Shai and Karen Lavi Open Third Space

Shai and Karen Lavi Open Third Space

Third Space is located at 659 Auburn Ave. Reservations may be made by contacting Third Space at (470) 789-1901 or

Compressed persimmon salad with pomegranate seeds, salt baked beets, parsley, and mint.
Compressed persimmon salad with pomegranate seeds, salt baked beets, parsley, and mint.

Imagine entering the kitchen of a chic, inviting inn in Provence, filled with the owner’s most treasured and interesting antiques and belongings. Add old friends and new to the dinner table and savor the most delectable cuisine prepared with the freshest ingredients sourced from an organic, local farm.

Only then do you begin to envision the one-of-a-kind dining experience that is Third Space, artfully created by Shai and Karen Lavi.

Shai Lavi, owner-chef of Third Space.

Located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, Third Space features an open kitchen, beautiful antique tables and front row counter seats to watch the gastronomic magic happen. At the long Miele gourmet kitchen, Chef Shai Lavi and his assistants skillfully prepared several gourmet courses for a full dining room of guests on a recent Saturday night. The art-filled space was buzzing with conversation and laughter. At one table, a birthday party was in full swing, and, at the counter, guests were busy introducing themselves to each other.

The word “experience” is key to what the Lavis hope to achieve with the opening of Third Space.

“We want to introduce Atlanta to a different type of dining – one where our guests feel like they have come into our home and we are able to offer them the freshest, most interesting food in a relaxed environment,” said Shai Lavi. In fact, although the vibe in the room feels decidedly casual, the fine dining experience is sure to captivate even the most discerning of foodies. Offered to only 26 guests each night from Thursday to Sunday, seating begins at 6 p.m. and continues until the dining room closes – or as the Lavis say, “when all our guests have left.”

Freshly made linguini with beurre blanc caviar sauce and trout row.

There is no menu, and Shai typically decides only 20 minutes in advance of opening which gourmet fare he will prepare for guests. His decision is based on the availability of the freshest meat, fish and produce, all of which are delivered to Third Space daily. According to Karen Lavi, they are happy to accommodate those with allergies and dietary restrictions if guests let them know in advance when making a reservation.

The plate is Shai’s palette, and he approaches each dish as an artist would his canvas, ensuring just the right herbs are added, the exact temperatures reached and that his guests relish the natural taste of food in its freshest state. He and his assistants are in perpetual motion behind the counter, in the kitchen, as they stir pots, grill meats, and present beautiful plates of food to guests. Karen and the wait staff are just as busy at the front of the house greeting guests, making sure wine glasses are refilled, taking away plates and mingling among those lucky enough to score a reservation for the night.

Karen and Alan Stein on a recent evening at Third Space.

“We hope to introduce people to the most delicious food – nurtured from the land to the hand, so to speak,” said Shai. “I suppose you could say our food is from farm and sea directly to the table,” he added, though he clearly prefers to avoid labels or overuse “foodie” terminology. “We use a minimum of spices because we want people to experience food as it should be – with the natural flavor coming through.”

And fresh and natural it is. Fish served at Third Space is sourced directly from hand-picked fishermen in Florida who phone in their catch from their boats each morning. Most of the vegetables are grown with seeds Shai personally brought to Atlanta from gardens in Israel, and any others are grown from heirloom seeds at Atlanta Harvest, a local farm in which the Lavis are partners. Meat is also procured there from humanely raised animals. Shai is actively involved in the farming process and works two seasons ahead each year to create growing plans.

On this particular night, dinner began with a bread course featuring homemade Z’atar bread and parmesan crusted pizettas, served with homemade truffle butter.

At each course, a different wine is offered that pairs best with the food being served. Several mouth-watering slices of bread later, appetizers followed and included a savory cured whitefish morsel with green onions; tasty, smooth and sublime homemade hummus; and tahini topped with foul mudammas, a Middle Eastern dish made with hearty, creamy fava beans and loaded with flavor from ground cumin and fresh herbs. The foul mudammas at Third Space is enough to turn anyone who thought they disliked fava beans into its biggest fan!

Dan Reingold and Jeremy Salzman at the counter on a Saturday night.

The salad course featured a crisp, delicious, and beautifully presented chef’s salad with fresh butter lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes with a light vinaigrette. Since Third Space serves its courses hot and directly from the kitchen, they are presented as they are ready. A flavorful and hearty root vegetable and chickpea stew, along with a linguini and braised beef dish, topped with homemade Labne cheese, followed. The linguini is homemade in the kitchen at Third Space and was perfectly al dente, definitely savored by all partaking in the experience that night.

Next up, the entrée was a whole, yellow-eyed snapper roasted over lemons served with carrots and saffron rice. The snapper was fragrant and light with a slight taste of the lemons and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The meal concluded with the presentation of malabi, an Israeli milk and rosewater pudding. Though most guests were unfamiliar with the dessert, its delicate texture and flavor proved to be a perfect ending to a delightful night filled with incredible food.

In addition to the dining experience offered on Thursday through Sunday nights, Third Space also hosts parties during the week and on some weekends. Recent events have included corporate gatherings, family celebrations, rehearsal dinners, high tea, brunches, and family celebrations. Karen, an event planner for many years before opening Third Space, manages all the events and works with clients to ensure their events are memorable, flavorful and joyful. The room can hold up to 40 guests, and according to Karen, “our guests can be involved in menu planning, or we can surprise them if they prefer.”

Karen and Alan Stein, guests that particular Saturday night, are longtime friends of the Lavis.

Third Space before opening for the night.

“Shai and Karen are the type of people you want to support. They are selfless and incredibly giving, especially to non-profits like CARE and Giving Kitchen. They have a way of making people feel like they’re part of the family,” she emphasized.

When asked about what is most important to share about this most recent endeavor, Karen Lavi said, “We want to spread love through great fresh food. It’s really that simple. People should know there is always food at our table and room for them.”

For Atlantans tired of the usual night out, Third Space offers an enchanting experience with fresh, inventive food and a selection of fine wines from around the world, all served in a sophisticated, well-appointed, yet unpretentious environment.

Third Space is located at 659 Auburn Ave. Reservations may be made by contacting Third Space at (470) 789-1901 or at Parking is available on nearby streets or at the parking lot at back of the development.

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