I recently got back from my trip to Philadelphia and wanted to let you all know how it went. Thanks to all of the Chowhounds who gave suggestions for solo dining ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/788875 ), I had some amazing meals at a variety of fantastic restaurants.
I started off the trip at Zahav. I arrived at my Center City hotel at 8:00 on Saturday night and there was plenty of time for a leisurely walk to work up an appetite for my 9:30 reservation. I've wanted to eat at Zahav for a while, with my attention firmly placed on the lamb shoulder. I was dining solo, but rather than try to duplicate Uhockey's experience I decided to satisfy myself with the Tay'im tasting menu. It was fantastic. After the salatim selection and hummus, I continued with the smoked sable, which was served shredded on top of a fried egg perched on a crisp square of grilled challa bread. My second starter was the grilled duck hearts, which were crispy, salty, and delicious. I added the kibbe naya, which wasn't included in the tasting menu; it was tasty, but not super memorable. My main was the kofte, ground beef and lamb meatballs. They were soft and hearty and extremely flavorful!
During the meal, I was chatting up the maitre d' and my server asking details about each course and info on other Philly restaurants. When another party was served a lamb shoulder, I mentioned that I'd love to come back and try it. My server smiled and said "It is very popular." So I'm finishing up the kofte when a server sets a whole lamb shoulder in front of me with a flourish. I am about to tell him he has the wrong table when he says "Compliments of the chef" and leaves. I am puzzled and the server comes over and says "Oh drat! I wanted to be here when you got it. Enjoy!"
Now, this dish needs to be ordered three days in advance. The maitre d' had told me that they do make a few extra on Friday and Saturday for last minute parties. So I'm sure this was an extra that they weren't going to sell -- in fact the rice and chickpeas were kind of dry and it was already 10:30 so there weren't any more seatings. But I didn't care. The lamb was heavenly! And there was no way I was going to eat it all (remember, it serves four people and I had already had a full seven-course meal). The server said I could take it with me, but I have no refrigerator. Instead I asked the table next to me if they wanted to try it, and they thanked me profusely saying "We love lamb!"
The trip was off to a great start.