If you know anything about Laser Wolf, you know that it is incredibly popular and that nobody can get in. Chef Michael Solomonov’s Philadelphia import opened in May with the aim of “celebrating the flavors and colors of Israeli food,” via a variety of skewers and salatim. Pre-bedtime bookings have seldom been available since.
The shipudiya’s casually flashy location with fantastic views from The Hoxton hotel’s rooftop level, credible accolades, a fun environment and good food have amounted to buzz that influencer content can’t buy. The hot new destination’s aspiring visitors, in fact, line up to wait for Laser Wolf’s vibrations when online reservation stakeouts fail, which they often do.
Without a reservation, you might spend more time in the hotel lobby than the restaurant. Down a wide staircase, the queue to the host desk sometimes starts forming before Laser Wolf’s 5pm opening time. About a dozen bar seats set aside for drop-ins fill up quickly as lucky ones disappear behind elevator doors. A recent estimate for two was one hour, which ultimately doubled.
There are worse places to wait than The Hoxton’s large lobby. Its couches and chairs are comfortable enough, there is WiFi and a small bar serving hotel-priced beer, wine and simple cocktails. But, although I’m typically a champion of bar dining, I wouldn’t wait 120+ minutes to sit at Laser Wolf’s again, where the stools are fixed to the floor, lap space can’t comfortably accommodate leg-crossing, and elbow room is a little too narrow to fit the bounty most will order.
The best way to enjoy Laser Wolf’s long, wide-windowed dining room is at a table. They have the view, and, more importantly, they’re better configured for the feast to come. The occasional booking for two will pop up after about 10pm, and sometimes a little earlier for larger parties. If the choice is between biding your time downstairs and eating late, opt for the latter.
Order the prix fixe. Choose a skewer, and each $46-$52 option begins with a veritable pinwheel of salatim in 11 silver bowls with a flawless hummus at the center. Its olive oil surface gleams gold and vibrant parsley pops like confetti. Dip its accompanying pita, warm and soft between your fingers, like there’s more to come because there is: this and the whole platter’s riches are unlimited.
The plentiful presentation personifies Laser Wolf’s warm hospitality, amplified by an accompanying card illustrated with a legend detailing what you’re about to dig into. Babaganoush, gigantes with harissa, Turkish celery root and green beans with matbucha are among the best, and those slower to consider for refills (fresh but perfunctory pickled green tomatoes and Persian cucumbers; cabbage with fennel and schug) are still pretty good. It’s all agreeably seasoned if not overly ambitious or unique in NYC to this restaurant alone.
That the skewers come one to an order might seem paltry on paper, but, keeping in mind the shared spotlight with the salatim, they're appropriately portioned. Each is fired over an open kitchen’s charcoal grill; charred to enhance without overpowering. The beef and lamb koobideh’s ($48) grind achieves a sensational texture and keeps its meats’ distinct tastes intact. The chicken shishlik ($46) perfects its bird to juicy and tender effect that will persuade poultry dismissives. À la carte starters and mains for two (a dry-aged T-bone for $175; whole branzino for $120) are also available, but add-ons are unnecessary and there are enough additional terrific prix fixe sticks (steak for $48, tuna for $54) to plan your next several visits, which, at this rate of wait, will take several more seasons.
New York city’s best new ice cream ends the meal. Peerlessly creamy soft serve is topped with a brittle, translucent sesame shell and a pair of cherries served in a petite paper cup that you can even take with you to give the next party a better shot.
The Vibe: Fun, electric and so buzzy it practically vibrates.
The Food: Mostly prix fixe with a variety of skewers preceded by a bounty of salatim including sensational hummus and baba ganoush.
The Drinks: Cocktails, wine, beer and arak.
Time Out Tip: Laser Wolf is still one of the toughest tables in town. Be prepared to wait a couple of hours as a drop-in or eat late with a reservation.
Laser Wolf is located at 97 Wythe Avenue. It is open Sunday-Wednesday from 5pm to 11pm and Thursday-Saturday from 5pm to 1am.