Published On: Thu, Feb 12th, 2015

Paris Now Has a Kosher Haute Cuisine Restaurant with a Star Chef and, Soon – Michelin Star

Oh, and in case you were wondering — Zanoni already picked up $10 million in financing to set up a New York branch, opening before the end of 2015.

Chef Simone Zanoni

If you’re a kosher traveler, the city that would cause you an equal amount of pleasure and pain has to be Paris.

On the one hand, it’s Paris, with the music and the art and walking along the Seine and strolling down Boulevard Saint Michel. On the other hand there’s the fact that everybody is having fantastic French food, while you’re stuck eating at the Pletzl.

It’s all changed now.

Italian Master chef Simone Zanoni, 38, Executive Chef of Gordon Ramsay’s 2 Michelin Star Restaurant in Versailles, France, has recently opened the first totally gourmet Kosher restaurant in Paris.

Zanoni, mind you, is not Jewish.

Zanoni was approached by Michael and Guy Cohen Lehiani, the owners of the restaurant Rafael, with the idea of establishing an haute cuisine kosher restaurant, under the supervision of the Beth Din of Paris.

“So of course, I said yes, ” Zanoni recalls. The two brothers argued that Jews who observe the dietary laws had no quality restaurants. How could he refuse?

“It’s a no-brainer, ” he told the Financial Times.

The first thing he did was gut the place, which is what you’d expect if you ever watched his boss, Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.” You know those walk in freezers were disgusting and the stoves had decades of filth on them. So it all had to go.

Rafael

The new Rafael seats between 60 and 70 diners. It is decorated in a conservative light gray with purple velvet chairs. The renovation cost $684, 000, half of which went into re-creating the kitchen.

It was and continues to be a real challenge. Combining the excellence of haute cuisine and the requirements of a kitchen run by the strict rules of kashrut is hard work. But it was worth it: for the first time, a star chef ruled the kitchen of a Parisian kosher restaurant.

Now close to its first anniversary in this reincarnation, business is brisk at Rafael, in Paris’s 17th arrondissement. Zanoni says he’s already breaking even.

Now he’s looking to pick his first Michelin star.

Oh, and in case you were wondering — Zanoni already picked up $10 million in financing to set up a New York branch, opening before the end of 2015.

His customers are mostly French Jews, but also Russians, Americans and Israelis.

Rafael 2

Here’s a peek at Rafael’s menu’s main dishes:

 Ballotine de saumon petit bateau infusée au shizo vert, Fenouil croquant et émulsion de citronnelle 43€
 Magret de canard grillé, Monalisa fondante farcie aux gésiers de canard, dattes et sauce aux figues 45€
 Carré d’agneau cuit à basse température et sa pastilla d’épaule braisée, endive saveur noisette 48€
 Tronçon de Bar, Charlottes confites, petits légumes de « chez Marc », vinaigrette de rougets 50€
 Coeur de boeuf du Limousin rôti, cèpe, sauce au vin Sangiovese 52€
 Carré de veau cuit à l’huile de Sauge, Purée à l’ail rose de Lautrec, trompettes de la mort et légumes oubliés 54€

We Google-translated the suckers:

 Small boat salmon ballotine infused green shizo, crunchy fennel and lemon emulsion $49.021
 Grilled duck breast, stuffed with creamy Monalisa duck gizzards, dates and fig sauce $51.29
 Rack of lamb cooked at low temperature and braised shoulder pastilla, nutty flavor endive $54.71
 Section of Bar, confit Charlottes, small vegetables “in Mark, ” mullet vinaigrette $56.99
 Roast beef heart Limousin, mushroom, Sangiovese wine sauce $59.27
 Rack of veal cooked in oil Sage, Mashed Lautrec pink garlic, chanterelles and forgotten vegetables $61.55

Rafael 3

Zanoni told the FT that his restaurant survived the terrorist attacks a month ago: “We lost some tourist trade initially but the locals kept coming, ” he says.

The wine is only touched by Jewish waiters—as kosher laws demand. And there’s no butter, or any other dairy product, which probably made the chef cry secretly. It had to.

“Every law you have learnt about cooking you have to throw out the window, ” he says, but not tearfully any more. “How are you supposed to make a risotto without butter or cheese?”

He developed a rich and creamy risotto that’s butterless. And, according to the FT, the joint is also a Mecca lactose-intolerant diners, who, for once, can have everything on the menu.

Bon Appétit, and L’Chayim!

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