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Feb 25, 2014 04:49 AM

La Differance and Chagall Bistro

Last night at KFWE we got a flyer form Chagall Bistro self-describing as "The first French Kosher restaurant in New York!"

I like Chagall. I really do. It feels and tastes like a bistro in Paris. But, it is certainly not the first French restaurant in New York. Doesn't anybody else remember La Differance? It was the first French kosher restaurant in New York. It opened sometime in the 80s in the Roosevelt Hotel, a hotel that was then showing wear at the edges, well, the whole city was. La Differance was that it was French - not like all those other kosher restaurants where every dish had pickles on the side.

La Difference felt like a "real" restaurant. Elegant, spacious, quiet, no bottles of mustard on the tables. They handed us a very French menu. We ordered, they brought the wine and poured it, we were very pleased with ourselves.

Then the waiter destroyed the entire illusion by bringing us a tray of half-sour pickles, a dish of cold slaw, and a basket of sliced rye bread.

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  1. It was in the Roosevelt Hotel and they had live entertainment there. The food was good, not great. There was also a place called Nanou in the Flatiron District that described itself as French.

    1. Adina...
      The couple owning and operating Chagall Bistro are so young that they think thye have the first Kosher French Restaurant in NY. LaDifference was long gone before these youngsters moved to the states.
      I remember dining at LaDif many times 30+ years ago. It was upscale and elegant, a place I could take clients and did not attract any of the chassidic crowd or groups with small children.
      I attended a private function at Chagall Bistro this past Sunday (already posted a full review on this board).
      Loved it and their innovative food.

      But while both places were/are French and kosher a comparison is like apples and oranges they are boith fruit, but a funky bistro and an elegant, upscale hotel dining room are not the same animal.

      1. So, is sushi on the menu the more modern version of side pickles and coleslaw?

        6 Replies
        1. re: CloggieGirl

          Oh, you are so right, it should be. I mean what are Chagall (Basil, Pardes) THINKING not to offer sushi in a kosher restaurant?

          1. re: AdinaA

            Can we actually trust the kashrut of a restaurant that doesn't offer sushi? .~ (Yes, I'm kidding.)

            1. re: CloggieGirl

              A friend of mine was *horrified* when I mentioned we went to Pardes for dinner. He couldn't believe there was no sushi (and this guy orders cooked salmon with extra spicy mayo)

              1. re: cheesecake17

                the irony is that we sell our fish dishes to guests as "like sushi", or "hey if you like sushi, youll love this".............pardes is sooo not above the sushi inference if it gets someone to order a cool fish dish.

                1. re: Moishefrompardes

                  The irony is that when bagel stores offer pickled herring or lox to young frum Jews, they now have to say "try it, it's like sushi!"

              2. re: CloggieGirl

                I don't like it when people mock our traditional Jewish foods! A kosher restaurant without sushi is like a Shabbos without Stella D'oro chocolate fudge cookies!

          2. Way before my time too. But I must say that the gorgeous house smoked applewood salmon offering by Chagall stood out as the most beautifully presented and exquisitely smoked offering in that room last night! Of the 20+ restaurants there last night, it's Chagall that is on my new short list of restaurants to try out. The young couple/owners were also as sweet and adorable as can be with a real passion that shined through sublimely. A great addition to the nyc kosher scene. I can't wait to go. HOUND meeting anyone?

            2 Replies
            1. re: gotcholent

              I was there Sunday for a private family birthday party in the private room on 5th Street. I can't wait to return. I hate salmon but loved the smoked salmon app, also a great pastrami.
              Please read my review on this site. Everything was so innovative, funky and delicious.

              I wanted to take pics of the food, but my wife would have killed me if I did so at the party.

              I could not have asked for a better 60th birthday dinner, great food, lots of great wine and 30 of my distant (3rd or 4th) cousins to celebrate with.

              1. Isn't Le Marais also French, or am I missing something?

                18 Replies
                1. re: PotatoPuff

                  I guess so. But le Marais just screams "steak restaurant" to me

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    Le Marais is absolutely a brasserie in the French tradition. Its menu echoes its treyf corporate cousin Les Halles, minus the obvious treyf and dairy.

                    1. re: DeisCane

                      i think Le Marais is one of the best kosher restaurants in Manhattan - meaning value for money coupled with atmosphere. apart from the fact that vegetarians are mostly ignored.

                      1. re: RosaSharon

                        Seriously ignored! I was once invited to dinner there and checked the menu for a vegetarian option. There are none but there were two vegetarian appetizers that would have made a fine meal when combined. LeMarais was out of both of them at 6pm so dinner was a rather dull green salad and fries. I'm glad I wasn't footing the bill.

                        Sadly, this isn't unusual for fleishig restaurants. If there is something vegetarian on the menu, it is expensive with just about zero thought or care put into it. If they don't want to do a vegetarian main, then at least price vegetarian appetizers so that two of them costs roughly the same as the average entree. That means that there has to be more than one veg appetizer and the following don't count: guacamole, edamame, a meat appetizer with the meat part left out, chips and dip.

                        1. re: CloggieGirl

                          don't forget the ubiquitous "pasta with roasted vegetables" variations on a theme ;)

                          I am not a vegetarian but only eat kosher meat, and go to non-kosher high-end places often. Sometimes I get so bored with the vegetarian options I choose not to eat at all! Even a pescatarian would struggle sometimes - many fish dishes have shellfish included.

                          1. re: RosaSharon

                            I have a niece and niece-in law who are vegetarians as well as a great niece who is.
                            I don't care for dairy.

                            So every summer I make a point of taking the girls out for dinner during the nine days to fleischige restaurants, when innovative kosher chefs finally put their efforts into vegetarian dishes. If enough appreciation of these dishes is shown it is possible that they could become rotating vegetarian entrees on the year round menu.

                          2. re: CloggieGirl

                            the reason meat places dont offer vegetarian options is because customers dont order them. i used to have lots of vegan/vegetarian options, but after 2yrs of throwing out mis en place daily, i gave up. getting the average kosher customer to order a non-meat dish is like pulling teeth.

                            1. re: Moishefrompardes

                              ...and vegetarians only go to meat restaurants under duress because they know they'll get ripped off.

                              In addition to being able to make a meal from appetizers, it's also appreciated when a meat dish can be made vegetarian while still being tasty. A well-meaning server once suggested I get the restaurant's pad thai without the meat. I got noodles in a mostly bland sauce with a sprinkle of carrot shreds. According to a tablemate who got the meat version, all the flavor was in the meat's marinade.

                              Would you be able to accommodate people who contact you ahead of time? Whenever my in-laws visit, going out to eat gets complicated because my father-in-law loves meat but lives in an area without any kosher meat restaurants. Among the rest of the family, at least one spouse is a vegetarian. This results in disappointment for everyone unless we order in from two places.

                              ETA I just looked at the menu currently up on Pardes' website and I'd be happy with that. I am curious why something with lamb heart is listed under fish and vegetables. I know of a plant called lamb ears, but this is new to me.

                              1. re: CloggieGirl

                                Steering this away from Moishe (who makeswonderful food) and back to the title of the thread.

                                Go to Chagall Bistro. I posted a review Monday after our birthday party there on Sunday.
                                There are really good vegetarian items on the menu. Wife loved the Vegetarian Couscous Tagine with roasted vegetables, raisins, olives almonds and a harissa broth. The Corn Veloute (soup) had no meat. There is a Fresh Truffle Risotto entree, and if you eat fish there are more choices.

                                I'm attaching a link to the dinner menu: No problem to have a vegetarian appetizer, entree and then dessert.You don't have to ask that they alter a dish or leave something out.

                                They attract a different crowd than Pardes, we had 8 medical staff from a local hospital at the party, 6 non-Jews (4 were vegetarians) and no problem satisfying all.

                                BTW>>>I agree with Moishe, most of the traditional Ortho crowd is not interested in vegetarian when at a meat restaurant (unless it's the 9 days) and owners can't afford to keep throwing unsold ingredients (that have been prepped) in the trash. We were 40 at our party and 50% ordered rib steak as their entree.

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Sorry for the thread gank. It's a personal peeve that is one of the biggest reasons I don't stick strictly with kosher restaurants.

                                  Also, someone who eats fish is not a vegetarian. They may well be pescetarian but not vegetarian.

                                  1. re: CloggieGirl

                                    Cloggie, that's why my post said "if" you eat fish. There are many different non-meat diets.
                                    One niece eats fish, one is Vegan, great-niece eats eggs and milk....daughter is avoiding fish, but hasn't decided yet, only 1 week into this.

                                2. re: CloggieGirl

                                  i was just explaining in general why things are what they are vegetarian-wise, in the specific i do my best to stear clear of self promotion on here as per the well thought out chowhound rules.

                                3. re: Moishefrompardes

                                  Chef, your pistachio rissoto with Meyer lemon foam, candied tofu and Jerusalem Artichoke pate was one of the best dishes my wife and I have ever had none. Don't give up!

                                  1. re: Moishefrompardes

                                    That's a shame. My husband and I both eat meat (him more than me), but we love a well thought out vegetarian menu. There's a difference (like Cloggie said) between vegetarian food and a dish minus the meat.

                                    When I asked a very yeshivesh friend why she cooked so much meat and so few vegetables, the answer I got was that they're hard to check/clean.

                                    1. re: Moishefrompardes

                                      I guess I'm weird then. While I enjoyed every bite of meat I ate at Pardes, I would totally have ordered anything vegetarian that was on the menu.

                                  2. re: RosaSharon

                                    Brunch at Le Marais is good for vegetarians though. And an awesome deal.

                                  3. re: DeisCane

                                    Another thing to love about La Marais is the fresh meat and charchuterie they sell retail. The selection varies, but they have things like capons, veal sausages in natural casings, skinless boneless duck breasts, and pate that you don't find just everywhere. And the quality is wonderful.