Where Glatt Kosher Restaurants Come in Many Flavors


teaneck-restaurants1David Corcoran of the New York Times reports: One restaurant is quiet and soothingly lighted, with a high-priced menu offering sweetbreads and beef-cheek gnocchi and oat-and-dill-crusted branzino. Another is straight-ahead Indian, with first-rate pakoras and rousing kebabs. A third has longhorns in its logo and serves its secret-spice-rubbed brisket only after a 14-hour sauna in a Southern Pride smoker.

Quick: What do they have in common?

Well, all three are in Teaneck. But their essential feature is one that may not occur to you until you notice that most of the male diners are wearing skullcaps.

The three – Etc. Steakhouse, Shalom Bombay and Smokey Joe’s – are all kosher restaurants. And not just kosher, glatt kosher – which technically has to do with lesions on the lungs of the animals used for meat, but is often used by restaurants to indicate extra-strictness.

Every week or so they – and Teaneck’s two dozen other kosher eating places – get an unannounced visit from inspectors with the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County. “We typically check products, new shipments and deliveries, monitor the proficiency of the mashgiach,” Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, the council’s president, wrote in an e-mail message.

Mashgiach? That would be the person who must be in the restaurant at all times to make sure that the laws are being followed – that dairy products be strictly separated from meat, that no stray insects turn up in the salad greens.

Then there are the hours: Nobody may do any work on the Sabbath. “When God created the world, he was very unkind to kosher restaurateurs,” said Joe Kessler-Godin, 41, a Columbia graduate who owns Smokey Joe’s. “We lose Friday and half of Saturday.”

What they gain, though, is a sophisticated and devoted clientele: observant Jews who have moved by the thousands to this vibrantly heterogeneous Bergen County township in search of a comfortable suburban life “with all the amenities, and that includes restaurants,” as Mayor Michael Kevie Feit, an Orthodox Jew himself, said in a telephone interview.

The three discussed here stand out from the broader whole – which includes Persian, Israeli, Chinese, seafood, pizza and even a coffeehouse called the Lazy Bean – in their effort to push the kosher envelope, to present food that works on its own terms, no matter the rules and regulations. “You would never know it’s kosher,” said Mr. Feit, “and that’s meant as a compliment.”

All three are open Saturday (night) through Thursday; Smokey Joe’s also serves lunch Friday. All are accessible to wheelchairs. And all allow you to bring your own wine as long as it is labeled mevushal, meaning pasteurized according to kosher law.

Etc. Steakhouse

“Sorry I couldn’t talk to you the other day,” Seth Warshaw, the chef and owner of this unassuming but exhilarating restaurant, told me the day after Thanksgiving. “I was knee-deep in turkey London broils.”

You know, turkey London broil – well, maybe you don’t. The recipe (boned turkey breast, butterflied and stuffed with butternut squash and turkey chili) is the inventive, intuitive Mr. Warshaw’s. A Brooklyn native who grew up in a kosher household in West Orange, he said he always knew he wanted to cook; even when he was working as a mortgage broker, “Escoffier was always next to my bed.” When this 30-seat space came up for rent, Mr. Warshaw, 29, grabbed it, opening last February.

His meat entrees call for the sturdiest mevushal red you can find. Hanger steak was tender and gorgeously juicy, with lively sides of sweet-potato mash and caramelized onions and leeks, and a pomegranate reduction of carefully modulated sweetness. Veal osso buco came with a terrific, autumnal apple-cranberry compote.

Appetizers were even more eye-catching: Arctic char, seared and crisp outside, rare and moist within, its oiliness offset by scallions and grapefruit sections; and crunchy, nutty-tasting sweetbreads with stewed apples and a lima bean pur√©e. At dessert, even ice cream does not defeat Mr. Warshaw: Using a soy-milk substitute, he somehow manages to channel Ben & Jerry. It’s a tour de force, like this young and rising restaurant.

Shalom Bombay

The name of this tidy 50-seat restaurant at once recalls the beloved 1988 movie “Salaam Bombay!” and the enduring Jewish tradition of the city now called Mumbai.

Glatt kosher though it certainly is, there is nothing particularly Jewish about the cooking here – though as Joan Nathan, the author of “Jewish Cooking in America” (Knopf, 1998), points out, Mumbai is a favorite destination of vacationing Israelis. “Indian food is like Israeli food,” she told me. “They do a lot with eggplant, chickpeas and potatoes. It’s exotic, with all these sauces and spices.”

These flavors come through vividly in the cooking of the veteran chef, Paul Singh, a native of Delhi. Appetizers like papri chaat and pakoras are crisp and grease-free; Indian breads are fresh, warm and properly blistered; and the two entrees we tried, reshmi kebab (boned chicken marinated with cashew paste) and lamb stewed with spinach, were precisely cooked and vigorously spiced.

Who comes to a place called Shalom Bombay? “Muslims, Jews, non-Jews,” said Alan Gohnen, one of two partners who opened the restaurant in October 2008. “We see a lot of couples out on dates. The ethnic food is such an icebreaker – it gives them something to talk about.”

Smokey Joe’s

This big, bright downtown storefront opened in March 2007 but is still a work in progress. Some dishes are as smoky and succulent as that long-cooked brisket; others are as ill conceived and careless as chicken mole with half-melted chocolate chips.

Smokey Joe’s deserves a lot of credit for trying, though. Mr. Kessler-Godin, the owner and part-time chef, is constantly coming up with new ways to attract diners to what his Web site calls the “first authentic, wood-fired, slow-cooked, pit-smoked glatt kosher BBQ restaurant in the U.S. of A.” He has initiated a live-music series on Saturday nights; this coming week’s attraction is a renowned klezmer band.

Its name is fitting: Hot Pstromi.

{NY Times/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. this laitz has the chutzpah to say g-d was chas veshalom, unkind!?!?!?

    yidden should boycott a restaurant owner who speaks this way with such kefirah.