distinctly Israeli. Our menu is seasonal, and all of our beef is grass-fed, and many of our ingredients come straight from Israel. Yet what exactly is Israeli cuisine? Truthfully, to enter the subject is not unlike entering a sea by foot and feeling a sudden deepening. Unlike French food, Chinese food, Italian food, one does not unfold the menu at Miriam with a set of associations firmly in the mind. In truth, there exists no single dish, no single style of preparation that one might call uniquely Israeli. And yet this lack of identity is its identity, its beauty.
A bi-product of the cross-pollination that accompanied the gathering together of Jewish people from around the globe, one might say that, in itself, Israeli cuisine is as close to a true world cuisine as exists. When citizens arrived after World War II, each group brought a tradition of culture and cuisine as set in its ways and one of a kind as a river. And yet suddenly something different was happening around these peoples. They were breathing different air. There was a new climate and a new terrain. Things like figs, thyme, marjoram, and pomegranates were growing in their outlying fields.
Bound by a new common ground and also by a tradition of kosher, foods from Eastern Europe and North Africa began rubbing shoulders, mingling, conversing. Interactions occurred with traditional Middle Eastern dishes. As might be expected, friction was produced. We might say that there were two competing impulses: the new Israeli people felt a desire to preserve their particular identities and also a desire to forge an entirely new one. It is from this dual parentage that evolved and continues to evolve what we must call contemporary Israeli cuisine. It is from this heritage that Miriam Restaurant springs.