The big apple smoked tacos

Why can't the London or Manchester kosher food scene be more like New York's, asks Stephen Rosenthal

May 11, 2017 17:48

I’m writing this from about 30,000 feet, hurtling across the globe at about 350 miles an hour, after a wonderful five days in New York with the missus.

We’ve just been told our kosher meals weren’t put on the flight — obviously — but, honestly, I’m almost relieved.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a part-frozen, part-defrosted flaccid chicken breast with school dinner vegetables as much as the next guy. It’s just that I’ve eaten my body-weight in food this week.

Not only that, I can’t see myself ever eating again. There’s no point now. It’ll only be a disappointment.

I should have seen it coming. When we asked friends for their tips, the gentiles went with Ellis Island, the Highline and the Guggenheim. The Jews? Prime Grill, Reserve Cut, Mike’s Bistro, Le Marais, Abigail’s, Wolf and Lamb. In every instance, they only mentioned restaurants.

I was taken aback. Here’s me thinking I’d carefully curated a collection of cultured friends and acquaintances, when in fact, I’d surrounded myself with carnivorous heathens.

To test this, I built an itinerary of military precision: days of the finest high culture would be topped off with evenings of the finest kosher dining in the Big Apple.

And fine it was. I’ll spare you the long-form tasting notes, but we’re talking fillet mignon, smoked tongue, roast pigeon with sour cherries, wagyu beef ribs and apple smoked lamb tacos.

And that was just the dinners. By the Empire State Building we lunched on chestnut gnocchi at Tiberius, a Glatt Kosher, 24 hour restaurant.

In Grand Central Station’s food hall, we found two restaurants named “Mendy’s” side by side. Why? One’s milky, the other’s meaty. It’s insane.

I had always speculated that, without the restrictions of jewish dietary law, I would quickly become very fat and very poor. I now know that to be completely accurate. A month in kosher Manhattan would condemn me to tracksuit bottoms and my family to the streets.

But what a month it’d be.

And then there’s the people-watching. We were struck by the complete mix of diners around us. In some restaurants, the Jews were in the minority, and it wasn’t uncommon to see a table of Latinos next to a table of African Americans next to a table of Chasidim, all tucking into their glatt kosher fare as if it was totally normal.

And that’s the wondrous thing — in New York, it is totally normal.

Rather than Jewish restaurants in Jewish suburbia, these are kosher restaurants slap bang in the centre of Manhattan. The only question you’re left with is, why can’t it be like this in London or Manchester?

When you experience the buzz of these wonderful restaurants, you immediately understand the nature of a vibrant community in 2017. New York’s Jews have created a set-up in which they can come together in the finest of style, just like everyone else, seamlessly coexisting in both the religious and secular worlds.

That just doesn’t happen here and, if your career is anything like mine, you too can claim to have tasted the sparkling water and Diet Coke of some of the most expensive Michelin-starred restaurants in London.

So, I’ll admit, I was totally misguided in my concerns. My friends aren’t total luddites. On the contrary, they’re culture vultures of the highest calibre. The Guggenheim it ain’t, but I’d happily advocate that kosher New York is an unmissable, almost Unesco-level experience well worthy of our time, investment, awe and imitation.

The fact that it’s accompanied by the most jaw-dropping triple cooked fries is merely a bonus.

May 11, 2017 17:48

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