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Why No Great Kosher, Fine Dining Restaurants?

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Great kosher restaurants are, in my opinion, fairly non-existent here in the United States.

Oh sure, there may be a kosher restaurant somewhere which puts out decent food. Edible food. But here in NYC, where one (me) would think an excellent kosher restaurant is a viable business opportunity, there aren't any. I've been to the ones which are allegedly "the best." And I wouldn't send anyone to any one of them, especially if they were looking for a fine dining experience.

Even weirder, kosher restaurants are expensive. Really expensive. So one might think they'd be able to pull off excellent food; yet they don't.

Why is this? Ingredients to be used can be just as high a quality as at any fine dining establishment. There are no rules against vegetables and fruits. Excellent quality birds are available. As is lamb, beef, goat. Fish, too.

Sure, there's a problem with using any dairy in a kosher restaurant that serves meat, but that's not insurmountable.

So, what gives? Why the lack of great, fancy kosher food?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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In my experience, kosher restaurants are established by people with no restaurant or culinary knowledge. They are typically set up by folks to provide something for the local community. Quality falls by the wayside. IMHO, the better kosher restuarants are the vegetarian places that happen to be kosher to bring in a larger audience.

Regarding pricing. Kosher meat is more expensive to begin with. Add to that the need for supervision from the local Kosher Supervision board. Meat restaurants typically have a person on staff full time making sure all kosher rules are followed. Dairy restaurants have less supervision.

It is nearly impossible to run a kosher restaurant that serves both meat and dairy. Typically, they will serve one or the other.


"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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As Dan has said.

It would have to be relatively more expensive than a 'similar quality' restaurant.

margins at all restaurants are thin. Go to the 'similar quality' restaurant and

1) take away all the meat or 2) take away all the cream and butter

For starters. What would be left for you to sell? Not much.

If it was a fish restaurant, take away all the shellfish, and lobster. You have nothing with a decent margin left.

Your core clients would be kosher themselves. They would be unlikely to visit friday to saturday, sundown to sundown. You dont have enough left to meet your margins and make a modest profit

and there is the added overhead mentioned above.

There was a strictly Kosher restaurant in Oakland, CA that I went to with some kosher friends. It was 'good' not great. No meat. Fish was OK, but supplied at an added cost.

It was dependent on the local Kosher community as its core patrons. a non-kosher party would get less expensive food across the street, equally as good, and have many many more choices.

I dont even recall if it was open fri-sat sundown to sundown, big night to go out.

Edited by rotuts (log)
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In my goyishe mind I associate kosher food with Eastern Europe/Russia...Sephardic cookery is an obvious exception of course... but anyway I don't think I ever saw a fine dining Eastern Europe restaurant kosher or otherwise. Anything in NYC that fits that bill?

Edited by gfweb (log)
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If there were a Kosher restaurant with a 'star' it might be in Israel. Lets assume the star was a helpful guide here:


but then there is this:

Moul Yam

A restaurant that has received a Michelin-star. Located at the Tel Aviv Port, it offers a seafront view as well as great seafood, among which fresh oysters, lobsters and unique chef dishes. The restaurant is expensive but is well worth it. Moul Yam is located at Hangar 24 at the Tel Aviv Port. Tel. 03-5469920

guess its not kosher.

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In my experience, kosher restaurants are established by people with no restaurant or culinary knowledge.

What exactly is your experience? Professional or perhaps as a customer?

I should have said that many are established... But a mixture of both. I have been to quite a few lousy kosher places in my life. I am also prodded regularly to open a kosher bakery. I have some training, but almost no professional experience in a bakery or knowledge of how to run a business. I keep pushing back... family comes first.

Edited by DanM (log)

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Actually, there are issues with vegetables and fruits - bugs. The eating of bugs is forbidden and the work that's required to ensure that many vegetables are bug-free are enormous. The certification agencies have essentially banned asparagus tips, broccoli, and strawberries. You won't see squash blossoms either. Prepping any leafy green is an absolute bitch. I have frequent conversations with a number of the top kosher caterers about the challenges they face

That said, there are some excellent kosher restaurants. Tierra Sur, in Oxnard, CA is fabulous. I've had several wonderful meals there. And in Brooklyn, Pardes is making some very good, creative food at extremely reasonable price points for kosher. Also in Brooklyn (Crown Heights) is Basil.

Pardes menu

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Is there really a market? In Beverly Hills, where demographics suggest a nice kosher restaurant might be most viable, there is a surprising dearth of fine dining restaurants (large portion mid level places are the preference) and it seems Red Lobster might be the busiest place of all :blink:

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