Kosher restaurants, for the most part, haven’t been able to succeed in the Bay Area in recent years. The demise of Bar Ristorante Raphael in Berkeley after four years and the Kitchen Table in Mountain View after three years would attest to that.
Multicourse kosher dinners open to the public, often prepared by gourmet chefs, have had a decent run as of late, but they’re not easy to pull off, they’re sporadic … and they’re usually expensive.
Now along comes someone with a new model who says, “We’re going to disrupt the kosher space in San Francisco and the Bay Area.”
It’s Rabbi Alex Shandrovsky, the founder and CEO of L’Chaim Sushi — now L’Chaim Foods — and he’s quite excited about the newest part of his nearly 2-year-old business, a concept called L’Chaim@Home.
In a test phase in San Francisco’s Sunset District over the next couple of months, L’Chaim@Home is delivering ready-to-heat kosher meals to people’s homes. The first were delivered last week: marinated chicken in homemade teriyaki sauce with freshly roasted sesame seeds, served with rice, edamame and Asian cabbage salad.
A variety of cuisines will be offered, Shandrovsky said. “My goal with L’Chaim Sushi has always been about bringing kosher to people like me: the locals, the hardworking Jewish people who [want to keep kosher] but are limited because they don’t have access to good, quality, kosher food,” he said.
His plan is to operate L’Chaim@Home like food delivery services Sprig or Spoon Rocket or Munchery; the latter touts itself as delivering “nourishing, affordable, chef-cooked meals right to your door.”
“The kosher space has a lot to learn from those models,” Shandrovsky said.
The trial runs in the Sunset District are happening on Thursdays; for now, it’s “pay as you want — whatever they think the value of the food is,” Shandrovsky said. “We want to eliminate any barrier between the individual and kosher food, and then can examine the results, if it’s working, what people want, etc.”
After the beta testing, the plan is to expand to other parts of San Francisco and then beyond, and possibly on more days. The food is prepared in a 2,000-square-foot kosher kitchen at Adath Israel in San Francisco; L’Chaim is under the kosher supervision of the Modern Orthodox congregation’s Rabbi Joel Landau, having separated from Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California seven months ago.
Shandrovsky has other plans, as well. L’Chaim already serves sushi to some 2,000 people every month by catering board meetings, corporate events and Jewish community celebrations (such as a Jewish Heritage Month event at City Hall on May 20). From those people and new customers, he wants to form a “kosher buyers club.”
People who value kosher, he said, can come together to “create leverage” that would allow for access to “quality food and services.” This, Shandrovsky posited, could translate into several benefits: buying power; a greater variety of kosher food (beyond sushi) for catering community events; the ability to hire a top-notch chef on a one-meal basis; or being able to rent out a restaurant and turn it into a kosher paradise for one night.
For now, though, home delivery is the focus. Shandrovsky’s goal is to deliver 1,000 meals a month, and because he is aiming for high quality, he thinks Jews who don’t keep kosher will be a big part of his customer base. He also wants to reach out to the Muslim community.
“It’s exciting. This has a lot of potential,” he said.
(415) 535-9147; firstname.lastname@example.org
“AT HOME” IN OAKLAND: Mica Talmor-Gott, who grew up in northern Israel, has opened a Mediterranean restaurant in Oakland called Ba-Bite. The name is a play on ba’bayit, which means “at home” in Hebrew.
Mica, 41, and her husband, Oregon native Robert Gott, 37, are longtime caterers (Savoy Events) who live in Oakland. She attended culinary school in Israel and worked in a few high-end Tel Aviv restaurants, according to a Berkeleyside.com story by J. food columnist Alix Wall.
The bright and freshly scrubbed restaurant is on busy Piedmont Avenue in the former Pizza Pazza location. Orders are taken at the counter and the food is brought to the table.
The menu features many Israeli favorites, such as hummus and falafel, and usually six or seven salads a day (changing with the seasons). They come mezze style in small dishes, three for $12 or one for $4.50.
The Shirazi salad is what many would call “Israeli salad,” with cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and mint, but more exotic options are on the menu, with ingredients such as spiced carrots, cumin, lentils, hazelnuts, saffron and turmeric. Think of the salads in a Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook.
Five different hummus plates ($8-$13) are available, each “positively creamy [and] silky,” according to Wall. The lineup of main courses ($12-$16) includes chicken tagine, a lamb kefta kebab with saffron rice, and the Palestinian dish majadera (lentils and rice with fried onions).
Talmor-Gott said she and her husband are eager to present the full spectrum of flavors of Israel and plan to change the menu frequently.
3905 Piedmont Ave., Oakland
Weekdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed Tuesday); weekends 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
www.babiteoakland.com; Babitepiedmont on Facebook
A kosher bakery in San Francisco called Taboon is targeting September or October for its official opening, according to co-owner Isaac Yosef. Already certified by Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California, the bakery just finished a trial run in a rented kitchen, but won’t be baking again until its grand opening at Sixth and Minna streets, Yosef said. A website (www.taboonsf.com) has tidbits about how “our journey began with great-grandfather Mosheh, who traveled from Iraq to Israel carrying with him a wealth of delicious recipes” and showcases specialties, such as seven different kinds of sambosak (a Middle Eastern pastry pocket filled with cheese and other ingredients), challah, garlic bread, and parve chocolate and cinnamon rolled cake … Featured recently on the Jewish website Tabletmag.com as a “disappearing delicacy,” ptcha (also known as kholodets) is being offered as one of three rotating specials at Saul’s Restaurant and Deli in Berkeley. The entrée is made of chicken feet, beef knuckle and beef tendon in aspic (meat stock gelatin), and Saul’s is getting the ingredients from the Local Butcher Shop a couple of blocks away … The Community Table, the café at the JCC of San Francisco that sells mostly nonkosher food, is working with a consultant to address issues such as kitchen delays, an occasional dearth of grab-and-go items and a shortage of customers. “We are revamping and moving forward to create a better experience for the customers,” said Michele Pfeifer, the café’s executive chef and general manager since 2011. She noted that while the six-day-a-week kosher lunch program for seniors run by the café is a big hit, the grab-and-go kosher items are not selling well … Saying he envisions 50 locations within the next five years, Israel-born and East Bay–reared Yaniv Benaroya has opened his fourth Gotta Eatta Pita, this one at 86 N. Market St. in downtown San Jose. The slick, simple, Chipotle-style falafel/hummus bowl spot launched in Danville 19 months ago, then expanded to Pleasant Hill and Pleasanton. At each of the four openings, one Jewish mother has been there to help oversee things: Yaniv’s mother, Shoshi, who is also a chef … The brother partnership at Authentic Bagel Company in Oakland is no more. Mark Scott has decided to pursue other food industry–related interests, leaving the bagel shop, its 40-plus accounts and its long weekend lines in the hands of his brother, Jason. The duo started the business together in July 2012 … Chef Ross Wunderlich, formerly a sous chef at hot spots such as A16, Oliveto and Bar Tartine, is planning to hold a third Jewish Deli Pop-Up Feast at Merigan Sub Shop in San Francisco’s SoMa area, where he now works. The first two, held in April and May and advertised only on social media, sold out about 70 tickets each, at $57 apiece for five courses. Offerings went above and beyond average deli, such as corned tongue on latkes with Thousand Island dressing and herbs, and chopped chicken liver made with the anise-flavored liqueur Pernod. The next date isn’t yet set, so hook up with Merigan Sub Shop on Facebook or Twitter to be in the know … Goodman’s Jewish Deli is going strong in Sonoma County, as the deli food booth can now be found at four farmers markets: weekends in Santa Rosa, and two weekday evenings in Petaluma and Windsor. Check Facebook for times and locations, but operators/caterers Les and Tara Goodman note that they will be absent from all of the markets for most of July … Kehilla Community Synagogue’s “Pop-Up Shabbat” (an outdoor Shabbat service near a pod of food trucks in Oakland) has returned this summer, with the next one set for July 10. Call (510) 547-2424 for more info … There have been some changes at the ever-evolving Rye Project deli in San Francisco, where owner Adam Mesnick has taken whitefish salad off the menu (it didn’t sell). Also, matzah ball soup is available only two or three days a week (people prefer easy to-go items, like salads); there’s a new beyond-the-standards lineup of sandwiches (featuring combinations of Jewish deli meats and cheeses, with creative names); the double-baked rye now comes from Los Angeles (not Detroit); and the deli is no longer open on Saturdays or during dinner hours.