Perhaps it’s Woody Allen’s face smiling down at us from Jacob Zurilla’s send-up of Da Vinci’s Last Supper (with Woody in the Jesus seat, natch) that makes us feel like extras on a movie set the night we dine at Jezebel. Not a Woody Allen movie, that is. There’s something quite David Lynch, as in quite surreal, about the décor of what is being billed as New York’s coolest new kosher restaurant – from the giant evil eye that presides over the reservations desk to the gold-clad, curtained-off downstairs bar, which is darkly decadent and surely just the place to be entertained by dwarves in Stetsons who prefer talking backwards.
The assembled cast of characters working the joint, however, is pure Tarantino. From the elderly coat-check “girl” (the owner’s eccentric auntie?) in her little pillbox hat, to the racehorse-tall black beauty in miles of backless silver lame who leads us upstairs to the main dining space – surely, they have all gone through a rigorous audition process. But sadly, despite the restaurant having been open since June, it still feels like this is a dress rehearsal.
We confirmed our reservation in the afternoon, but there doesn’t appear to be any record of it. Not that it’s an issue. I show the very nice boy behind the desk the emails, and a series of whispered stage directions means we’re soon being seated in a ginormous banquette on a raised and cordoned-off section at the back of the main room – the VIP? Soon one server is bringing us drinks (a pair of very spicy Virgin Mary’s – we visit towards the end of what has been an self-inflicted “sober October”), while another is promising bread.
“I believe the chicken is from New Jersey, sir.” And is it organic? “It’s kosher” – a wide smile – “everything here is kosher”
The atmosphere up here is certainly very clubbable, with a funky hip-hop soundtrack and plenty of table-hopping going on. The British accent and back-slapping coming from the table next door also suggest that owner, former London financier Henry Stimler (along with partner Menachem Senderowicz they operate as B&Y hospitality – as in “British and Yiddish”) is in the house. But if the place has already got its regulars, it’s doubtful they’re coming for the food. It all sounds mouth-watering, but in the flesh (as usual for New York, the menu is on the meaty side) everything has quite a “homely” feel. As in, we could have cooked it ourselves at home.
Our waitress is cute as a button, reeling off her lines – sorry, the specials – with gusto. We opt for two of them, the starters, an autumn vegetable soup and a tuna tartar. “Beautiful choices, and they’re both big enough to share!” I haven’t shared a bowl of soup before, but I’m game – although sadly they only bring us one spoon. And the tartar, although satisfyingly chunky and delicately seasoned, isn’t exactly going to feed an army. Can we please have that bread?
While our mains are cooking, my husband decides he’d like to know if his Cornish chicken is, indeed, from Cornwall. It takes two extras to relay this question to the man who might know the answer – yet another liquid smooth maitre’d type, who glides over in a vintage velvet tuxedo and informs us that; “I believe the chicken is from New Jersey, sir.” And is it organic? “It’s kosher” – a wide smile – “everything here is kosher.” When it arrives, it’s fine – juicy and plump and crispy skinned, if a tad on the salty side – but then you don’t pay $38 for “fine”, even in this city. In fact, especially in this city, where even the bread basket had better be pretty special (speaking of which, where is that bread?) My filet of arctic char, served on fava beans in a delicate broth dotted with luminous green olive oil, is the poshest looking thing we’ve been served so far and is, actually, delicious.
We decide to finish of with some sorbet, but are brought three scoops of chocolate ice cream served on a few crumbs of crushed-up meringue (“sorry, there is no sorbet tonight.”) House-made, it is rich and cocoa-y and delicious, even if we can’t see the point of the meringue, and we let our server know as much when she asks how we are enjoying “the sorbet.” She’d been doing so well, too – only to fluff her lines at the last minute.
Jezebel, 323 West Broadway, New York N.Y 10013 USA
(646) 410 0717; jezebelnyc.com
Ruby Warrington is a London writer in New York, former features editor at Sunday Times Style and can be followed on Twitter @The_Numinous