“No ingredient can be overlooked and no challenge insurmountable… ”
Kebab platter at MexiKosher
Guzzle & Nosh
Katsuji Tanabe would like you to know that his upcoming dinner series, “Estos Es Realmente Real No Es Un Pop Up,” at his taqueria MexiKosher is really — no, no really — not a pop-up. We know this because he says as much in the name, albeit in Spanish.
“We’re not trying to do something trendy. We’re trying to showcase to the people that I serve — Jewish community and anyone who eats kosher — that any cuisine could be kosher. It’s not a one-time thing,” says the chef-owner.
On Tuesday, June 18, he and guest chef Carmen Ruiz de Huidobro will feature the flavors of Spain, all kosher, through a 14-course tasting menu, which includes unlimited sangria and Spanish red wine. This will be the first of what Tanabe hopes to be a monthly series. It’s inspired by the private monthly Beverlywood Supper Club for which Tanabe was a principal chef. Some of the cuisines featured include Korean, Cuban, Indian, Japanese, and Southern barbecue.
Tanabe is now looking to extend the opportunity to a wider audience, eager to share kosher versions of cuisines often inacessible to those who follow kashrut(Jewish dietary law). “I didn’t get into this business to be rich. I get into this business because I love what I do. When people tell you, ‘this is the first time I’ve tasted carnitas’ or ‘this is the first time I’ve tasted banh mi,’ it’s an amazing experience.”
Tanabe aims for cuisines with an eye on what’s the least available and guest chefs who are the most familiar with them. “I try to find somebody who cooks this for a living — only Korean, Cuban, or Spanish. And I try to get somebody who’s from the country or raised from that country, so we’re going to give the most authentic flavor.”
He’s had difficulty at times finding chefs and cooks willing to adapt their approach to meet kosher standards. The most challenging cuisine to cover thus far has been Vietnamese. “None of the Vietnamese chefs wanted to exchange recipes. I ended up doing it with the guy behind Cali Banh Mi. He’s lived in Vietnam for a number of years. He was up for the challenge.”
No ingredient can be overlooked and no challenge insurmountable, whether it be making bacon out of beef, sour cream out of tofu, or fish sauce without fish. “When it comes to cuisine, I’m the most orthodox person you can imagine. If it’s not kosher, we’re just not going to serve it.
For the first dinner in the series on June 18, Tanabe has a cured leg of veal as a ham substitute that’s stored in his walk-in, which he prepped 3 or 4 months ago. The menu will tentatively include Spanish classics like Manzanilla seasoned olives, fried Marcona almonds, gazpacho, tortilla de patatas, croquetas de bacalao, paelle de pollo, and crèma Catalana.