An Argentinian entrepreneur is about to start selling kosher sushi up the block from a new Peruvian restaurant, a new Mexican eatery, and a new Syrian coffee shop.
Did somebody say something about a pandemic recession?
If so, that somebody forgot to tell Choni and Esther Grunblatt and the other restaurateurs bringing cuisines from around the world to Westville Village and bravely launching businesses in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Grunblatts received needed zoning relief this week to obtain a liquor license for Fin and Scale, a kosher sushi restaurant they plan to open in the coming weeks in the former Polished Hair & Beauty Bar storefront at 920 Whalley Ave.
The Grunblatts’ is one of two kosher restaurants in the works for the west side of town. The other, Ladle and Loaf, will occupy the former Domino’s Pizza storefront at 357 Whalley Ave. near Edge of the Woods Plaza; it will feature glatt kosher (meat) Middle Eastern-style meals spiced with flavors found from Morocco to India.
The two budding restaurants address a pent-up demand for kosher dining among the growing number of observant Jewish families in town. Fin and Scale is also aimed at the broader market interested in Westville’s rapidly growing international dining scene.
“I love the diversity of cuisines in just two blocks,” said Choni Greenblatt, who moved to New Haven from his native Argentina seven years ago with New Jersey-born Esther. They’re both 36 years old; they’re raising four children. Choni also runs a contracting firm called Upside Construction; he has a sideline as a singer.
“New Haven is multicultural. That’s what’s beautiful about it. We want to tell a story also, our story as Jews in eating fish,” he said.
“We have a passion for food, for fine dining, for the details. We love to bring people together; we love to host and make people warm and comfortable,” Esther said. She’s hoping eventually to host guest chefs, speakers, and workshops in the space.
The restaurant’s title “says it all, what a kosher fish is,” Esther noted: Kosher dietary laws prohibit eating shellfish. They do permit eating fish with scales and fins. So don’t expect to find crab or lobster or shrimp in the sushi. Do expect salmon, yellowtail, tuna, imitation crab, as well as vegetable fillings and other fish dishes.
At first, the emphasis at Fin and Scale will be on takeout and delivery. But the restaurant, which the Grunblatts have been remodeling, will have room for up to 24 diners and, thanks to a vote Tuesday night by the Board of Zoning Appeals, permission to add alcoholic beverages to the menu.
The prospect of launching a business doesn’t intimidate them, Choni said. “Every new business is a challenge,” he reasoned. “Those challenges are overcome by strong convictions, passions, and being able to get to the finish line.” With, in this case, rolls from the sea.
As for their live entertainment plans, Choni said the restaurant will host one-man bands for special occasions, but has no plans for a specific concert schedule. “We are not looking to disturb,” he said. “We’re looking to add.”
Geared Up For Hannukah
The couple Benny and Ephrat Lieblich, who live around the corner in the Beaver Hills neighborhood, has been working on Ladle and Loaf, which will feature take-out and eat-in menus.
They originally planned to open earlier this year; the onset of the pandemic delayed those plans. Now they’re waiting on final inspections so they can open in the coming weeks — Hanukkah at the very latest.
Benny, who attended culinary school, said he’s ready for the holiday with a Tunisian dish: a fricasse, a stuffed fried-dough concoction like Hanukkah sufganiyot but savory rather than sweet.
In general, he describes the planned dishes as a twist on traditional Middle Eastern fare, featuring spices from India through northern Africa (carried back by soldiers participating in Alexander the Great’s conquests) ranging from cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves, allspice.
Since the May 2019 closing of Westville Market, New Haven has not had a glatt kosher restaurant. (Claire’s Corner Copia and Edge of the Woods offer kosher vegetarian dining.) Meanwhile, hundreds of kosher-observant neighbors have moved into the area in recent year — and soon will have both glatt kosher and pareve sushi eateries as options.