Pop-Up Restaurant in Long Island City
Pop-up restaurants and roving supper clubs have changed the dining scene in NYC but with so many of them being centered around non-kosher meat, I haven't attended.
So I jumped at the opportunity when my good friend A. sent me an e-mail with an invitation to a kosher pop-up hosted by Manna Catering. I checked out the menu, liked what I read and called in my reservation with my credit card.
While supper clubs are mostly run out of people's homes and are invite only or word- of -mouth events, pop-upsare easier to find. Pop-ups give temporary homes to novel ideas without the set up costs of establishing a permanent restaurant. It could be a try-out for a concept or a way to showcase talented chefs who don't have permanent space yet. A pop- up can be a one night event or can land for multiple days, weeks or months.
Temporary is the key element of the concept. I cabbed it just a short distance over the 59th St. Bridge to an industrial brick building on the other side of the East River, with bright views of the Manhattan skyline. A greeter met us on the street and guided us through an unmarked doorway and down a short, dim hallway.
I forgot the dinginess as we entered the dressed up space temporarily outfitted as dining area. We were in the 600 square foot, main kitchen of this catering business, where only 26 diners attended this carefully crafted event. Tables for 2, 4 and a larger group were draped in simple white cloths. The focus was on the food.
We were served a choice of Kosher Tishbi Sauvignon Blanc and a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo to accompany warm squares of Tom Cat's moist bread chunks.
An amuse bouche of poached quail egg bathed in flavorful truffle oil and toast points was served. We were primed.
Cannelloni drizzled in a sweet soy glaze contained fresh and dried shitakes and dried porcini. Simply steamed asparagus lent a little crunch and brightened the plate. The wild mushroom filling was earthy and delicious.
Cream of corn soup was velvety and pleasing, with frizzled leeks punctuating the mild flavor of this non-dairy corn puree.
Raw yellowtail with ginger and curry leaf was presented as sashimi, and was so clean tasting that it almost served as a palate cleanser before the main dishes. A little more citrus and it would have been perfect.
Because I eat out so frequently as a vegetarian when I am away from my kosher kitchen, I was happy to chose the house smoked Balinese short ribs with Japanese sweet potato fries as my entree. Only one in our party chose the seared Chilean sea bass, with sticky rice.
The short ribs were tender and nicely flavored with coconut milk and 12 spices pointing us towards Asian flavors. I found them too heavy, though, and preferred my dining companion's choice of sea bass, which glistened with a balsamic yuzu glaze.
One-bite desserts are very "now" as everyone loves variety but doesn't want to pack on extra calories at the end of a large meal.
Manna's dessert dumplings were wrapped like wontons and provided the perfect finish with one burst of distinctive flavor at a time. I appreciated the chef's choice of flavors in his selection of chocolate hazlenut (super rich), fig/grapefruit/pomegranate (tangy) and Chinese apple and citron (spicy).
Manna Catering has been in operation for close to 30 years. Owner/Chef Dan Lenchner has catered events honoring such notables as Shimon Peres, King Abdullah and President Clinton. He even catered Steven Spielberg's wedding.
His son Yair, a line cook at The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges on the Upper East Side, lent his capable skills and artistic flair to this event in his Dad's kitchen at Manna this week.
Want to know when the next pop-up event will happen here? Contact Chef Dan Lenchner,manna @ mannacatering.com and let him know you want to be on his list. He will be glad to invite you to the next event, which may happen before year's end.
For those who keep kosher and want a meal that feels like an adventure, this is a fun and delicious alternative to the NYC kosher dining scene.