By COLlive reporter
That’s the name of a pioneering new restaurant opening in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood that is presented as the first ever authentic kosher Asian noodle house.
Slated to formally open mid-February on Troy Avenue, it promises to bring authentic, traditional Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine to the kosher world, without the sushi and egg rolls.
The name PHO-MEN is comprised of the names of two of the restaurant’s signature dishes: pho and ramen. The menu, previewed by COLlive.com, boasts a variety of authentic noodle-based dishes: Pho, Ramen, Udon, Soba, Nabe and Sukiyaki.
Albert Mayzels, owner of the restaurant together with Levi Jurkowicz, says in taking on this challenging food endeavor he drew heavily on the culinary experiences from his travels in Southeast Asia and the 3 years he spent training and eating his way through Japan.
A self-proclaimed “fanatic of everything Asian,” Mayzels, a seasoned food industry professional with 30 years of experience in the food manufacturing and hospitality industries, graduated from culinary school at 17 and apprenticed all over Europe. He ran a restaurant consulting and turnaround business and owned restaurants and manufacturing on the West Coast.
Mayzels enjoys taking on the challenge of bringing authentic inherently non-kosher flavors to “adventurous kosher consumers,” he says. His first kosher undertaking was the “Holy Cow! Kosher” company manufacturing Glatt Kosher charcuterie. His previously unheard of products that closely resembled their non-Kosher namesakes took the Glatt Kosher world by storm. With production on hiatus for the last year, while the company’s new from the ground up plant in New Jersey is under construction, Mayzels had the opportunity to take on a new challenge.
With this new restaurant, Mayzels is once again entering unexplored territory. Jews have been known to favor sweet Chinese dishes and sushi can be found at many simchas, but “American Asian” is nothing like authentic Asian, he says.
The restaurant will serve a variety of Japanese Ramen, a dish consisting of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, Vietnamese pho soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat, and many other Asian noodle-based dishes.
“In Japanese cuisine, everything is about the noodle, and whatever is served around it, is there to support the noodle,” he told COLlive.com. “With Pho, everything is about the broth, everything else is there to enhance the broth.”
Doing something that the Kosher world has never seen before is extremely difficult from an ingredient sourcing perspective, Mayzels says. “There’s nothing kosher to start with. Anything beyond the raw ingredient has to be made in-house.”
For example, the Vietnamese dish Pho is made of meat and fish sauce, a blend which isn’t allowed by kosher standards. They had to create a substitute “fish sauce” with other ingredients. “We are flying in herbs from Los Angeles and wasabi direct from Tokyo so it will be a different flavor, color and texture,” he said.
Mayzels said they will be crafting their own ramen, udon, and soba noodles in their own noodle factory to match the right size and texture to every dish they serve.
“The ramen will reflect common varieties from different regions in Japan,” he explains. “The noodle has to be able to grab onto the broth and deliver the entire flavor of the dish.”
The restaurant’s menu, under the supervision of Crown Heights Rabbi Yosef Braun, includes a selection of small bites, dinner salads, meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan dishes. Appetizers range from edamame and fresh summer rolls to more playful dishes such as Japanese sloppy joe slider and Peking duck or wagyu short rib steam buns.
Soba, another unique item, is served cold, with broth served on the side. “It will be a unique, formal experience, similar to English High Tea, including a cast iron tea pot to pour the broth,” he explains. They will also offer signature lemonades, Vietnamese iced coffee and complimentary “whole leaf” hot tea.
Jurkowicz agrees that perfecting the dishes is only one challenge.
“We will have to educate the customer on how to eat our food, and what to expect here,” he said. “The menu will be as descriptive as possible so that those unfamiliar with Asian cuisine will be able to order dishes to their liking.”
“We should have a sign that says ‘slurp please, it’s allowed here,'” quips Jurkowicz. “We expect everyone to really enjoy their meal here. It’s a unique type of experience, a new cultural experience.”
Pho-Men on Troy
411 Troy Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11213
Under CHK – Rabbi Braun