On Tuesday, November 11, Avi Roth, owner and chef of Teaneck’s Gotham Burger, will make Shabbos dinner for hundreds of people–he’s going to show the foodies attending Kosherfest how to prepare a fabulous Shabbos meal to impress and satisfy guests without being excessive. “People get bogged down in doing too much: four or five mains, two and three desserts. You can have Shabbos elegance with really great fresh, quality food that is budget friendly,” said Roth, a developmental psychologist turned restaurateur. He opened Gotham Burger in Teaneck in 2012 and a second location on the Upper West Side the following year.
At Kosherfest, a kosher industry trade show in the Meadowlands Roth will cook a four-course Shabbos dinner that will include all the food groups with something for everyone.
First course will be ahi tuna with a Jack Daniels reduction sauce. “Tuna is not cheap but it is elegant and flavorful. If it is your only appetizer, it can work,” he said. Bull’s Eye soup is the next course: a tomato center with cauliflower all around and pesto dressing that rises to the top–and looks like a bull’s eye. “It’s beautiful and tasty; the basil brings out the tomato.”
The main is oyster steak served over mustard mashed potatoes and garlic-seared spinach with a red wine reduction sauce drizzled on top. “It’s a beautiful presentation with a carb, vegetable and protein all on one plate.”
The piece de resistance will be Roth’s signature dessert–chocolate peanut butter pie. “Not a lot of ingredients but it looks elegant and is not cost prohibitive.” Voila, an awesome Shabbos dinner worthy of oohs and ahhs that doesn’t require a second mortgage. Roth stresses that controlling portion sizes also controls costs. “Oyster steak is $10 or $11 a pound but four ounces is a healthy portion size. You want to walk away full but not stuffed.”
The key to successful Shabbos meal planning is to limit the selections as well as the sizes. “We load our plates with kugels, cauliflower, roast chicken, meat, cous cous–and then we’re overwhelmed,” said Roth. “I viewed a PBS documentary where 10 chefs got together in Israel to make a meal. And when they discussed the different courses, they said they wanted the 10th course would be enjoyed like the first. But the way we serve, by the time the main comes, you’re not even hungry. And then you finish and feel like you can’t move!”
For any meal, Roth says creating different tastes also keeps the dining experience interesting, whether you are serving your family, company or yourself. The restaurant in NYC has four or five dishes from around the world including Thai beef salad, which includes meat on greens with cucumbers, avocados, sprouts and radishes with a ginger dressing, as well as a tortilla soup, from the cuisine of South America.
Gotham Burger in Teaneck serves casual comfort food, using high quality meats and fresh ingredients at prices families can afford, but Roth still continually introduces new items to keep the menu innovative. Creating dishes that have not been available to kosher consumers is another way Roth gives diners a new eating experience. “I had a boy come in who was dairy-intolerant and ordered a burger and our non-dairy shake. With a huge smile on his face, he said it tasted just like the real thing.”
Roth spends a large chunk of his time now at the New York location and leaves Gotham Burger Teaneck in the capable hands of his “phenomenal partner” who is also on his second career. Jonathan Shore of Teaneck was a podiatrist before discovering “a flair for the restaurant business.”
Making people happy is the common thread in both of Roth’s careers. “Working with kids is transformative. It’s magical to see them get something. It’s a journey–but one that is never over. Cooking is immediate. It’s gratifying. There’s something great about watching people take a bite–and seeing their faces face light up.”
By Bracha Schwartz