New York Jewish Week by way of JTA — 4 years in the past, businessman Albert Gad opened UN Plaza Grill, a chic kosher restaurant, within the Midtown East high-rise condominium constructing during which he lived. The area was attractive — excessive ceilings, tall home windows, starched white linens masking well-spaced tables, full with a view of the United Nations throughout the road. The meals was scrumptious. The service, refined.
Gad created this upscale kosher restaurant to, in his phrases, “give individuals a unique feeling about kosher eating.” And it did. Folks got here for the porcini and white mushroom soup, topped with truffle oil and croutons, and for the peerlessly grilled center-cut ribeye steak.
However no restaurant might halt the nefarious progress of COVID. In March of 2020, the restaurant closed. Gad stored his condominium, however he joined the New York exodus to Miami, to reside there full time.
Moderately than quit on the restaurant, during which he was closely invested, Gad reopened it in August of 2020 with the identical workers and chef de delicacies — though final month he introduced the appointment of Argentinian-born and Miami-based restaurant skilled Ines Chattas as its “culinary director.” She is tasked with revitalizing the menu, making it extra modern and increasing its worldwide really feel.
In her new position she brings a variety of expertise: She cooks. She plans. She designs menus. She crunches numbers. And if extra modern is what the restaurant wants, Chattas has a cool all her personal.
Chattas, 45, has been concerned within the hospitality trade for greater than 20 years, first within the “again of the home,” at eateries together with Miami Seashore’s Icebox Cafe, and extra not too long ago as a chef on the fashionable, 10-year-old restaurant Open Kitchen in Bay Harbor, close to North Miami. From there she was recruited to be the chef/operator of two residents-only eating places, together with Majestic Tower in Bal Harbour, the constructing the place Gad lives. It was there that Gad grew to become a fan of her meals and her enterprise savvy.
He first requested her to maneuver to New York to work at UN Plaza Grill 4 years in the past.
“I by no means took it significantly. I’ve three companies in Florida!” stated Chattas. However this fall, after a visit to New York to see the restaurant and meet the workers, she agreed. She would proceed operating her Florida eateries, however she would add UN Plaza Grill to her very full plate by coming in as a advisor.
Preserve the chef. Preserve the workers. As culinary director, she would tweak the present menu, add extra worldwide and “hip” components, and take it to the extent the place she and Gad consider it belongs.
Chattas can also be a brand new face in an trade dominated by males.
“She is one in all lower than a handful of girls within the high place in a kosher restaurant in Manhattan,” stated Elan Kornblum, founding father of Nice Kosher Eating places Media Group. Women in the kosher restaurant business have noted that the trade’s lengthy hours and late nights might be tough to steadiness with their conventional communities’ expectations about elevating a household.
Chattas is worked up by the problem, however there was a studying curve. Chattas is Jewish however didn’t develop up protecting kosher. Her great-great-grandparents had been Jewish gauchos, dropped at Argentina with different immigrants from Japanese Europe on the finish of the nineteenth century by Baron Maurice de Hirsch, the German Jewish financier and philanthropist. She has heat recollections of her great-grandmother Clara’s rooster matzah ball soup — and she or he replicates that taste in her personal — however she has by no means earlier than labored in a kosher kitchen.
“I put grilled skirt steak with chimichurri on the menu and I discovered that kosher skirt steak is just too salty,” stated Chattas. (As a result of skirt steak is so skinny, it absorbs extra salt within the koshering course of than thicker cuts of beef do.) “We don’t have skirt steak on the menu now however we’ve got chimichurri out there on demand.”
Working beneath the steerage and tutelage of the restaurant’s mashgiach (kosher supervisor), Chattas has made adjustments. You possibly can nonetheless get the peerlessly grilled steak au poivre from the previous menu, however now it involves you as filet mignon au poivre with a peppercorn sauce – derived from the non-dairy Tofutti.
“I discovered that Toffuti offers a creaminess to the sauce,” she stated. “I’m proud of the way it got here out.”
Chattas’ multicultural background comes by, too. She describes herself as a “full mutt,” with meals and household roots in Germany, Georgia, Italy, Spain, France, Hungary, Lebanon and Syria. She credit her Syrian stepfather with instructing her how one can make spiced kefta meatballs, a brand new addition to the menu, flavored with baharat, cinnamon and cumin. The veal schnitzel, topped with salad, is a nod to Argentina, the place it’s a ubiquitous restaurant providing.
Tonight particular @unplazagrill Blackened rib eye come be a part of us so long
Plans are underway to present the restaurant a facelift. “We’re finalizing the design of a brand new bar,” stated Chattas. “Folks love to take a seat at a bar. It robotically creates a scene. Each place on the town that’s occurring has one. We’re planning Saturday night time occasions with tapas, blended drinks and a DJ.”
With the UN as their inspiration, Gad and Chattas will additional internationalize their menu for the advantage of the kosher group and the diplomatic corps.
“We’re planning a world tour,” stated Chattas. “We’ll spotlight a unique nation each month and set up it in a method that is sensible. For instance, since Bastille Day is in July, July could be the month for France. We can have a prix fixe menu by a French chef, in collaboration with us, and have kosher French wine.”
At a dinner there not too long ago, a number of days earlier than the most recent Omicron-induced COVID wave, change was on the plate. Chattas’s braised boneless quick ribs, flavored with herbs and spices, had been each comforting and daring. You might style the requisite onions and garlic within the sauce, however the pink peppercorns and allspice had been there, too.
However that was then and that is now. How will the Omicron variant impression Gad and Chattas’ plans going ahead?
“The pandemic is right here to remain,” stated Gad. “Individuals are not going to close themselves up inside.” Chattas is hoping that this newest uptick can be, in her phrases, “out and in.”
However look out for them throughout NY Winter Restaurant Week (January 18 by February 13). They are going to be there, providing highlights from their menu: curried lamb samosas with mango salsa, quick rib ragout with spiced tomatoes and, in fact, center-cut rib eye. And in case you can’t make it there, your entire menu is out there for takeout and supply.