Designing Delicious

Designing Delicious: HaSalon Miami

When Eyal Shani and Mario Carbone joined forces to launch the South Beach outpost of Shani's HaSalon franchise, it took the food world by storm. At the one-year anniversary party, Surface sat down with the two powerhouse chefs to discuss the origins of their budding bromance, shared culinary values, and HaSalon Miami's distinctive point of view.

During a trip to Israel a few years back, Mario Carbone was introduced to fellow chef and restaurateur Eyal Shani. It was love at first sight. “We knew immediately when we locked eyes that we needed to do a restaurant together,” Carbone jokes. The Italian-American chef behind a slew of hit restaurants in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, and beyond is a member of the triumvirate behind the culinary empire Major Food Group

His namesake flagship, Carbone, is a celebrity magnet, pop culture phenomenon, and perhaps the most coveted reservation in the country even ten years after it first launched in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Few stars can outshine Carbone—the person or the restaurant—at the moment but in Shani, he’s met his match. The Jerusalem–born chef is the grand poobah of the Israeli food scene and one of its most acclaimed exports. Known for his creative interpretations of Mediterranean produce (tomato sashimi; blackened whole-roasted cauliflower) and dishes with cheeky names (7 Clouds of Ricotta, Not One More; Sea Bass Fillet with a Deep Memory of Gas Stations), Shani has a constellation of restaurants in and around Tel Aviv and has taken many of them global, from New York to Paris to Singapore.  

After their encounter in Israel, Carbone and Shani decided to team up and launch an outpost of Shani’s HaSalon concept in Miami. Housed inside the colorful art deco bones of former South Beach icon, China Grill, the lively communal-style dining room puts the duo’s devotion to fresh ingredients on full display with a menu of inventive vegetables, handmade pastas, and grilled fish prepared in a wood-fired hearth with theatrical flair—another symbiotic trait both chefs are known for.  

In the latest installment of Designing Delicious, we go inside HaSalon Miami and talk to Carbone and Shani at the restaurant’s one-year anniversary party. 

How did this partnership come about? 

Eyal Shani: They seduced us.

Mario Carbone: I fell in love with him and his food in Israel a few years back and we knew immediately when we locked eyes that we needed to do a restaurant together.

Was it love at first sight for you as well, Eyal?

Eyal: The first moment when I understood Mario was after eating at Carbone. It was a great dinner, but there’s a very fresh memory in my heart. Two days ago we cooked together and he made a pizza. It was a very basic, primitive dough that I made for him and he was the one who created it. I saw the way he was cutting the sage leaves and chopping the chili pepper, but the way he was putting them on the pizza—flowing like feathers.

I was amazed because we saw everything in life when we talked about cooking, but then suddenly you see a movement that you can understand. It’s all about energy with chefs. Then he put the pizza inside the oven with the right movement, which is not so simple. That was after one year of being together. Then two hours later he invited me to eat in his new Contessa restaurant. It was a great dinner but there was an artichoke salad that I will never forget all my life. It took me a year to really understand who he is and now I feel so proud to be a part of his dreams.

HaSalon first opened in Tel Aviv in 2008, Carbone New York in 2013. Both restaurants have remarkable staying power in an industry that is very transient and ephemeral. What’s the secret? 

Mario: If you go to HaSalon or Carbone, after your meal you’ll know a little something about us. We make the food that we are. We use the same ingredients and very similar processes to make slightly different products. Though sometimes they look very much alike. But we have the same goal to express ourselves through these ingredients.

Eyal: Here we are on Miami Beach and there is a sea, a beautiful one, one of the most beautiful ones. But it’s not the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean gives different directions to the food. It has to be so fresh. In the end, it’s about expressing the sun, vibrancy, colors, and freshness. So from almost the same point of view, we’re working with the food and the ingredients. It’s very simple, but it’s also not because sometimes a lot of parts are missing or some extra parts are there that are not needed. Mario’s kitchen is pure and I try to make my kitchen pure as well.

What are some of the unique characteristics of HaSalon Miami? 

Shani: In summer, HaSalon is a very risky place for the team and also for the customers. We are calling them audience because we have a stage. It’s risky because our menu is on the move all the time. It’s not about Mediterranean cuisine. We work from our own senses. When you work from your senses, you’re becoming completely naked and very sensitive. In the end, it’s the energy that comes in from the food into the blood [of the customers] that makes them dance. If they will not dance, it means there wasn’t enough happiness inside the energy that I charged the food with.

As HaSalon Miami celebrates its first anniversary, what’s your read on how it’s fitting in to the local culinary landscape?

Eyal: Our restaurants are like a translating tool—we try to understand the vibe and the energy, the wishful thinking and the dreams, and we try to translate those into food. One year is so short. I’m just beginning to feel the city. I recognize the depth of the layers, the freedom. So I’m just getting to the point where I feel that I can begin to create this restaurant.

Mario: It takes time to settle in, to break in. To find your voice. After a year now, we’re all very excited about the future as we start to understand who we are and what our place is.

You guys seem to have a bit of a bromance going on! 

Mario: I think this is our arena to celebrate our love.

Eyal: Exactly.

Mario: Sometimes it’s a wordless conversation through food and ingredients, and that’s how we express our love for each other.

Eyal: There will be a moment when we put it together. In that moment, it will be the real HaSalon.

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