When the new Brown Jerusalem boutique hotel opened in December, it also opened Ruhan, a kosher cocktail bar in the hotel lobby, which served Redefine fish, pasta and meat – a product at herbal made in israel – all under kosher certification from the religious organization Tzohar.
Barely four months after opening, the restaurant in central Jerusalem has decided to serve real meat, as well as sauces made with butter and cream, thereby giving up its kosher certification. The laws of kashrut prohibit the mixing of milk and meat foods.
“We wanted to be successful, but we couldn’t see how it could work with a kosher restaurant,” said Liran Alayoff, OTH Group Manager, Restaurant, Bar, Club and Events Business at Brown Hotels. . “Sometimes you are able to reach both types of customers, and sometimes neither. »
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The Brown Hotel chain, which will have more than 50 hotels in Israel, Greece and Europe by the end of 2022, has Tzohar certification in some of its kosher restaurants, while others have acquired kosher certification. certification more widely accepted by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
The opening of its latest establishment in Jerusalem was a test for the hotel chain.
Although there are three other Brown hotels in Jerusalem – Villa Brown, Villa Brown Moshava and Brown Machane Yehuda, Ruhan is the group’s first full restaurant in Jerusalem.
He chose to work with Tzohar, which launched its own kashrut certification agency in 2018 in an attempt to break the chief rabbinate’s monopoly and gradually expanded its reach to all food establishments in Israel.
Ruhan hired Orel Kimchi, a renowned chef from the Popina restaurant in Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv, who created a tasteful menu of dishes such as carpaccio of pumpkin sprinkled with parmesan, a pudding of savory bread with fresh cream, and cabbage stuffed with Redefine meat served with cream of kohlrabi and chimichurri with almond.
“It’s a terrific ingredient,” Kimchi said, speaking of Redefine Meat a few weeks ago at Ruhan. “I don’t see a problem with creating a kosher menu. These are the ingredients that are offered to us and we work with them to create dishes. »
Ruhan’s menu has been considered exciting for kosher customers in Jerusalem, featuring unusual dishes and a stratospheric Israeli wine list, as well as inspired cocktails made with locally made spirits. In the intimate space on the first floor of the boutique hotel, the clientele consisted of tourists and locals, some observant Jews and some not.
But the number of customers who came was not enough, Alayoff said. And it seems that the Tzohar certification was not either.
“We were on edge,” he said. “We didn’t offer kosher certification with the Jerusalem Rabbinate and we didn’t serve real meat. Customers [qui mangent] kosher would call us and say, “Ah, you are Tzohar certified; it’s not kosher enough for us”. For their part, the non-religious would say to us: “What do you mean, there is no meat? “.
Ruhan will not be completely tariff (non-kosher), insists Shahaf Segal, who handles public relations for the Brown Hotel Group, because he won’t be serving seafood or pork. But cooking will mix meat and milk, making it completely non-kosher.
In Israel, strictly kosher hotels must have separate kitchens for meat and dairy, and kosher restaurants serve a meat or dairy menu, but not both.
Kosher food establishments must close on the Sabbath, and Ruhan can now stay open Friday nights and Saturdays — another perk of not being kosher certified.
According to Segal, offering a kosher menu was a liability, even in Jerusalem, where the population is very observant.
“We are used to Tel Aviv where the crowd is excited and rushes at the opening; she shows up right away,” she says. “Jerusalem is different. It takes time. »
Jerusalem is indeed different, agrees Anat Kirsh, longtime owner of Zuni, a non-kosher bistro in the nearby cobbled neighborhood of Nahalat Shiva.
Kirsh and her estranged husband opened Zuni 16 years ago in a run-down former carpentry shop, bringing a taste of their hometown of Tel Aviv to the capital with a 24/7 bistro serving breakfast and brunch as well as lunch, dinner and drinks, every day of the week.
They then took Zuni’s famous French toast and the spirit of Tel Aviv to New York’s Upper West Side.
The couple later separated and Anat Kirsh returned to Israel with her children, continuing to run Zuni Jerusalem and commuting from Tel Aviv almost daily.
“With the people of Jerusalem, you have to be patient,” Kirsh said, recalling the long empty nights during Zuni’s first year in business. “It’s very difficult here. The people of Jerusalem are wary of new places. But once you conquer them, they are yours forever.”
Zuni remained open during the coronavirus lockdowns, and its kitchen staff made home deliveries. Customers would often call, asking Kirsh to run their credit card or placing “just like that” orders, simply to support her.
Zuni survived, although the pub is no longer open all night and Kirsh has had more difficulty finding good waiters – a problem faced by many restaurateurs during the pandemic.
Yet his Jerusalem establishment will never become kosher, Kirsh said; one of his favorite dishes is BLT, a Shakshuka with bacon and mussels. That said, she is convinced that all non-kosher restaurants in Jerusalem have a plan B to go kosher.
“The question is when will it be necessary to move to plan B,” said Kirsh.