Saturday, May 15, 2021

The evening seemed made for Instagram foodies, or at least for fans of kosher smokehouse combinations like pulled brisket-and-smoked veal pizza or duck confit tamales, part of a niche jokingly referred to as “Yiddish haute/high” cuisine, but might be more accurately identified as kosher smokehouse-ethnic-fusion-street-food. Regardless, kosher smoke joint hashtags (and laughs) abounded as four chefs joined up and collaborated on a one-night-only menu at Sender’s Smoke Joint on Teaneck’s West Englewood Avenue, hosted by Chef Gabe Gilbert on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, this past Tuesday night.

Those waiting for takeout spilled onto the back patio, where woodsmoke campfires kept patrons warm. Whiskey samples were distributed from a dozen or so bottles from Royal Wine Corp.’s spirits catalog. The chefs expressed surprise as many of the special menu items sold out early, even as the line inside grew and spread out the front door to ensure COVID-safety.

Gilbert welcomed back to the kitchen Chef Alexander Remer, founding chef/partner at Sender’s and the eponymous “Sender.” Remer, formerly of Fireside in Monsey, just opened Shmorg: The Smoke Joint, in Los Angeles. He teamed up with Chef Uri Elbaum, chef de cuisine at Evita Steakhouse in Chicago, and Chef Judd “Yehuda” Joffre of Judd’s Memphis Kitchen. Rounding out the group was Deborah Blaiberg, formerly of Teaneck Doghouse and a line chef at etc. Steakhouse, who has been working with the team in COVID-era small group catering and special events. Curating whisky selections was Royal Wine Corp,’s national spirits director, Shlomo Blashka.

Remer, a regional legend in the world of kosher cuisine, told The Jewish Link that he opened Shmorg in August in Los Angeles, and has since driven three cross-country road trips since, doing specialty catering with the team under the group’s catering label “Smoke y Fire.” Remer learned classical French cuisine approaches in non-kosher restaurants before striking out on his own and applying smokehouse techniques to kosher-only cuisine.

Joffre, of Judd’s Memphis Kitchen, which ran pre-pandemic ultra-trendy underground barbecue pop-ups in both Crown Heights and at a brick-and-mortar location in Cedarhurst, hails originally and learned smokehouse techniques in his hometown of Memphis, but has been living—and cooking—in Crown Heights, for the last 13 years. He’s also half of the on-camera duo on the video series “Tripping Kosher,” by Chaim “CW” Silberberg.

Rising star Elbaum, of Evita Steakhouse in Chicago, a native Argentinian who is the youngest of the group at just 24, explained that his menu of 33 items at Evita changes entirely every single week, and that the high energy, unique blend of high-quality steak and Argentinian-inspired dishes keeps the work dynamic. He said he enjoys surprising his regular customers with new things and a mix of exciting flavors.

The Teaneck menu, developed by Smoke y Fire and the group’s other name for themselves, “Los Chingones,” which is Spanish for “bada**es,” was anchored around meat pizzas and smoked meats for which Sender’s has become known. Duck confit tamales, Chef Uri's duck fat “Carnavale” corn dogs, Judd’s pulled brisket tacos, the “$100 burger” and Chef Gabe’s trio of empanadas, including a dessert “cafe con leche” empanada, were featured. One of the meat selections, the Gaucho pizza, contained a surprising blend of marinara, pickled onions, Judd’s smoked brisket, smoked veal, “cheddar” horseradish and “cashew parm.” All “cheese” elements are pareve and many are nut-based.

“Judd’s $100 burger” drew a lot of questions. What’s so special about this burger that makes it worth $100?” he was asked. “It’s got some honey and basil in it, and my proprietary brisket rub, but actually I was asked by friends to make them a burger late at night and I didn’t want to. They ended up offering me $100 just to make them a burger, so that turned into the famous $100 burger,” he explained with a smile.

Blaiberg, now a working chef in Teaneck, previously gained notoriety as a kosher foodie and influencer, recognizable for her fun, British-accented social media presence, “Kosher Alcoholic,” which features live videos and food photos of chefs and their delicacies in progress. She’s now working with this group regularly and enjoys the experience and the dynamism of the collaborative cooking. “I know I’m very lucky to get to spend time learning from all these amazing talents,” she told The Jewish Link.

Sender’s Smoke Joint fan and smokehouse influencer Tony Moya said he hits the restaurant at least twice a month from his home in Hoboken, often bringing a friend with him. He’s tasted and toured barbecue joints all over the country and recently spent time touring the Texas barbecue circuit, but he loves the regional North Jersey barbecue that Sender’s seems to be developing. Moya doesn’t keep kosher, but explained he keeps coming back because he loves the food and was excited to taste the evening’s special offerings. What does he like best about it? “It’s the unexpected combination of flavors that really work, like there’s a pulled brisket chicken wrap, but in that wrap is also fried “mac and cheese” balls. It just gels and tastes so perfect together,” he said.

By Elizabeth Kratz