Chef Shahar Dahan

Chef Shahar Dahab – The Corporate Chef behind  SASS’ Café, MoNa restaurant and THE NIWAKI

Coming from Israel, Chef Shahar Dahan built up his reputation as one of the most unique chef of the Principality.

Chef Shahar Dahan was born in Israel, but it is in the United States that he developed his culinary savoir-faire, and he embarked on this journey to impress the love of his life.

I travelled to South America for one year, then moved to New York City to settle down. When I was around 30, I fell in love with a Spanish woman who was really into food. 

We were all the time going to restaurants and were experiencing different kinds of food all over the United States of America,” – remembers back Shahar. – “It inspired me so much that I started watching food channels and cooking by myself before enrolling in the French culinary institute in Broadway (New York), where thanks to my passion and hard work, I was ranked second in my class.

In 1999, Shahar’s culinary career takes a start within top international restaurants. A few years later, fate led him to Monaco for the opening of a festive dining destination, where he discovered the specificities and expectations of the Monégasque clientele.

Since 2021, Shahar holds the position of Corporate Chef at SASS’ Café, where his motto is “come for the food, stay for the party”, Mona Restaurant and the Japanese restaurant THE NIWAKI.

How did the opportunity arise to work for SASS’ Café? 

Samy Sass, the owner of SASS Café, reached out to me as he wanted to take SASS’ Café to another level of culinary experience, creating new dishes and putting new flavours on the menu. I started working there in 2020.

Chef Shahar and Samy also discussed to open various restaurant concepts, including a Japanese one. 

The idea of opening a fine dining Japanese restaurant in Monaco arose as Samy had always been in love with Nipponese gastronomy, which is when they started to work on THE NIWAKI concept. 

Samy is an unconditional lover of Japan. Throughout his multiple travels in the land of the rising sun, he discovered and explored the Japanese culture.

Samy envisioned this new Japanese restaurant as a standalone brand from the famous Sass’ Cafe. He told the Living in Monaco magazine that “People associate me too much with nightlife because of Sass’ Cafe. But I am a foodie and I love to create new restaurant concepts. At THE NIWAKI, I created a completely different atmosphere. It has a unique identity and we have regular guests who never been at Sass’ Cafe before.

Running and matching the customer expectations of three unique Monégasque restaurants, where do you find inspiration for new recipes?

Our recipes are inspired by each corner of the globe. 

For MoNa (levantine cuisine), most of the dishes come from my childhood memories. 

For THE NIWAKI (fine dining Japanese restaurant) and SASS Café (Mediterranean festive restaurant), it mainly comes from my travels all around the world as well as from my culinary background.

Of course, I also feel very lucky to be surrounded by talented Chefs in each of the restaurants who are also creating and putting ideas together,” – says Chef Shahar.

What is your all-time favourite dish?

It is spaghetti vongole. However, as a food lover, there are many dishes that make me vibrate. As I was raised in a Moroccan house, I am very fond of dishes reminding me of my childhood such as couscous, tajine, Moroccan recipes for fish.

What would be your personal choice from each of the kitchen that you supervise in Monaco?

My favourite dish at SASS Café is the new ‘Wagyu Filet Carpaccio with Artichokes’, a very summer dish. 

At THE NIWAKI it is the famous ‘Crunchy tuna aburi smoked mayo’ as well as the ‘Toro tartare, ponzu wasabi, caviar’. 

And at MoNa restaurant, I am very fond of the ‘seabass cigars’ and ‘zaatar lamb chops’.

Would this be the same recommendation for people who first time experiences your menu?

No,” – laughs Shahar. – “At THE NIWAKI restaurant, I always suggest our guests to taste our sushi as they have a very high quality level, using the freshest produce and homemade preparations (even the soya sauce is homemade!). 

I also recommend our guests to taste fish and meats coming from the robata (Japanese barbecue). We have put a lot of effort into creating a one-of-a-kind menu with various types of Japanese dishes, using different techniques of infusions and marinations. 

At SASS’ Café, I love suggesting the Sea Bass in Salt Crust Style, and the USA Angus Beef Fillet Sassa Style.

In MoNa, the pita with the falafel as well as all the mezze are a must-try.

This Japanese restaurant, The NIWAKI, is chic yet cozy, contemporary yet traditional, and promises to offer a one-of-a-kind memorable culinary experience!

The art of niwaki (niwa: garden and ki: tree), steeped in the deepest of traditions dating back thousands of years, is guided by serenity, patience and attention to details. These art trees embody the core of nature, with trees reduced in scale and pruned as clouds to retain their essence. 

The niwaki pruning art’s objective is to restore the essence of the tree, same way as they strive to offer their guests the essence of Japanese gastronomy blended with a contemporary hint and a touch of Mediterranean influence.

Chef, do you like sushi?

Before working in a Japanese restaurant, I had never eaten sushi in my life,” – jokes Shahar.

Additional to the main kitchen, the taste of The NIWAKI also comes from the sushi counter. Seated on high wooden chairs in front of the Sushi Master, indulge yourself in an authentic and vibrant Japanese atmosphere. This experience will allow you to discover a pleasing culinary universe paired with uniquely personalized service. The excellent quality of our sushi is attributed to a one-of-a-kind combination of fresh ingredients, coupled with a blend of traditional and modern savoir-faire.

This year, the first edition of the European Sushi Championship was organized at THE NIWAKI with Wagner Spadacio (executive sushi chef at THE NIWAKI – Vice world Champion and French champion of sushi) and Cheryn Espallargas (Marketing manager at THE NIWAKI).

How did you find this event?

It was a marvellous event paying tribute to the culinary Japanese savoir-faire. The ten candidates coming from ten European countries were great and did wonderful creations.  We were very honored to have been chosen by the European Sushi Championship committee to host this event.

What would be your recommendation to someone who wants to be a chef?

Love what you do. Do it with passion and determination. Even if it is difficult, work hard and give yourself the opportunity to achieve your dream.

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