Shalom to the restaurant of summer 2022: Laser Wolf, an open-air, Israeli-style grill on Williamsburg’s Hoxton Hotel rooftop. Its pricey, protein-powered menu is worthy of its eye-popping view of the Williamsburg Bridge, the towers of Billionaires Row and all the bright lights in between.
It seems that every year a Brooklyn place is anointed as the city’s “restaurant of the summer.” In 2021, it was Outerspace — a quasi-Cambodian party scene that was also on a rooftop. It famously shut down the day after a rave review in the New York Times.
That won’t happen to Laser Wolf. It’s going to be around for a long, long time, including in the winter when they lower the windows and turn on the heaters.
Named for the character of a butcher in “Fiddler on the Roof,” meat-centric Laser Wolf is run by highly acclaimed Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov and his business partner Steve Cook. The duo’s CookNSolo empire boasts 12 places in the US including the original, widely praised Laser Wolf in Philly. The two teamed up with the slick, Chicago-based Boka Restaurant Group for this Brooklyn venture, which opened in May.
The restaurant has transformed a colorful, 10th-floor deck that formerly was wasted on a widely unloved lounge called Summerly. Among other gentle changes, the new team replaced tacky furniture with Williamsburg-appropriate wooden tables, some imprinted with backgammon boards common in Israel eateries.
The menu isn’t cheap, but neither is it quite as expensive as it first reads. Prices of $46 to $52 for grill dishes include the most lavish salatim (mezze and salads) assortment ever set on a round plate. The price also include sides of rice and dessert: sweet-as-pie, brown sugar soft-serve ice cream with pistachios and cherry crisps sculpted like a little Monet “Haystack.”
The salatim “stays on the table throughout the meal,” the waiter promised. It boasts 11 items, including familiar friends such as hummus and baba ganoush but also lesser known characters such as tangy Turkish tomatoes and piquant mushrooms with kale and sour cherries. Solomonov’s famous, tahini-rich hummus is blended to a silken consistency that begs for pita-dipping — which we did insatiably. You can almost fill up before the main courses arrive, if you aren’t careful.
It was brave of Laser Wolf to thrust itself into the city’s increasingly competitive Middle Eastern culinary party. But it’s no party scene itself. There’s no tabletop dancing and napkin twirling as at HaSalon. The restaurant isn’t about rowdy socializing but about the grills that blaze and smoke behind the bar.
The key to the extreme flavor they impart is that they’re positioned a mere inch and a half above the coals. The unusual proximity allows fat drippings to sizzle and sputter upward, imparting a smoky essence to meat and fish.
Made-for-sharing chicken shashlik, tuna shashlik, brisket kebab and barbecue short ribs were equally moist, luscious, and well-salted and seasoned. They’re among the brawniest protein cuts in town, more rich in mineral and earth essences than steakhouse fare. Even the tuna was so rich it could almost have been mistaken for a land creature.
Most of the choices — especially the brisket — turned out by executive chef Andrew Henshaw are almost supple enough on the tongue to drink. What makes them all so tender? The cuts are premarinated with “a ton” (one of the cooks told us) of onions and garlic which don’t overpower the underlying flavors but contain enzymes to tenderize and caramelize everything they touch.
The well-chosen wine list is relatively inexpensive. Most bottles are under $70, including Yarden Pinot Gris 2019 ($62), a winning fruit-and-mineral fusion that I have longed to find in New York since I first enjoyed it in the Golan Heights.
Laser Wolf stands in the midst of Wythe Avenue’s increasingly South Beach-like hotel strip, where young boozers make merry even on the side of a rooftop water tank. The sight was enough to make me glad for Laser Wolf’s grown-up way with its vibrant cuisine — thrilling “party” food mercifully without the party.