Restaurants open to recipe innovation
ISRAELI RESTAURATEURS are over the moon with the timing of Passover this year and are forecasting boom time over the festival. The first day of Passover — a yomtov, when all kosher restaurants must stay shut — falls on Shabbat this year, meaning that the restaurants have nearly a full week for trade during the festival. They can open throughout the intermediate days of Passover, from Sunday to Thursday, while normally chol hamoed is broken up by having a Shabbat in the middle. Versatile chef Uri Arnon
“It will be good for the business,” says Uri Arnon, owner and chef of Arnold’s, a high-end restaurant which has two branches in northern Israel.
But restaurateurs are not the only winners in this situation — Israelis and tourists will benefit from a wider-thannormal set of culinary choices.
Usually, most restaurants decide t hat t he hassl e of changing their kitchens and utensils means it does not make economic sense to stay o p e n f o r
and its chametz-free tortilla and steak But this year, the clear stretch of trading time is encouraging more to keep their doors open. “Because they have a full week to serve food, it’s worth it — there will be lots of kosherf o r - P a s s o v e r restaurants this year,” says Charlie Fadida, executive chef at the Olive Leaf restaurant at the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel, which will be kosher for Passover (kitniot-free).
In the best restaurants, chefs tend to try to keep their normal menus as intact as possible, instead of instituting a different Passover menu.
Sometimes this is a relatively simple process. Fadida’s seared salmon served on a warm glassnoodle salad with coriander, sesame oil and ginger, for instance, will probably come with potato cubes or roasted vegetables instead of the noodles — and nothing more will need to be done to it to make it Passover-permissible.
But there will always be some Passover casualties. He will have to cancel his much-admired savoury croissant topped with cumin and sweet paprika, generously filled with beef fillet strips, mushrooms and onions sautéed with red wine.
However, the highlights of the recipe will probably be retained in a Passover-friendly beef-and-mushroom dish.
Arnon, whose establishments will also be kosher for Passover (and kitniot-free) thinks that some restaurants fail to fully embrace the Passover challenge.
“In many restaurants there’s no bread, only matzah and no desserts, only ice-cream,” he says.
“My philosophy is: if the customer is coming and paying good money, he should get a chef-standard meal, like normal.
“The big challenge for me during Pesach is to serve the whole menu — we make tortillas from corn flour; we make ‘bread’ from potato flour and we work hard to get the palm oil for frying and for making our desserts.”
The hardest part, according to Fadida, is sourcing all the right ingredients — and the changeover to Passover mode in the kitchen is always time-consuming.
But the challenge of Passover can force him to excel as a chef.
“You need to use your creativity,” he says, adding that the results of the adaptations can sometimes be surprisingly good.
“Funnily enough, the tortillas are better than normal,” he reveals, attributing this to the corn flour, while he has been commended for his chametz-free chocolate soufflés which, made without flour, are said to be lighter and fluffier than ever before.