The age-old question of whether there is life after Top Chef—the popular reality television series now in its sixth season on Bravo—has been answered time and again. If you ask me, one of its most memorable answers to date was Sam Mason’s inventive cuisine at his all-too-short-lived Tailor, in Soho.
Now former series contestant Eli Kirshtein gets an opportunity to provide his own answer. He has left the restaurant ENO in Atlanta to assume the reins at Solo, a Kosher New American restaurant in New York (550 Madison Avenue, bet 55th and 56th Sts, 212-833-7800). His most immediate assignment will be to augment the current à la carte listings with two prix fixe menus: A $45 three-course option at lunchtime and a $65 five-course option at dinner.
“While I am not a kosher chef by training,” Eli confesses, “at Solo, I plan to create excellent dishes in a new and exciting genre that just happens to be prepared with specific ingredients in mind. Almost like a Top Chef challenge, my tenure at Solo is a project I look forward to conquering.”
His point is well-taken. It is like a Top Chef challenge: Cue the voice of Padma Lakshme, purring unctuously, “Good morning, chefs. Your quickfire challenge is to cook something kosher. You have twenty minutes. . . .” Which of course means that meat and dairy don’t appear at the same meal, and shellfish don’t appear ever. Hence the euphemistic quotes around crabmeat on the restaurant’s menu. Pork is also a no-no, and Kirshtein hails from the South (aka, pork country).
At the same time, Solo is an upscale restaurant—main courses à la carte run to $68—so the pressure on Kirshtein might not be quite as intense as it would be in less pricey environs. Kashruth, Jewish dietary laws, do no restrict the use of truffles, which are currently featured in a black truffle risotto. And while foie gras isn’t chopped liver, I’m pretty sure it too is permissible.
Will Eli succeed in redefining kosher cuisine? Will he realize Solo owner Joey Allaham’s dream of “exemplify[ing] that kosher is a significant culinary trend, becoming a fixture in the restaurant scene”? Stay tuned for answers.
- More information about the current season and history of Top Chef.
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