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What’s the best kosher restaurant in New York?

I would hesitate to call myself a foodie, but being in the profession for a couple years now Iíve definitely an appreciation for good food and wine. The truth is, I havenít had the chance to eat out much, Iím just getting over price shock and most of the time I come away so disappointed when eating out I would love to barge into the kitchen and cook it myself.This past week was different. Something came over me and I decided to go to what my foodie friends call the two best kosher restaurants in New York City. It seems that†proportionately†LA has better kosher food and definitely more restaurants that strike my fancy.† Now of course we can argue what in fact qualifies as the best kosher restaurant on a variety of factors, so maybe I should say that according to about half a dozen fellow kosher foodies Ė Mikes Bistro and Pardes are the only two restaurants worth eating at for the money.

Of course there are other decent or good restaurants, but when you add in my sensibilities like refusing to eat at a place calling itself a French steak house that serves Sushi, or any non-Japanese establishment that serves sushi for that matter, the choices get narrower and narrower. Let me also say that I found steak houses to be so clichť and boring that I also refuse to eat any place touting such a name. This means that anything that has Grill in the name just sounds so boring and 1985 that I want nothing to do with it. Anyone with a really hot grill and a good piece of meat could learn to cook it to a nice rare or medium rare, no need to pay a lot of money for something anyone could do themselves.

To compare Mikes Bistro and Pardes would be a crime, itís simply apples to kale, cannot be done. In trying to display this, I told folks that Mikes is safe, Mikes is like a symphony Ė you can understand it, itís beautiful and good, but it doesnít blow your mind. Pardes is like avant garde jazz to someone who only listens to Mordechai Ben David. Itís not focuses, it goes everywhere and makes no sense, but somehow it works, the flavors come together and it blows your mind.

Pardes restaurant review:

This past Wednesday night, my fiancť and I went to Pardes. I have wanted to go for sometime, thanks to one particular friend who has been nudging me by saying that the menu was ďrevolutionaryĒ and ďpushing the boundariesĒ for a kosher restaurant. Since their menu is not available online, I figured that maybe pushing the boundaries at a kosher restaurant in Brooklyn meant that the men and women ate together or something.

Like any consumer I looked at Yelp and was dismayed at Pardesís poor 2 star rating. I look at the reviewers, all non-seasoned yelpers (IE: very few friends and very few reviews and all about the service Ė none about the food) Yelp is dangerous, search for a restaurant and yelp comes up first, then open table, google reviews and all that good jazz which ruins a restaurant for customers before they even give it a shot. I honestly didnít know what to expect. Would the service be so bad that the amazing food couldnít make up for it? Basil Pizza and Wine Bar in Crown Heights had fairly good food, but the atrocious service ruined it and made sure I would never return.

We arrived promptly at 7pm for our reservation, I cannot stress how important reservations are for good restaurants. The place was packed and we were seated at the corner table, which we were told was the best seat in the house, I soon realized why. The restaurant is very small and diners are forced to keep their conversations low and intimate. Our server didnít drop the menus and leave like most kosher restaurants, she asked us if we needed anything explained and so on.

The menu was on clipboard because they change it daily, rare in the kosher world, but a good sign considering the first thing I noticed was that everything on the menu was in season. The menu instantly blew my mind, flavor combinations seldom thought of were jumping out at me, squash and cocoa nibs, salmon roe and fingerling potatoes, I noticed a lot of truffle usage and mushroom usage in general.

Instead of jumping to the entrees, we started with medjool dates wrapped in lamb bacon. While we were waiting we ordered 5 more items from the menu, a wide variety of salads, fish courses and anything that struck our eye so we could truly sample from Pardesís bounty. I was willing to bet that a lot of people who didnít quite ďgetĒ the menu came in and opted for the steak, chicken or burger dishes, passing over anything that seemed strange or that they were too afraid to ask about. I overheard one of the servers explaining endives to someone and then confit preparation to another. If people didnít understand these basic everyday things, I would they understand the sunchoke flan we would receive later on for desert.

The bacon wrapped dates arrived on a large white bowl plate with a shmear of pistachio tahini. They were simply amazing, only 3 of them, but the dates and bacon were so rich, The tahini was sweet and I could detect some sort of acid or mustard on the back end, I guess to balance out the richness of the dates. Off to the far side of the plate, forgotten almost, was a pair of thinly slices pieces of kohlrabi with some mint on it. It was the palate cleanser one could hope for, the freshness was great to get the intense bacon and dates out of your mouth so you could move to the next course.

Our food began arriving, first the kabocha Ė apple salad. Thinly sliced (Chef Wendel must have many mandolins in his kitchen) apples were arranged on bottom of the beautiful plate, on top of this were wedges of kabocha squash, some fresh tarragon, cocoa nibs (it tasted like it was raw) and some sort of fig situation (I say situation because Iím not sure what it was) basically it was a salad that was touching all of my mouth. I had these tart apples on bottom, the savory squash, the tarragon added this salty tinge to it and the fig added this very sweet component. The plate up was beautiful and I now wish I had my camera to take pictures of it.

We then had this deconstructed potato salad. Simply roasted yellow fingerlings, arranged in a circle, with some sort of creamy citrus dill and shallot dressing with salmon roe floating in it. It was very simple, yet super delicious and well thought out. Next up on our Pardes food journey was the Mackerel, I donít know much about mackerel besides for the fact that itís a fishy fish. I did know that when I looked at the menu it caught my eye because pine needles were used in the preparation. I have thought of such things before, but have never used this method in my cooking and it was really clever. The chef also went against the cardinal rule of not using inedible garnish by placing a smoked piece of pine tree on the plate and I applaud him for doing that. The mackerel itself was full of subtle flavors and the petrus beer reduction at the bottom was very tasty, I especially liked the usage of dandelion greens on the top of the fish.

The only dish we werenít totally satisfied with was the scallion risotto. We both thought it could have used a bit more seasoning and since there was no salt on the table (everything else was cooked to perfection) we wondered if thatís all it needed. However, I should add that the placement of a poached egg at the bottom of the plate was brilliant, because without the use of cream risotto just simply can never get that full effect, but upon discovering and piercing the poached egg, our risotto assumed the amazing consistency of creamy risotto.

The chef sent us out a lamb tartar which was the most beautiful plate I have ever seen. I sent the chef a message asking if he has a photo of this plate. We simply sat staring the plate for a good 5 minutes because we didnít want to destroy the art. A thinly sliced cucumber was made into a small circle and the lamb was placed inside, several enoki mushrooms (long tentacle looking things) were sticking out of the lamb, three dots of mustard around the outer edge and several crunchy beet chips were scattered about. Words do not do it justice, the tartar was good, but raw lamb is a bit too much for me so my fiancť readily agreed to eat the rest which she said was good.

As the plates were piling up around us, we were taking our sweet time savoring every bite, I went to the bathroom to get a lay of the land. I immediately noticed that almost every plate was a burger or chicken. Iím sure the chicken is good, Pardes uses only organic free range meat and the chicken they get is really good, but I just felt like they should be stepping out of their comfort zone just a little bit.

We ordered 2 deserts and the chef sent one out for us to try. I donít know the chef, but when I called up to make my reservation the woman taking my reservation said something along the lines of ďis this THE Heshy FriedĒ so I think we got the VIP treatment from the kitchen. I ordered the walnut ice cream with rye-polenta shortbread. My fiancť ordered the pear- crŤme brule and we were both very satisfied. Nothing too whacky, just more beautiful plates and great flavors. The chef sends out this sunchoke flan and Iím not sure how to take it. Itís a simple plate up, but using sunchoke in deserts is not something you think of every day. Sunchoke aka Jerusalem artichoke is normally prepared like you would a potato, so we were intrigued. Apparently we were being used like lab rats because it was not yet on the menu. It was savory, but until I dug in with the kumquats I didnít get it. The kumquats made it savory and gave these incredible sweetness that is very hard to get out of kumquats which are incredibly tart and acidic. To be honest, I would have liked some salty part, Iím that guy who liked salt on my ice cream and chocolate. The desert could have also worked as a brule.

We were both stuffed and the entire bill came out to about $130 with a tip (I always tip at least 20% for good service and the service was top notch) It is possible that the service has improved from itís first months. The host was very good, our server was smiling, genuine and knew the menu well. The restaurant is tight, which makes getting out of your seat to go to the bathroom a chore. The dťcor is quite nice and I especially liked the original ceiling. The only thing I wasnít too impressed with was the wine list, but it seems that the dishes mostly call for whites and those big bold reds arenít too present. The beer list is extensive and I was shocked to so many IPAís, I wondered if they had any double or triple IPAís Ė too bitter for me.

It was a meal I will not forget, the food was excellent, the plates were beautiful and the service was very good. I would recommend going Pardes with an open mind and be prepared to try new things if you really want to make it worthwhile.

Mikes Bistro restaurant review:

Mikes Bistro has been on the mind for sometime, itís not a steak house, they donít serve sushi and Iíve never heard someone say anything bad about it. They also have a tasters menu which means I donít have to go broke in trying to taste more than one or two things on the menu. If you want the tasting menu you have to reserve it 24 hours in advance, I did this and opted in for the wine pairing menu as well. The tasting menu is $100 for 7 courses and the wine pairing is for 3 courses at $20. I should mention here, that when I eat out price is not an option. If you look at the price it kind of ruins the event. Of course, in this case a very nice fan/friend paid treat my fiancť and I for dinner.

Since Mikes Bistro has a more familiar menu than Pardes, itís easier to describe in plain word. Not being a food writer, I donít think I did Pardes justice however I do think that I could describe Mikes well enough to give you an idea of their food and service.

Mikes is a nice restaurant, the dťcor is nothing special, but the servers treat you very well. We started off with tequila cocktail compliments of the bar (I called up a friend who used to work there and we were VIPíd) While sipping our cocktails, the server brought us a rectangular plate with two small coffee cups of pureed soup, one a cauliflower and the other a carrot bisque. Just two simple creamy soups, easy and very good. We liked the cauliflower better because it was more unfamiliar. A lot of people in the food world judge chefs based on their soup, because itís such a simple thing to make, yet so many people screw it up.

Next up was the salad course, another safe and simple salad. Diced purple and golden beets arranged in a circle atop some bright red decorative sauce, some orange Supremes, endive slivers and one candied walnut at the top. Not something I would have ordered from the menu and almost too clichť for my tastes. Itís not that it was bad, I would have liked a couple more walnuts to add a bit of crunch, but my plate was chipped (not a big deal to many of you, but something uncalled for in a place charging upwards of $68 for an entrťe) and I couldnít take my off of the lame parsley garnish. Parsley may be the lamest garnish known to man and it didnít do anything for the plate, maybe some endive tops, frisee or even some fennel chips would have been nice. I like garnish that wows the plate or the eyes, but a sprig of curly parsley does neither. I should mention that the beet salad was beautiful.

At the beginning of each course the server would explain it to us, but unfortunately some of them had such poor English I didnít really understand much of it, so I apologize if I make any mistakes describing what we had. After each course was cleared, our cutlery was replaced, a simple yet super nice gesture which goes a long way. The servers were good and prompt, but they seemed a bit nervous for some reason.

Our third course was a really beautiful plate of roasted artichoke on a chickpea puree. Balsamic reduction was squirted on the bottom of the plate as well and it almost looked like chocolate. The dish was simple, yet beautifully arranged and the garlic bread crumbs really finished the plate well.

Right before our forth course, the wine pairing started. We were given glasses of Segalís Chardonay, it was drinkable, but I guess you get what you pay for. Mikes Bistro has an extensive wine list, though by my calculations the markups were about 500% in some places. I didnít ask, but I wondered if they had a corking policy, probably not considering the non-mevushal issues. They also have a full bar and quite a selection of bourbon, scotch and cocktails.

Our fourth course was where the meat began. Seared big eye tuna with some sort of chili oil on bottom. The flavor was great and somewhat smoky, the plate was beautiful. Our fifth course was homemade gnocchi with chicken and duck confit and it was simply heavenly. The gnocchi was perfect and the richness of both confitís (preparation where you cook and store meat in itís own fat) was balanced out by this bright red cranberry sauce at the bottom of the bowl. I began to notice a recurring theme in that the chef must love red on his plates as well as citrus. I wondered if he had someone on staff supreming citrus all day long.

After the gnocchi, the sixth course was a seared goose breast and this was all of our first times having goose. Goose is like duck, you can cook it rare and ours tasted very meaty for poultry. It was smoked and the three small slices were laid out in a fan over some roasted endive and some really good sauce but Iím not sure what it was or if it needed any accompaniments. The goose was smoky and reminiscent of pastrami yet somehow different. Definitely the meatiest foul Iíve ever tasted and delicious. We were later told that kosher goose is tough to come by and on Thursday nights itís the special and it runs for $68. Iím glad we got to try and small amount of it as part of our tasting.

As if to welcome the meat, the 3rd wine pairing was a very dry cabernet, but not too big as I would have liked.

The seventh course was the best veal Iíve ever tasted and I donít even do veal too often. It was practically white and it was absolutely delicious, simple and straightforward, no bells and whistles, just focusing on the meat here. The eighth course was a fairly large black angus rib eye. It was about 2 inches thick and cooked a perfect medium rare throughout. It was delicious and was super tender and buttery; Iíve never had steak this good.

For desert they served us our fourth glass of wine, a really yummy Riesling. We were served two deserts, the first being a simple yet amazing blueberry crumble with ice cream and the second a Belgian chocolate fondue platter.

The meal was amazing, the food, the service, everything is top notch, but it didnít take me to new heights. The flavor profiles, the combinations or food and plates were beautiful yet familiar. Mikes Bistro has a safe menu, itís comfort food cooked perfectly. Not one dish needed any seasoning, the meats were cooked to our requested medium rare and we walked away feeling very satisfied and looking forward to our next meal there. I was also a bit sloshed from 4 glasses of wine and a cocktail.

Find more kosher restaurants on 4torah.com

{ 118 comments… add one }
  • David January 30, 2012, 11:14 PM

    Thanks for the reviews.

    So, at Mike’s, you got 8 courses plus desert after ordering the 7 course tasters menu? How many oz would you estimate the steak to be?

    At Pardes, did you have a “main course”, or you got full from a bunch of smaller things? Are they forthcoming to noobs? I don’t think
    I would pick up on the palate cleanser, or the poached egg either.

  • A. Nuran January 30, 2012, 11:59 PM

    when eating out I would love to barge into the kitchen and cook it myself.

    Kind of like when we eat out. If she likes something my wife wants me to reverse engineer and make it cheaper at home.

  • Dave January 31, 2012, 2:44 AM

    If the servers at Mike’s were nervous, it was no doubt because they knew they were serving “THE Heshy Fried”.

  • shnuk January 31, 2012, 6:06 AM

    wow u must have never gone to club house cafe

    • Heshy Fried January 31, 2012, 9:20 AM

      The clubhouse cafe menu is terrible, plus the food is nothing to write home about and it probably gets bad vibes from Le Merais across the street which has got to be one of the worst restaurants I’ve ever eaten at.

  • basil January 31, 2012, 6:07 AM

    have u ever been to basil

    • Heshy Fried January 31, 2012, 9:23 AM

      Did you read the post, I mentioned that the food was decent, but the awful service ruined the entire experience. If Basil only let in adults it may do alright.

  • Ben January 31, 2012, 7:48 AM

    Why is bŠnh mž acceptable in a non-Vietnamese restaurant, but sushi is only acceptable in a Japanese restaurant? (I understand that every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks he can roll a sushi, but who is to say that any given steak-house hasn’t achieved the perfect French-Japanese fusion?)

    • Yochanan January 31, 2012, 10:44 AM

      If you want to do a French-Japanese fusion steakhouse, stick with teriyaki sauce and/or kobe beef.

    • A. Nuran January 31, 2012, 11:17 AM

      Plenty of Koreans do decent sushi. So do a number of well-trained non-Asians.

  • Yossi January 31, 2012, 8:02 AM

    The best kosher restaurant in NY closed years ago: Bernstein’s on Essex.

    • Frum Satire fan January 31, 2012, 10:56 AM

      Does anyone know where one can get (hot) pastrami like the stuff Bernstein’s used to put in their sandwiches (Kosher please, not Kosher-style). And where one could find egg rolls (the big kind) like the one’s Bernstein’s had ?
      Heshy – did this place close before you had a chance to get to it? I know it’s been closed for many years.

      • Yossi January 31, 2012, 11:06 AM

        You can’t get Bernstein-like food anywhere. It was one-of-a kind and those who never had the chance to eat there will never know just what they missed.

    • Mark January 31, 2012, 11:07 AM

      I miss Bernsteins a lot. And I haven’t lived in the NY area for more than 20 years!

  • Abby January 31, 2012, 11:18 AM

    Hesh – have you been to Prime Ko on the Upper West Side? The prices are crazy exorbinant and its like eating gold, but I thought the food was pretty good. Your thoughts?

    • Ben January 31, 2012, 7:38 PM

      Prime KO is good, but expensive.

  • yosef January 31, 2012, 12:30 PM

    wow i was blown away by this review coming from you!! first of all let me say i have only been to mikes and pardes in the past year and totally stopped going anywhere else!! also i should mention im a chef and therefore big time foodie!! i now go to pardes at least once a week now (cuz im on a diet otherwise id be there everyday) cuz the menu is changing that often there is always something new and exciting to try!! as far as ur critic skills i think you described the food at pardes very well especially the kobachi squash apple salad that most jews dont order cuz there is no steak in it!!
    since there is no other restaurants even worth writing a review on here in nyc if u do get to Israel anytime soon there is a brand new place called Finks across from mamila hotel that on par with pardes go check it out!!

  • Jake January 31, 2012, 12:35 PM

    I’d like to point out that the main issue which many people (myself included) have had with Pardes – which you actually noted in your review – is the service (or lack thereof). As you stated in the review, Pardes was aware that they were serving “THE Heshy Fried” and I would like to suggest that perhaps this resulted in somewhat better service for you, and therefore you did not really get to experience & review the Pardes that the rest of us are stuck with…..

    • Heshy Fried February 1, 2012, 1:58 AM

      Wrong wrong and wrong, I watched the entire waitstaff carefully, anyone in the industry can tell you that going into someone else’s restaurant is like an educational field trip and what I saw was darned good service. The waitstaff has no idea who Heshy Fried is, all they know is that I may have been VIP, I’m not sure if I was and that the kitchen may send out an amuse bouche or something to try. I watched 4 different tables right next to me get served in the exact same manner that we were served and treated.

  • AH January 31, 2012, 1:27 PM

    Thanks for posting this. I saw your Yelp review of Pardes and was wondering if you would write about Mike’s too. (Especially since I’ve never been there.)
    Regarding service: Firstly, I went to Basil shortly after you posted that review and the service was excellent. (I should add that I went because they raffled off dinner for 2 and I won, I don’t know how that may have affected the service.)
    At Pardes in August the service needed some work. (Eating in the back is nice though.) Two weeks ago it was great, with no reservation and not being a VIP. ūüôā Additionally, don’t read too much in to explaining confit. My server started explaining it to me but I stopped him and told him that there was no need.

    You say that the service at Mike’s was excellent but also say that some of the servers didn’t speak English. I take it that you didn’t really mind that?
    Also, seeing that Mike’s charges $68 for goose makes me really happy that I tried it at Pardes.

    One of the comments brings up bŠnh mžs, on that subject I had an excellent one at Pardes about a year ago. One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.

  • robert henry January 31, 2012, 2:26 PM

    best pastrimi was at the Crown Deli on houston street in the 1970s. small old fashioned kosher deli. near allen street.
    must better than bernsteins

  • heshy jay January 31, 2012, 4:23 PM

    hi hesh
    long time no speak

    i must say that for anything but cookies cutter Pardes take the cake!!!!!
    Moish Wendel is a true gastronomic genius, his love for the art of cooking is so visible in every dish that comes out from his kitchen under his own watchful eye, from the housemade pickles, to the carpacio and everything in between that changes almost daily, and now he’s making his own rustic breads as well if there is an art in food chef Moish Wendel at padres is its master make reservation in advance as they almost never take walk-ins Pardes Gatranomic cooking, 497 Atlantic avenue Brooklyn NY 718.797.3880

    • AH January 31, 2012, 5:51 PM

      I walked in. ūüôā Saw you there evenÖ

  • shalom B January 31, 2012, 6:00 PM

    metroklub in chicago is pretty dam good, and thats coming from a new yorker

  • Yochanan January 31, 2012, 6:51 PM

    Anyone ever go to Wolf and Lamb? I went there last night and had a medium-well Illinois Ribeye (boneless w/ mushroom gravy). Friendly and quick service: The waiter was able to explain each cut and style of meat. And the appetizer (sweet corn soup) actual arrived within 5 minutes of ordering.

    • DRosenbach January 31, 2012, 10:25 PM

      I find their dill mayo quite lame-o. I love Abigael’s, although everyone will probably attack me about that…right about…now.

      • Yochanan February 1, 2012, 8:11 AM

        Where’s Abigael’s?

        • YY February 1, 2012, 11:19 AM

          Abigael’s in in Broadway near the diamond district, if I remember correctly. It’s great. They make a pastrami eggroll appetizer that is to die for. Wolf & Lamb is great as well. Classic steakhouse with very good steaks and a cool, old school vibe.

  • Shmuel February 1, 2012, 7:18 AM


    Great write up! You’ve put my entire Pardes experience into words.

    In defense of the burger eaters there, I have to say this. My wife ordered the burger, and let me tell you, it was a burger like none other. Its was absolutely delicious. He used a great cut of meat to create that burger, not just run of the mill chopped meat garbage. Next time you’re there, give it a shot.

    Mazal tov on your upcoming wedding. B’sha Tova! Hatzlacha

  • moishe February 1, 2012, 11:52 AM

    the truth is, our service WAS a problem for a while, its gotten better though thanks to some awesome key players like my wife, my new GM Matt, & ofcourse the lovely Kate, as well as others. we appreciate the folks that stuck with us, & feel badly about those that got poor service. you have to remember that pardes evolved into what it is, it started as a burger & steak joint we never meant for it to be a fancy place, it just kind of grew up around us, & it took time for us to catch up, were still trying.

  • Bruce Godfrey February 1, 2012, 8:16 PM

    Cheers from a non-Jewish fan. Question I have – and maybe this is self-evident to those who know, not sure – is there a kashrus issue with both meat and what sounds like milk dishes on the table at Pardes? I ask re the lamb and the flan/ice cream, which I think are both milk products.

    Mind you it’s none of my business personally what food someone else serves or eats, but I ask for edification about kosher restaurants. My experience with kosher restaurants is limited to Max’s in Silver Spring/Kemp Mill MD (addicted to their falafel) and the Umami Bistro in Pikesville MD (great pan-Asian menu.)

    • leah February 3, 2012, 9:06 PM

      Umami is pretty good, but I can never seem to get people to go there. When friends or family visit us in Balto, they all want to go to David Chu’s, the most overrated Kosher Chinese restaurant ever.

    • AH February 5, 2012, 9:06 PM

      The seemingly dairy dishes are made with non-dairy ingredients, like almond milkÖ
      Basically every kosher (meat) restaurant does this in some form. Ice cream as a dessert is not uncommon.

  • Caravan of Dreams February 2, 2012, 8:41 AM

    You should try some of the vegan joints like Caravan of Dreams, Sacred Chow, Blossom….because they don’t have to cater only to Jewish clientele their service and ambience are great, and the food is nothing to sneeze at either.

  • Shira Salamone February 2, 2012, 2:06 PM

    Bruce, have no fear–we kashrut-keepers figured out long ago how to use parve (dairy-free) products to create foods that would normally be made with milk. Parve ice cream has been available for decades.

  • Laura February 3, 2012, 4:27 PM

    Really enjoyed the reviews! Now I’m hungry.
    But please, it’s DESSERT!! DESSERT!!! DESSERT!!!

  • Woodrow/Conservadox February 14, 2012, 7:38 AM

    Just went to Pardes last night: the more interesting dishes was great, the more “normal” ones were OK but less so.

    Highlights: goat ragout (deliciously kind-of-salty-but-not-quite)
    tomatoe-y bread (complex)

    not-so-great but still OK: fries (should have ordered the kabocha or something else more complex, my bad!), normal bread, flan.

  • barry levin July 17, 2012, 5:41 PM

    face facts -kosher food sucks! period

  • Moish December 12, 2012, 12:33 PM

    Impressive. And here I thought I would be the first Michelin-starred frum chef. Looks like he could beat me to it.

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