Come hungry to this kosher bistro, now serving traditional favorites and great surprises
Smokin' Joe Lieberman Sandwich
photographs by gus cantavero
Just when it seemed like every food concept was well represented in town, along comes Kosh, an upscale NYC-style Jewish deli that’s part sports bar (five big flat screens), part dining room and part take-out deli, serving kosher food that’s better than grandma’s. You’ll find the traditional favorites, like pastrami on rye, brisket, sour pickles, kugel, knishes, but there are plenty of great surprises too. Like the old slogan for Levy’s rye bread, you don’t have to be Jewish to love Kosh.
Step inside the front door, and you immediately know something is different. The décor is modern and sleek, with wood floors and muted tones of green, gray and beige throughout. The mix of booths and banquettes provides comfy seating, while historical photos of New York’s Hester Street hanging on the walls lend the space the correct touch of nostalgia. You can see the sports bar to the right, but thanks to ingenious acoustics, you can’t hear the buzz that usually accompanies the chatter of fans. Our visit coincided with college basketball’s March Madness, and we heard not a peep in the dining section. (Good news: If you want to hear the play-by-play, just ask for a portable speaker.)
And then there’s the waitstaff. Women and men alike wear short-brimmed fedoras, a respectful nod to the Jewish tradition calling for head coverings. These stylish hats look cool; some are made of felt or straw, while others sport colorful flowers and ribbons. They work well, especially with the Big Band/Gershwin music playing softly in the background.
But the most important reason for heading to Kosh is the food. Be sure to leave time for perusing the menu, because it’s large and plentiful. We almost missed the warm brisket with a zesty tomato-based gravy, and that would have been a shame. It was cut-with-a-fork tender, and unlike many briskets, this was lean, with the perfect proportion of fat.
A modern and sleek décor with booths and banquettes sets the correct tone for diners seeking a foodie experience.
My friends and I started our meal with Oh My Kosh Wings, which turned out to be one of two not-quite-right selections in an otherwise stellar meal. Wings should be crisp and charred. These were neither. To be fair, the smoky sauces come in an assortment of heats to appeal to all. Unfortunately, we thought the best part of the wing experience was the individual warm cotton towels scented with essential lemon oil, the perfect antidote to clean our sticky fingers. Instead try the traditional kishka, the classic sausage of Eastern Europe. This kishka does not disappoint. Another suggestion: the hearty boneless short ribs swimming in a tasteful wine reduction (available as an appetizer or main dish) are served with a side of lumpy (yes!) mashed potatoes.
(A note about those mashers: They lacked butter because the restaurant is kosher. To keep it simple, what a non-Jewish diner eating at Kosh must remember is that kosher food is divided into three categories: meat and dairy–never eaten together–and pareve, the neutral foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs and fish. Ergo, no butter in the mashed potatoes.)
On to the chicken soup, with a choice of either egg noodles or matzah balls. We’re fans of matzah balls, and these were perfection: nicely seasoned with a lush, creamy mouth feel. The traditional kreplach—meat-filled dumplings—are reincarnated here in the Jewish Won Ton Soup, and the addition of tarragon and soy is brilliant. We’ll go back and make a meal of soup, salad and a side of not-too-spicy jalapeño cornbread served with honey. There are many salads on the menu, and for a bit of variety, we ordered ours chopped, and we’re glad we did. We also plan on working our way through all the salad dressings, because the mustardy balsamic and the not-too-sweet creamy raspberry made the salads sing.
Our only other disappointment was the pan-seared salmon, a big filet of fish that we wished was a smaller serving of wild salmon, topped with a glaze rather than the honey-lemon-raisin sauce. But it certainly did not dampen our enthusiasm, especially when it came to meat.
Meat is where Kosh excels. The kitchen staff smokes their own—calling them Montreal-smoked meats—and no matter what you order, it’s delicious, with a smooth texture to the meat and a smoky, satisfying taste. For a sampling, consider the Smoked Meat Platter, a pound of the restaurant’s Montreal-smoked meats and turkey, sides of potato salad and cole slaw, pickles and a stack of rye. Did we mention the servings are huge? Or try the Smokin’ Joe Lieberman Sandwich—and yes, the Senator approves—about ten ounces of Montreal-smoked meat, Romanian pastrami, New York-style corned beef and Russian dressing, piled between two slices of rye. The can of Dr. Brown’s celery soda, never too sweet, added to the enjoyment. It’s a good thing we brought our appetites.
And it was a good move on our part that we saved room for dessert. The waiters unabashedly push the Bananas Singapore, a huge puff pastry topped with caramelized bananas, spiked with banana and coffee liqueur, and topped with tofu “ice cream.” Definitely enough for three or four. Add the two rich brownies we somehow found room for, and we were sated beyond our wildest dreams. We would have loved to sample the black-and-white cookies, or the bread pudding, but decided that would have been sheer gluttony. We'll just have to go back.
Kosh’s location makes it a substantial walk from many of the office buildings, frankly not a bad thing before and after a hearty meal. Of course, the large adjacent parking lot is a convenient option. For private parties, a folding screen partitions any event from the dining room. It’s where Sen. Lieberman recently celebrated his birthday.
And now that the warm weather is here, the dining terrace will no doubt be the place to people-watch while we sip one of Ksh’s specialty martinis. Or maybe just another can of celery soda.
108 Prospect Street
Cuisine: Kosher American
Sun.–Thu., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2 hours before sundown
Sat., 90 minutes after sundown–closing