April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

REN Is in a Class by Itself

Kosher dining has taken many steps forward over the years. In the beginning, even having a place to eat outside your kosher kitchen was an accomplishment. After that, a proliferation of delis and bagel places cemented the idea of Jewish food into the American palate. Then we discovered pizza. Who doesn’t love pizza?

From there, the first Israeli restaurants started popping up, followed by Chinese food (well, our version of it anyway). Then came the first steakhouses and more types of ethnic cuisine (we can’t live without our sushi). The most recent level is restaurants adding real ambiance and the higher-end places moving closer to their non-kosher counterparts.

And yet, kosher restaurants are still fairly familiar if you sit down and look at a menu. That is, until you sit down at REN.

As the waiter explains the menu (don’t worry, it’s not a long one), you’ll notice that you probably don’t recognize much of it. At the very least, you likely have never had anything like most of the options. But unlike many other kosher restaurants, this isn’t a situation where the chef is applying new techniques to dishes you’ve had at other places. It’s not even a case of a chef making something kosher that hasn’t been made kosher before.

At REN, Chef Ronen Morad has curated an experience where he’s invented many of the dishes himself. Coming from multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Italy, Morad also worked at some of his native Israel’s finest establishments including, Rooftop at the Mamilla Hotel.

REN Internal.

The menu at REN is an accomplishment that many kosher diners won’t be able to appreciate. But the same would be true of a non-kosher patron as well. The difference is that those who don’t keep kosher have long had the opportunity to go to a restaurant like REN and most choose not to. For the kosher consumer, REN is the first doorway into another type of dining. Whereas normally there might be a big rush to try the newest thing, prospective guests should be aware that not everything is for everyone.

When I was invited to REN and confronted with the menu, it was hard to choose what to start with. If it’s a true chef invention you’re looking for, try the Yafa Kalvana. These are dumplings made of kohlrabi, filled with almond cheese and pistachio, topped with white winter truffle and fennel seeds and served with a smoked kohlrabi reduction with drops of chive-infused oil. Using the kohlrabi as both the wrapper and the sauce is brilliant and the filling being made of some of the best imitation cheese I’ve ever had combined with the slight crunch from the pistachio establishes a perfect texture.

Tomato.

There’s another appetizer that is simply known as “Tomato.” The main plate includes a multi-color tomato and strawberry salad served over a tomato consomme gel. The dressing is made of herbs, chili, pickled lemon, basil-infused vinegar and fish sauce. It comes with a cigar filled with sundried tomato, tabasco, yuzu and crispy rice and dusted on the outside with powdered cherry tomato. Last but not least is a clarified tomato iced tea that is extremely potent and takes three days to achieve. The salad is light and has a great balance of acid and sweetness and the cigar is crunchy and spicy and pairs nicely with the tea. Eating something like this is why you go to REN.

The Lamb Bolognese Raviolo is much more simple, yet just as tasty. The large single piece of pasta rests in a stock made of morel mushrooms while a few whole specimens of the exotic fungi also populate the bowl. On the inside, lamb is mixed with a celery cream to imitate that dairy/meat combination that’s a Torah taboo. As somebody who loves mushrooms, getting to taste this use of the famous breed that grows mostly on scorched earth was really something. The depth of flavor in the stock, as well as the texture of the mushroom itself made this dish worth it.

Lamb Bolognese Raviolo

Beef Tataki can be found on menus in the kosher world, but REN’s version is extraordinary. The thin slices of beef are wrapped around a mound of tomato, shallot and parsley. This plate is a paradise for those who love variable textures. Not only is it topped with garlic chips and pita crunch, but it is accompanied by a dried piece of raw black tapioca plant. Get everything on one scoop for a truly balanced bite. The beef is perfectly torched on the outside and is extra flavorful due to being marinated in oil, thyme and rosemary for 45 hours prior.

The entrees might be less out there, but they still feature some real care and craft. The Aged Duck Long Island is slices of skin-on duck breast served with a confit of apple and pickled mustard seeds and whole baby bok choy. Whereas almost all duck used in restaurants is frozen (as suppliers only do two runs per year), REN has their own supplier, which allows them to age the meat after receiving it fresh. Between the aging process and not removing the skin, the texture and flavor make this the best duck I’ve ever had. The apple and bok choy are a great pairing for sweetness and crunch, even if the duck is the real star of the show.

Aged Duck Long Island

If duck isn’t your favorite, try the Rack of Lamb. Using a sous vide makes the lamb taste slightly less gamey than other methods, and each of the pieces also develops a great mouthfeel that you’ll enjoy while you taste the oyster mushroom reduction that comes as a kind of gravy. An ingenious addition to the plate is what looks to be some multi-colored carrots. In fact, the orange occupants are carrots while the more yellow ones are actually carrot fennel puree that is delicately laid in the shape of a carrot. This is a great example of the chef using the plate as a canvas and utilizing the food as a way to surprise and delight the eater.

REN is an amazing experience, a beautiful atmosphere and unlike anything the kosher restaurant world has seen before. If it sounds like something you need to see and taste for yourself, make your way there. If not, that’s fine too. There are plenty of other places out there. One of the luxuries of kosher restaurants today is that there are choices.

Rack of Lamb

REN might be the only choice in its category. But maybe that’s just because it’s the first.

REN

Meat – Chef Experience –

Waiter Service

Sunday – Thursday:

5:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

917-456-1077

RENKosher.com

1571 McDonald Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11230

Chizuk Hadas Kashrus –

Rav Dovid Gornish

Beef Tataki

 

Yafa Kalvana
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