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Best of Dining Out During Passover

The Seder Plate at JoeDoe.

The Seder Plate at JoeDoe.

When you’re Jewish, it can be hard to get psyched about potato latkes during Hanukkah when it seems like everyone else is feasting on Egg Nog, Christmas cookies and juicy roasts.  And it’s not really any easier to swallow dry Matzoh and potato kugel during Passover when Easter celebrants get to enjoy ham, lamb, chocolate bunnies, and those beloved marshmallow peeps.

But the Passover Seder doesn’t need to be something you just resign to dutifully.  In fact, at a few great restaurants around the city, it’s one of the most eagerly anticipated meals of the year.  You can enjoy a lavish spread of classic comfort foods at Kutsher’s Tribeca, like Friday Night Roast Chicken, Mrs. K’s Matzoh Ball Soup, and Schmaltz Mashed Potatoes.  Or why not spend a “Progressive Passover” at JoeDoe, enjoying “Elijah’s Cup” cocktails and squares of Deep-Fried Matzoh?  Of course, you can always just get the whole thing catered by Shelsky’s Smoked Fish in Brooklyn, and take all the credit yourself.  We’ll raise a glass of Manischewitz to that!

Kutsher's Tribeca

Kutsher's Tribeca
186 Franklin Street
Tribeca,New York 10013
(212) 431-0606

This Tribeca restaurant may be named after a 100-year-old Catskills resort, but its hip, modern décor and elevated Jewish cuisine are decidedly 21st century.  That’s not to say dishes like Potato Latkes and Kasha Varnishkes are completely unrecognizable.  It’s just that the pancakes come topped with Local Apple Compote and Caviar, and the Kasha is swapped out for quinoa, a much more “in vogue” grain.  You’ll find similar creative flourishes on Kutsher’s 4-course Passover Seder menu.  Look for Chopped Duck and Chicken Liver, Wild Halibut Gefilte Fish with Parsley Vinaigrette (one of our favorites!), Creekstone Farms Beef Brisket with Veal Bacon and Heirloom Carrots, and a Flourless Chocolate Cake topped with homemade Chantilly Cream.  Not bad for a Jewish holiday.

Balaboosta

Balaboosta
214 Mulberry Street
Nolita,New York 10012
(212) 966-7366

Balaboosta means “perfect housewife” in Yiddish, making it a pretty safe pick for your holiday Seder.  Chef and owner Einat Admony (who also makes those killer falafel sandwiches at Taim),  serves home-style Israeli fare at this popular Nolita spot, like  “Mortar and Pestle” Hummus, and Chicken and Merguez in a Pita with Yogurt and Pickles.   This year, Admony is joining forces with Chef David Tanis, a New York Times columnist and Pastry Chef Keren Weiner from Il Buco, to host a fantastic Second Night Seder.  There will be a five-course dinner with wine pairings, live music, and even an Afikoman hunt.  Whoever finds the matzoh wins a special prize. (We’re hoping it’s edible!)

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Back Forty West

Back Forty West
70 Prince Street
Soho,New York 10012
(212) 219-8570

Ever been to a farm-to-table Seder? Peter Hoffman’s Back Forty West is offering a four-course Passover feast on Monday and Tuesday night this year.  And you can bet that each dish, from the Moroccan Mezze Plate to the classic Matzoh Ball Soup, the house-smoked Sephardic Spiced Chicken, and Turkish Flourless Chocolate Cake will be made from locally and sustainably sourced ingredients.  Consider your Jewish guilt assuaged.

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Lattanzi

Lattanzi
361 W 46th St
Hell's Kitchen,New York 10036
(212) 315-0980

An Italian restaurant?  On Passover?  You better believe it.  This Hell’s Kitchen eatery actually specializes in Cucina Ebraico Romanesca – the classic cuisine of Roman Jews.  Although admittedly non-Kosher, the Pesach prix-fixe ($49 for lunch, $59 at dinner) is a delicious departure from the norm.  Enjoy Passover Chicken Soup with Rice, Baked Striped Bass with Raisins and Pine Nuts, Baby Lamb with Jewish Artichokes, and Almond Cookies, served with a glass of sweet red wine.  (Italians cooking for Passover sounds like a great idea to me.)

Miriam

Miriam
79 5th Avenue
Brooklyn,New York 11215
(718) 622-2250

This Israeli eatery in Park Slope is always jam-packed during brunch (try the Mediterranean Shakshuka),  and even busier during Happy Hour (2-for-1 wine, beer, and mezzes).  It’s also the place to be during Pesach, when chef and owner Rafi Hasid cooks up a delectable holiday feast.  Though there’s a $50 prix fixe, dishes can also be ordered a la carte.  Either way, you’d be wise to try their housemade Gefilte Fish with Horseradish and Beet Salad, the Spring Lamb Shank with Tschuma Pepper, Charoset and Celery Root, and the Panna Cotta with fresh berries.  Even gentiles will want to get in on this deal.

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Joe Doe

Joe Doe
45 E 1st Street
East Village,New York 10003
(212) 780-0262

JoeDoe is known for taking a tongue-and-cheek approach to Jewish food, so you can count on them to add a little levity to the often solemn (and boring) holiday Seder.  Their “Progressive Passover” menu includes a glass of “Elijah’s Punch,” made with Rum, Manischewitz, Lemon, Pear and Apple, followed by the “JoeDoe Seder Sampler,” with Maror, Charoset, Chicken Liver, and Fried Matzoh.  Next comes a Stuffed Matzoh Ball Soup, a Slow Roasted Brisket with ‘Front-End’ Hash and Horseradish, and a Passover Whoopie Pie with Coconut Cream filling for dessert.  We love to see restaurants getting in the spirit.

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Shelsky’s Smoked Fish

Shelsky’s Smoked Fish
251 Smith Street
Brooklyn,New York 11231
(718) 855-8817

The motto at this Smith Street shop is “no more schlepping.”  Meaning, Brooklynites no longer need to cross the bridge in search of old school, appetizing shops.  And although Manhattanites can still depend on Katz’sRuss and Daughters, and Barney Greengrass to fulfill a yen for smoked sturgeon, Shelsky’s more than warrants an out-of-borough trip.  A Kurt Gutenbrunner protégé and Eleven Madison Park alum, Owner Chef Peter Shelsky adds a touch of refinement to traditional Jewish fare, like Scottish Salmon Gefilte Fish with Horseradish Crème Fraiche, and Strawberry Rhubarb Matzoh Crumble.  And many of the items are available for pre-order, including Shelsky’s Vegetarian Matzoh Ball Soup, Sweet Potato and Prune Kugel, and Mama Ilene’s Feather Coconut Macaroons — all you’ll need for an elegant Seder at home.

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Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena
23 Avenue A
East Village,New York 10009
(212) 529-2919

If you thought an Italian spot was an unusual pick for Passover, you’ll probably think we’re nuts for suggesting Latin cuisine.  But both Manhattan branches of Yerba Buena will serve a truly unique Seder spread, available a la carte, for all nine days of Passover.  How cool does Matzoh Ball Soup with Jalapeno and Epazote sound?  Not to mention “Yucatan Style” Fish Salad with Horseradish and Habanero, Chipotle-braised Brisket Tacos on Matzoh Tortillas, and Matzoh Brei Tres Leches with Matzoh Custard and Lemon Meringue.  Kosher wine is available, too, but wouldn’t you rather have a Lime and Prickly Pear Margarita, made with Don Diego Kosher Tequila?  It’ll make the endless reading of the Haggadah a whole lot easier to get through.

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