Having only opened its doors a few weeks ago, a new addition to SoHo’s nightlife/culinary scene has already made quite a splash. With its chic décor, first-rate cocktail selection, and world-class cuisine, this comes as no surprise.
What is surprising, and comes as music to our ears, is that the food and drink are strictly kosher. But the one-of-a-kind experience that is an evening at Jezebel, begins well before you take your first bite.
Jezebel, you see, is almost as much an art gallery as it is a restaurant. Okay, it’s more of a restaurant – but the art on display is still quite impressive in its own right. Fun, irreverent, and just a little bit kitschy, it’s an automatic conversation starter, and it’s everywhere you look. From the shofar-shaped door handles (they also incorporate shofrot into a cool, artsy chandelier upstairs) to the various tableaux paying homage to famous Jews, there’s plenty to enjoy and discuss before you’ve even sat down.
We began our evening in the downstairs lounge. The whole place was jam-packed (make a reservation!). The wait staff were all very professional, and elegantly dressed—like something out of Mad Men. It’s those little touches that, in addition to the high quality of the food and drink itself, put places like Jezebel head and shoulders above the rest. In the lounge, Penina asked for something called a “Brazilian Bikini,” and couldn’t help smiling when she ordered it. No, this was definitely not a “kosher restaurant” in the classical sense…other than it being kosher, of course. Penina describes the drink as cool and refreshing. Sweet without being overwhelmingly so—something she could imagine herself drinking poolside. Feeling adventurous myself, and opting to keep with the summery theme Penina had started, I asked for a Singapore Sling. And let’s just say that it makes a difference when you serve name-brand liquors, even in mixed drinks. The mixologists at Jezebel are clearly aware of this, and we only hope that other restaurants catch on. Until they do, just know that if you’re looking for a decent drink, made properly (all too rare in this age of generic vodkas and instant cocktail mixes), Jezebel is a safe bet.
Moving the party upstairs, we noshed on duck rillettes, a sort of pulled-meat dish, with an appearance and texture similar to pâté, served on croutons made of sliced, toasted baguette. Immediately, a warm, herby, fatty aroma just filled our senses. It was almost like we had somehow gone our whole lives without making full use of our sense of taste until just then. And if you think we’re being dramatic, go to Jezebel, order the duck rilettes, and tell us we’re wrong. If you can honestly say to us that it’s not one of the most delicious things you’ve ever had, we’ll buy you a Brazilian Bikini.* And this was just the appetizer! In addition to the duck rilettes, we enjoyed a carrot-chickpea purée, kind of a clever re-imagining of hummous, and some kale chips. We didn’t even know that kale, a green leafy vegetable, could be made into chips. But apparently they can, and they were crispy and delightful.
The éntree was the most “normal” part of our evening, in the sense that the items we ordered were pretty typical American fare. Jezebel didn’t make them differently, they just made them better. Penina ordered the ribeye, medium rare. It was done just right, with a hint of char on the outside. The steak was served with a nice complement of sauces. A quality cut of meat, grilled to perfection—what more can one ask for? For my part, I feasted on a fairly substantial lamb burger. I ordered it, hoping for a classic American dish with just a hint of the exotic, and Jezebel, keeping the streak alive, did not disappoint. The burger itself was served on a fresh-baked challah roll, a not-so-subtle nod to the restaurant’s theme, and a nice touch. Asking for a recommendation for a wine to accompany the burger, I was served an Argentian red, a Malbec wine. Medium-bodied, and just a little bit spicy – the perfect accompaniment.
As a side dish, we shared Jezebel’s signature duck fat potatoes. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and, Penina notes, with a delightful rosemary flavor. We don’t know what the chef’s fascination with duck is, but we’re certainly not complaining!
We capped off our meal with the dark chocolate-caramel tart, and the warm olive oil cake with lavender ice cream, respectively. The tart was so rich, so dark, light could not escape its field of gravity. We didn’t consume it, so much as we were consumed by it. An exaggeration? Yes. But only slightly. As for the cake and ice cream, I ordered those specifically because I had never had “olive oil cake” before, and frankly, I didn’t know that lavender ice cream was even a thing; let alone pareve lavender ice cream. The cake was rich and buttery (but again, pareve), and the ice cream was to the palate what lavender perfume is to the nose. A delicate, almost ethereal culinary experience. A fitting end to a meal unlike any we had ever had.
It comes as no surprise that Jezebel attracts diners both within and way beyond the kosher consumer base. The restaurant’s owners, Henry Stimler and Menachem Senderwicz were hesitant to drop names, but clearly took pride in the diverse, successful clientele walking through their doors. These, say Stimler and Senderowicz, include Fortune 500 CEOs, NBA players, and even a supermodel or two. That was all well and good, Penina and I thought; This place has cachet. But nu? What about the Jews?
Then, just as we were getting ready to leave, who should walk in but Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger. (We don’t know if he was actually there to eat, but still!) Mr. Stimler, who had been giving us a brief tour of the restaurant and its various objets d’art, had to excuse himself. Returning a few minutes later, he apologized, saying something to the effect of “sorry about that, I just had to say hello to the Chief Rabbi of Israel.” Had we not seen him with our own eyes, we would have thought Henry was putting us on. So nonchalant about the whole thing, so affable with their diverse clientele, Stimler and Senderowicz are the very epitome of cool. And their creation, Jezebel, reflects that.
Jezebel is a great place for those who looking for contemporary American cuisine, done right, with just a hint of the exotic. Not so much so as to be off-putting to picky eaters, but enough to captivate the tastebuds of those of us who want something more than just meat and potatoes. While it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a family outing, it would be a great place to take a date (Penina and I will definitely be back), or perhaps to impress a business client. It’s the ideal place to enjoy a kosher meal in an environment that, while plainly Jewish, is almost too cool to be kosher.
Jezebel is located at 323 West Broadway, between Canal and Grand Strets, in SoHo. The restaurant serves dinner only: Monday – Thursday 5:30 PM – 11:30 PM and Sunday from 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM; Friday night prepaid Shabbat dinners will be coming soon, as well as Sunday brunch. The lounge, where guests can enjoy the dinner menu in full or the bar menu, is open Monday – Thursday until 1:00 AM, and from nightfall until 2:00 AM on Saturday evenings.
For more information, visit www.jezebelSoHo.com or call 646-410-0717.