Oh what’s in a name? In the case of Jezebel, a kosher restaurant in the heart of Soho, a name says a lot. First off, there’s the fact that Jezebel is a slang term for a promiscuous woman. It stems from the biblical times, in the Book of Kings I and II, where Jezebel (or E-Zevel, in Hebrew), was a minx of a shiksa up to no good.
The Phoenician princess and wife of Ahab, kind of Israel, is regarded as the seductive jezebel who converted the king from worship of the Jewish God to worship of the Phoenician god, Baal. With her makeup wearing, idol worshiping and “cosmopolitan” culture, Jezebel represented all that was not-kosher.
Consequently, last week when the owners of Jezebel (the eatery) announced it would be going through a major makeover, one of the first things to go was the name; and so the restaurant formerly known as Jezebel is now J.Soho, (no affiliation with the other J to the Lo).
Likewise, in another attempt to de-spice things, the owners announced additional changes in the business model, which they hope will put the restaurant on the map alongside some of the city’s more traditional and upscale kosher diners. In an official statement, they said: “We are going to switch to a different kosher certification, namely the OU (Orthodox Union) which is the most widely recognized certification. It will open up an entire key kosher clientele that currently does not eat at the restaurant.”
This might be a challenge for a place where the doorman posts on the club’s Facebook site that “sexy gets you in.” To clarify things, the structure of the place is similar to that of city staples like Tao or Anja: the first floor is a bar/lounge and restaurant, while the second floor is a club, fully equipped with soft couches and bottle service.
“Most of the guys [at the club] have no game,” a source told the JV. “They rely mostly on their black cards to do the talking, and it usually works.” The same source also revealed to us that on multiple occasions she’s seen the wait staff being slipped twenties from married men, who request that the young crew keep mum regarding the fact that woman they had back home with in the early hours of the AM is not their wife.
As we’ve previously reported, Jezebel’s young owners are modern orthodox Jews. Menachem Senderowicz and Henry Stimler, originally from Belgium and London, moved to New York to work in finance. They noticed a lack in high-end, trendy kosher restaurants downtown, (yes there is the Upper West Side, but that’s adult New York).
“Despite being in a city with some of the hottest restaurants in the world, Menachem and I often find ourselves staring at a menu where we can only eat a handful of things,” Stimler told the JV recently. “With Jezebel, we’re breaking the mold. We’ve combined a sexy, fun environment with a completely kosher menu, offering an experience unlike anything in Manhattan.”
Senderowicz added that Kosher dining “doesn’t have to mean boring. Our creative riffs on classic American cuisine will take it to a whole new level.”
So that’s the short version of how Jezebel was born, and for a while there the reviews were rave, and kosher food never looked so sexy. But the taste left something to be desired, and since its grand opening last June, the place has switched top-chefs four times in an effort to get the food right.
Eventually, what started out as a trendy kosher restaurant blossomed into an upscale pick up joint. But is that really a bad thing? We live in a city where it’s hard to meet people, as more and more singles resort to online dating by the likes of JDate or JWed because they forget how to flirt without pre-contrived one liner texts and emoticons. It might not be so bad to know there’s somewhere in the city you can go to, where the patrons are all young and Jewish and looking to mingle. People genuinely do want to get to know you at Jezebel, and you end up talking to those sitting next door— perhaps even sharing a joke at the expense of the owner, who on the day the Jewish Voice was there, was being interviewed by a leggy blonde reporter with a microphone, as a doting camera crew watched on.
As the night neared a close, the crowd started to fill. Matisyahu songs played in the background, some more guys in suits walked in, and a pretty girl sitting next to us disputed what to order, looking onto the menu while occasionally lifting her eyes to glance at the incoming crowd. “I came here for some good Kosher meat,” the JV overheard her telling the waiter. He looked back with a smirk, as she quickly realized where she was and corrected herself, “I mean steak, not a guy.”