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Jan 14, 2014 08:12 PM

Are there any good kosher restaurants or caterers in Toronto??!?!?!

Being a total foodie and having gone kosher about five years ago has not been fun. I miss oysters, crab, all things pig, but most of all, I miss actual good food. After what seems like hundreds of briskets later, I'm dying for food that just tastes good. I loathe the service I get at almost every kosher restaurant in the city (including up north) and am astonished that the community isn't demanding better food and service. I haven't even gotten to the numerous catered events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, seder dinners, etc. I have been to where the food is simply inedible, not to mention extremely expensive. Every single "known" kosher caterer in this city is more expensive than most of the top non-kosher caterers in the city. It's simply so upsetting.
My parents are celebrating their 45 wedding anniversary and I want to have a nice sit down dinner for them with about 75 people. Can anyone recommend a half decent kosher caterer in the city?? (I don't think ZB is good and I think they totally take advantage of their position in the city).
Also, can we please do something about the kosher food situation in this city!!!!

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  1. One of my retirement projects is to get a Ph.D at the Jewish Theological Seminary. My dissertation topic is going to be
    "Kosher Catering as a Hillul Hashem".

    Truly honour your parents.
    Don't stage a charade. Really a farce. Refuse to be exploited. Rebel! Figure out a simple meal and do it yourself. Paper plates, etc. It doesn't matter what it is, just make it good! If you want to , explain your position to your guests. Take what you save and donate it to your parents' favourite charity. Everyone will be a lot happier.

    And yes, I have done it myself in the past.

    Please keep us posted.

    1. Most good chefs and good caterers can do a Kosher event, anyone who has to deal with the Toronto elite will have been asked for koser meals. I chef I know had a Jewish ex-wife so worked plenty in that community.

      22 Replies
      1. re: pourboi

        Anyone can do kosher style, but not many can do truly kosher, which I think is what the OP is looking for. Rentals are a problem as well. I wish I could be more help I feel your pain.

        1. re: LexiFirefly

          Interesting, can you exand on this? Are you saying a truly koshe meal needs to be done by a jewish chef? And what is the issue for rentals?

          1. re: pourboi

            Truly kosher must be done in a kitchen, blessed by a rabbi. The issues with rentals are they must be separated and blessed for milk or meat. It's quite an expensive process and too long to go into right now. When I have time I'll rustle up some links for you!

            1. re: LexiFirefly

              No, that is all I need to know... I was just curious.

              So if OP gets a Kosher Hall (assuming not at his house due to the size - wants 75 people to attend) and the Hall has its own kitchen and their own equipment & place settings.. could a "non" Kosher chef produce the meal as long as they adhere to the rules?

              1. re: pourboi

                I doubt it. Most halls have a preffered list of caterers and it's really expensive to go off list. Or you aren't allowed to at all. I'd guess that would be the case in a kosher space.

                1. re: LexiFirefly

                  You ain't just whistln' Dixie , LexiFirefly.

                2. re: pourboi

                  It can be done but it's difficult for all involved. I know for example that Susur Lee has cooked kosher meals, he used to tell a story about working in a kosher kitchen and forgetting the rules for just a moment and using the wrong bowl to mix a batch of something and having to 86 the whole dish and throw out a bunch of stuff.

                  1. re: bytepusher

                    How did Susur Lee manage with the threshold issue , giving the people enough to eat?

                  2. re: pourboi

                    Of course.

                    Most of the cooks employed at kosher caterers are of the same nationalities and from the same backgrounds as regular restaurant kitchens.

                    1. re: pourboi

                      Believe it or not, no. A Jew needs to "light the fire" for a meal to be kosher. If you're interested, google "bishul akum".

                    2. re: LexiFirefly

                      Kosher has nothing to do with being "blessed by a rabbi". This expression is jocular, pejorative and entirely misleading.
                      "Kosher" compliance involves an enormously long , complicated set of requirements and requirements that are difficult and expensive to adhere to unless you are especially set up as a kosher facility.

                      But kosher cooking does not need to be crap. That it is crap is only another manifestation of the Toronto food scene. Plus social climbing and apeing.

                      As much as we mock, it should be noted that no observant Jew has ever died of mad cow disease, trichinosis , shell fish poisoning etc. "Kosher" prevents such things from being food.You may consider it overkill , but the
                      consumer is not killed.

                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        The blessed part was referring to plates utensils etc. I didn't think I was mocking, just trying to explain in lamens terms why not all catering companies can adhere to kosher. I actually think you're idea is best vinnie. The kosher caterers in this city are ridiculous. Mainly because there is so little competition.

                        1. re: LexiFirefly

                          "Tovelling" plates etc doesn't require a rabbi. A blessing is part of the process, but a blessing alone won't do it.
                          Incidentally, my understanding is that modern Islam permits many foods not otherwise hallal to be hallal is the consumer recites a blessing prior to eating.
                          I mock kashruth as well when it becomes a competition or ousts every other food value.
                          There is lots of competition among kosher caterers. But they are like the fingers of a hand emanating from a palm. In the end, no different.

                        2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                          I have not heard of one person in the last 20 years in toronto who has died of mad cow disease, trichinosis , shell fish poisoning etc.

                          But plenty of people get sick with ecoli from fruits and veg...

                          1. re: pourboi

                            And water.
                            Basically, don't mess with success.
                            Judaism exists outside of Toronto and Torontonians do travel.
                            Look what happened to Moses Mendelsohn and his family after he started to make things rational. And so fast!
                            And there are other ritual requirements, like hygiene.

                        3. re: LexiFirefly

                          It has to be inspected by a rabbi to ensure there are no non-kosher items in contact with the food or preparation are. No one.has to bless anything.


                        4. re: pourboi

                 this is just a quick link, but you can see the issues already. It's really interesting if you want to do more research. I find it fascinating! ;)

                          1. re: LexiFirefly

                            There is no "blessing" involved in certifying meat, kitchen, or utensils as kosher. It is a matter of supervision proof of meeting standards. Many "ritual supervisors" ARE, in fact, ALSO rabbis, but it is not required. MOreover, Judaism does not have a pope or a single standard of practice. Some Conservative Jews may use one dishwasher and mix meat and milk utensils therein, use glass utensils for both meat and milk, eat cold vegetarian food in a restaurant but not hot vegetarian, etc. Among Orthodox subsects and ethnicities various competing certifications are not accepted. "Glatt" or smooth is a higher standard yet again... The prohibition against eating dairy foods with meat foods is universal, but the length of time to wait after a meat meal varies by country of origin!

                            However, at a reception the standard does not have to be dictated by the most observant/most extreme member of the family. That person can be accommodated with a complete multi-course special meal purchased from a kosher butcher like Hartmann that does prepared foods, just reheated and plated on paper. And if that person chooses to eat the salad or the non-dairy dessert that the main caterer has provided, fine.

                            In addition to a few VERY Orthodox relatives alongside my generally observant and kosher modern family, I have a jolly group of lacto-ovo vegetarians with ONE vegan. The smugly superior tyranny of the vegan and the ultra-Orthodox always grates, and our extended family has tired of being shamed. Happy to do a full parallel vegetarian menu alongside the meat, fish or dairy Kosher main catered menu, and to provide SOMETHING for the tiny minorityin both camps, and get on with enjoying the celebrations.

                            ANd the vegan can throw a vegan wedding whenever she does marry. But I'm sure she will not be as gracious about providing some accommodation for the non-tofu eaters.

                            Depending on the degree of observance, OP might do ask of the high-end non-kosher caterers to do a fish menu. Some of us have had great success with elegant meatless meals from the best the city offers, but not all Jews will eat a meatless meal from a trayf business.

                            1. re: KAYLO

                              You are holding this dinner to honour your parents, not to provide a food hog wallow nor to show off.

                              You will never, ever, be able to satisfy everyone. Do what you think is right and will satisfy the majority of your guests. You are not a good chef going into a burger franchise so tha tyou can make a living.

                              The solution for the vegans, etc., is to tell them to bring their own food. Shame them to not come because there will be no fress. And if they don't come, you didn't want them in the first place.

                              Next. Do as much of the work as possible yourself, meaning, with kitchen helpers whom you direct. When I do it this way, I feel good about myself. First I have cared enough to give it my skill, time and work. Second, It would have been expedient to have written a cheque and I didn't. Third, what I serve my guests is good.

                              I suggest that your parents will feel much more honoured and appreciated if you give of yourself and work rather than anticipate your inheritance and spend.

                              My recommendation.
                              Forget about meat. To big a production, too many concerns, particularly if you want it to be good. Plus fake dairy elsewhere which is never good, plus the fish - meat problem if you try to accommodate the non -meat eaters.

                              So you go dairy.But even salmon is a problem - how much should it be cooked? Jiggly at the centre or dry and hard? You are dealing with a large and difficult clientele who as a group are not known for a sophisticated palate.

                              (We once ran a fancy dinner. For one person- a veg'n- we got a beautiful sea bream, harvested from the fish pond day one, cooked and served- day two. We deliberately overcooked- a lot- to try to satisfy the veg. He asked that it be cooked more- a lot more- twice. Of course we did. Then there was the salt dump.
                              So far I have restrained myself from doing the following for him the next time. Presenting him with a covered platter, and- voila!- on a beautiful bed- a piece of untreated, uncooked salt cod.)

                              Then there is the problem that older people- your parents contemporaries- often don't want to- indeed can't - eat so much and so heavily at night.

                              I would suggest a big fancy buffet " breakfast", regardless of the time of day of the meal.
                              Egg salad, smoked salmon, potato salad, veggies cooked and uncooked, "veg" soup, smoked fish, salads, grains, cheeses, desserts, fruit that isn't mock luxurious and really just stones, baking, buns.

                              Heimish (like home, but meaning a good home)- no pretense. But make sure that everything is really good, and if it isn't, don't have it, regardless of the high status attributed to the item.

                              Tell your guests beforehand of the menu. And if some of your guests don't want to eat the food that you have provided, graciously invite them to bring their own. You will cooperate with cutlery etc.

                              There now is quite nice and not expensive disposable cutlery and plates. If you go the DIY route I will advise of a wholesale supplier, also wholesale suppliers of kosher fish.

                              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                P.S. - foodiegonekosher- There is enough to eat in the world that is delightful that you need not begrudge giving up bacon, etc.
                                You did marry only one person, no?
                                Now that was the really hard one for me!

                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                  Despite some interesting to and fro on this thread, no one has yet to answer the OP's original request: namely, can someone recommend a half-decent kosher caterer in the GTA? I would also be interested in learning about a specific outfit that might be able to pull off a sit-down for 75 at not too outrageous a price. Your nominations, please.

                                  1. re: juno

                                    The underlying assumption to the posts is that the answers to your questions are no and no.

                    3. I may get into trouble for this, but what do you think of the food at Dr. Laffa? If you think it's decent, they do catering.

                      BTW, the problem isn't just in Toronto. We were recently in Los Angeles, and I was super excited to try Ditmas LA - a kosher steakhouse by a chef from Top Chef (Alex Reznick). The place was PACKED but it was undeniably the worst meal that I've had in years.

                      1. Don't think I can do anything personally about the kosher food in this city, but when it comes to proper kosher catering, I use Encore.

                        More expensive than non-kosher, obviously, but they have a kosher kitchen on site and they do everything in house. A tasty, tasty kitchen.


                        Alternatively, if kosher is an issue and you don't want to pay for kosher food prices, as a long shot, you could go to a top caterer and inquire about vegan meals. It's a long shot, but hey, you could be surprised.

                        1. Has anyone tried or heard about McEwan Kosher? They use Hartmans kitchen and ingredients.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ItsRainingMian

                            I had no McEwan did kosher catering. I'd also love to hear from someone who's used his company.