April is a big month for holidays, what with Easter falling on April 24th and Passover beginning the evening of April 18th. Just as Christians give up something for lent, be it meat, chocolate, or whatever else they’re fond of, the Jews give up bread (and all things leavened) for eight days. In Jewish foodie years, that’s a painfully long stretch to go without fresh-baked bread, burgers, pizza, cake, cookies and anything else that rises.
For Passover-abiding New Yorkers, temptation is everywhere. Your co-worker brings cupcakes in for a birthday? Nope, you can’t eat that. Date wants to take you to a new pizza place or burger joint? Guess you didn’t meet them on J-Date. Or you walk by LeVain Bakery and catch the scent of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. It’s absolute torture. But this year, it seems like chefs and restaurants are taking pity on the bread-deprived this year with plenty of attractive alternatives, like flourless chocolate torte, and even taking the daunting task of cooking a seder dinner off our plates so to speak. Chefs like Peter Hoffman at Savoy are throwing an Egyptian-themed seder while newbie Julian Medina, who recently converted to Judaism is throwing his own, Mexican-style seder, at both Yerba Buena locations and Toloache. There are plenty of ways to enjoy Passover in the city without forsaking the holiday or being tempted to eat dinner rolls.
Address: Multiple locations
Rosa Mexicano’s take on the holiday –Passover a la Mexicana – makes up for the absence of bread with Mexico’s vibrant flavor palette and innovative riffs on traditional Jewish dishes. Mom’s stuffed cabbage has got nothing on the salmon-stuffed cabbage topped with a Veracruzana sauce and her brisket may just pale in comparison to the banana leaf-wrapped version, served with dried fruit tsimmes. There’s noodle kugel and a tropical haroset on the menu, too. And if you stop by the Union Square location on April 16th, there will be a cooking demonstration of some of the seder menu’s highlights. Sounds a lot better than matzoh ball soup and chopped liver to me.
Address: 70 Prince Street near Lafayette St
Phone: (212) 219-8570
Every year Savoy hosts a Passover Seder with different theme and menu created by chef and owner Peter Hoffman. This year, this SoHo spot is going Egyptian. The prix-fixe feast costs $95 per person and even includes a seder service. There will be a seder plate on each each table with an egg roasted right in the Savoy fireplace and a reading of the Haggadah (the story of the Jew’s escape from the Egyptians), which they promise to keep under thirty minutes. (Phew.) As for the menu, past menus have featured a mezze platter with stuffed grape leaves, lamb & prune-stufffed onions, and chocolate cake, so expect just as tasty dishes this year.
Mile End Delicatessen
Address: 97 Hoyt St between
Atlantic Ave and Pacific St, Brooklyn
Phone: (718) 852-7510
This Montreal-style deli is gearing up to switch out their bread for matzo come April 18th. In fact, all of their signature sandwiches will be prepared on house-made matzo. They’ll also be preparing a four-course, prix fixe seder menu for the first two nights of Passover, but their catering menu makes it pretty tempting to pick up food and eat at home. Mile End makes it a little too easy with a pre-made seder plate, your choice of chicken, veal or poached salmon with all the seder trimmings, including pickled egg and matzo stuffing. For dessert, there’s coconut macaroons and a flourless chocolate cake.
Toloache & Yerba Buena
Address: Toloache 251 W. 50th St; Yerba Buena One Perry Street, 23 Avenue A
Phone: (212) 581-1818; (212) 620-0808, (212) 529-2919
Almost a decade ago, chef Julian Medina met his future wife Annie (a Jewish women raised on the Upper East Side) at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Recently converted, Medina finds many inspired ways to weave the Mexican flavors he grew up into Passover. At Toloache and both Yerba Buenas, the menu will feature his tasty spin on dishes, like matzo ball soup, with an epazote and jalapeno-chicken consommé, chipotle-braised brisket tacos with matzo tortillas and a dulce de leche matzo pudding for dessert. Of course, there will be a selection of kosher tequilas available, which is a lot more appealing than sugary-sweet Manischewitz.
Address: 40 Ave B between 3rd and 4th Sts
Phone: (212) 677-4096
Does grandma serve pickle-infused martinis? We didn’t think so. Italian-Jewish Nikki Cascone for your Passover needs. If you want to cook, but need a little guidance, Nikki will be hosting a cooking class on April 6th on the art of the matzo ball and a frozen egg cream. But if you don’t feel like lifting a finger, you can host a seder for 8-10 guests in their private room or join the rest of the diners in the main dining room for homemade gefilte fish and brisket. While Passover desserts are typically a letdown, Cascone upgrades the unleavened and often dried-out dessert with sweets, like lime cheesecake.
Imperial No. Nine
Address: 9 Crosby St between Grand and Howard Sts.
Phone: (212) 389-1000
Just because it’s Passover doesn’t mean you have to stay sequestered in your apartment for eight days. In fact, you can even sample Sam Talbot’s return to New York City from The Surf Lodge in Montauk. Tucked inside the new Mondrian hotel in SoHo, Imperial No. Nine is a stylish greenhouse with brick floors, glittery chandeliers, and blue wire chairs. The seafood-centric menu is perfect for celebrating Passover as long as you order wisely. Start with the spicy cucumber kimchee, a mix of napa cabbage and celery greens, a refreshing appetizer with a pleasant kick. The tender, slow-cooked octopus in a jalapeno soffrito and lime soy and delicious, heirloom-scrambled corn with comte, maple jus, coffee oil and a slow-poached egg both beat matzo brei any day.
Kellari’s Parea Greek Bistro
Address: 36 E. 20th St between Broadway and Park Ave South
Phone: (212) 777-8448
When you think of Passover dinner, you might not think of Greek food, but it’s actually a great option. Kellari swaps out pita for matzoh to scoop up meze, like katsikisio (baked goat cheese with apricots, almonds and honey), meatballs in wine sauce, and fire-roasted gigante beans. Then dig into a beautifully grilled whole fish, where you can choose from red snapper, black bass, or grouper, simply seasoned with lemon and capers with a side of grilled asparagus or horta (steamed dandelion greens with honey).
RG Writer: Lauren Bloomberg