More than 60% of restaurants close within their first year. Still more will shutter within the next three. In a world filled with so many new and interesting dining options, finding a unique and original concept is paramount to a restaurant’s success.
Dining concepts surrounding small plates, gluten free, molecular gastronomy and vegan options have all recently had their heyday and the food world is constantly searching for the next big craze.
But would anyone have expected that the next culinary trend would be kosher?
What is Kosher?
Kosher in essence is a system of dietary laws for observant Jews that regulate which foods can and cannot be eaten along with instructions on how these foods are to be prepared. These dietary laws, known as the laws of kashrut, date back to the Old Testament, and were implemented to instruct Jews on which foods are fit to eat. Under kosher restrictions, shellfish and pork are off limits, as is eating meat and dairy together thus kosher restaurants must choose whether to serve fleishik (meat) or milhik (milk).
Yet while some chefs view these dietary limits as restrictions, others see them as a challenge and despite the many ingredients that are off limits, kosher dining done right means diners won’t even notice they are gone.
When Top Chef alum Alex Reznik opened Ditmas Kitchen last year in the Kosher Corridor of Los Angeles, he had hoped the restaurant would fill a void in the Orthodox Jewish community which severely lacked modern kosher dining options. Named for the street in Brooklyn where Reznik’s grandmother lived, Ditmas Kitchen was conceptualized as a modern steakhouse that also serves seafood, homemade pasta, and a host of other intriguing small plate options. The restaurant also features a comprehensive beverage program comprised of a kosher wine list– including wines from across the world along with a craft cocktail list featuring many familiar spirits.
With Ditmas Kitchen, which celebrated its first anniversary on Christmas Day, Reznik sought to bring the millennial kosher community something contemporary, describing his cuisine as “American food that just so happens to be kosher.”
“While the Orthodox community wants their kids to be kosher,the kids want to eat contemporary food and at the time I conceptualized Ditmas, there was no restaurant for the next generation,” said Reznik. “They needed a place with a cool vibe, interesting food, and a contemporary feel.”
He couldn’t have imagined, however, that he would take the rest of the Los Angeles dining community along for the ride.
Bridging the Gap
For too long, many non-Jews equated kosher dining as little more than matzoh ball soup and pastrami sandwiches. Even within the Jewish community, kosher dining was perceived to be somewhat homogenized and the modern dining options were uninspiring to say the least.
Yet amongst millennial Jews, a culinary movement began that railed against the outdated kosher cuisine of their parents and sought to bring kosher dining up to par with the contemporary food scene.
“Kosher has changed a lot in the last five years because of Bravo and the Food Network,” said Reznik. “People are able to see other types of food available and are interested in new options.”
Ditmas Kitchen, with its contemporary menu, innovative wine and cocktail program and charismatic Top Chef helming the kitchen, gave the community the modern edge it was missing, and in doing so, united both the kosher and non-Jewish community by showing that kosher cuisine can in fact be innovative, current and, most importantly, delicious. Reznik’s thoughtful and exciting cooking has spearheaded the trend of making kosher dining accessible and inviting to those outside the Orthodox community.
With Ditmas Kitchen’s success, Reznik has announced he will soon open another restaurant in the heart of Queens, bringing his modern kosher cuisine to the East Coast.
And with dishes like Reznik’s Persimmon and Lamb Bacon Salad or the Shalom Burger, complete with a spicy mustard and tomato marmalade, who can say that kosher dining is missing out on anything?