By Estee Cohen.
You know when you’re hanging around Cedars Sinai, hopefully just visiting someone or picking up some cream to subdue your hypochondria and you realize that you’ve already blown $19.75 on parking so you might as well stay for lunch? So you take yourself over a bridge and down a hall and on the wrong elevator and over another bridge and through a waiting room on your way to the dining hall to grab a bite from Cedar’s awesome cafeteria. Visions of granola bars, soda, and maybe a banana are met and exceeded when, to your great joy, you realize there is an entire refrigerator dedicated to Kosher sandwiches, wraps, and salads each neatly packed and labeled with a cheerful Got Kosher? sticker. Don’t worry, I’m not reviewing Cedars’ cafeteria, though I’m tempted to. Let’s talk about the uncommon and underrated brand Got Kosher?.
Got Kosher? is the genius behind the pre-wrapped Kosher foods found in California hospitals and airports, but their original claim to fame is their unique pretzel challah. My sister in law, Coutney, has excellent taste- literally; she bought our family Got Kosher’s pretzel challah when she was engaged to my brother and quickly secured her place as the sister in law in the know. If you haven’t had it yet, surprise your family and pick up some pretzel challah on a Thursday. It’s best to order in advance because by late Thursday night you’ll be left with either nothing or a stray raisin pretzel challah. If you like big soft pretzels (and who doesn’t?) you will thank me.
So, I knew about Got Kosher’s food service items and pretzel challah, and vaguely heard about their tasty bakery offerings, but for some reason their restaurant was off my radar for years. I finally ventured inside their café-like storefront on Pico boulevard and tried to guess what genre of cuisine they would serve. I was leaning towards bistro, but I was wrong. The chirpy, Jim Carrey doppelganger waiter informed me that the fare was French-Moroccan. I vaguely conjured up images of stews, spicy stuff, and dried fruit from the few Moroccan weddings I’ve been to. Yup, nailed it. Their menu includes lots of Moroccan style fish, couscous with broths and meat stews, funky salads, and a mix of American appetizers like avocado rolls and typical main dishes like steak. The food is higher end and more plentiful than expected for the meager prices. Avocado rolls for 5 bucks and many main dishes under $18. If they put out a couple of candles and white tablecloths they could easily pass for fine dining.
My 2 favorites from what we ordered are the Pulled Brisket Sandwich- Memphis style and the Paleo salad. The brisket has the peely, stringy quality that makes a brisket a brisket and the meat is amply piled on. Great barbeque flavor and delicious, fresh, in house bread. All main dishes come with your choice of 2 sides- soup, salad, or fries. Definitely go for the soup, we had the chicken soup and tomato carrot, both were flavorful, thick, and flavorful. I got into the Paleo concept after reading A.J. Jacobs’s book about health fads that he tried out for a year. Paleo is a diet that includes solely food that cavemen ate: meat, fish, poultry, nuts, fruits and vegetables. The Paleo salad has a thin strip of steak resting on a serving bowl sized portion of salad and nuts with creamy dressing. I enjoyed half of it the next day for lunch and it tasted even better.
I find that many mid-level restaurants have a perfunctory attitude about dessert. This is not the case with Got Kosher. Because their roots are in baking, they offer a variety of conventional desserts like the delightful yet ubiquitous chocolate molten cake as well as French Moroccan desserts such as honey soaked cakes, lemon tarts, and marzipan tube-shaped candies wedged into sliced open dates giving them a hot dog-like look which are sui generis.
One last thing: whether you’re a tea drinker or not, order tea with your dessert at Got Kosher. It’s a ritual in itself featuring Moroccan tea spiked with Chinese gunpowder (yeah, I don’t quite get that either- what’s next, wood chips?) and fresh mint, served in an old fashioned silver tea pot covered with a lacy tea cozy and ornate, gold decorated glasses. It tastes wondrous and authentic to the Moroccan theme, all that’s missing from the experience is silk floor cushions to sit on and maybe a fez.