The Cost of Keeping Kosher

The food may look beautiful, but you’ll need a pretty penny to eat it

Those in Miami who keep kosher diets are privy to a wide diversity of ethnic dining establishments: Chinese (China Bistro at The Waterway Shops, Aventura), Japanese (Aoba Japanese, 13185 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach), Mediterranean (New Time Moroccan and Spanish Restaurant, 2120 NE 123rd St., North Miami Beach), Mexican (La Valentina, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura), pizza (Shem Tov Pizza, 514 41st St., Miami Beach), dairy (Bissaleh Café, 17608 Collins Ave., North Miami Beach, and Sara's, three North Miami Beach venues), Italian vegetarian (Cine Citta Café, 9544 Harding Ave., Surfside) — to name a few. Le Marais Express (4210 Collins Ave., Miami Beach) offers French, and Prime Grill in Aventura combines steak and sushi, but I believe Juliette Restaurant, which recently opened in Surfside, is the first kosher eatery to pair French fare with sushi.

Juliette is easy on the eyes. The walls are horizontally paneled in wood, the planks occasionally broken up by illuminated, glass-covered inserts displaying pottery, pumpkins, and sundry organic earth-toned objets d'art. A cylindrical column in the center of the room is wrapped in white drapes and bathed in pink lights that cast a soft rouge glow over the 100-seat room. If Juliette were a woman rather than a restaurant, and a matchmaker were describing her to a potential suitor, he would likely mention good looks and pleasant personality (friendly waitstaff) but would probably also feel compelled to warn she is something of a gold digger (prices here are very high).

Granted, kosher products are more expensive than nonkosher, plus there's the cost of employing a certified mashgiah (an on-site supervisor who determines what is acceptably kosher). But an appetizer salad of fresh green beans and mushrooms is $18. "Vegetables millefeuille," composed of layered eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash, is $20. Same cost for a starter of tuna tartare, the chopped fish fresh, zestfully seasoned, and paired with avocado that had been mashed and spiced to a sumptuous guacamolelike state. Good stuff — lean and clean — although walking toward the car after dinner, I couldn't help noticing tuna tartare at Cine Citta Café up the block was $10.95.

JOE ROCCO

Location Info

Map

Aoba Japanese Restaurant

13185 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33181

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: North Miami

La Valentina

19501 Biscayne Blvd.
Aventura, FL 33180

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Aventura/North Miami Beach

Bissaleh Café

17608 Collins Ave.
North Miami Beach, FL 33160

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: North Dade

Epicure Gourmet Market & Café

17190 Collins Ave.
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: North Dade

Details

Tuna tartare...$20
Hamachi and jalapeo sashimi...$15
Sea bass sautéed in olive oil...$36
Rib steak with spaghetti and porcini sauce...$40
Apple tart...$12
9472 Harding Ave, Surfside; 305-865-1595. Open Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Sunday through Thursday 6:00 to 10:30 p.m.

Juliette's kosher wines are no bargain either, but there are some seriously sippable reserves from the Baron Herzog Estate. I was going to summon the manager to our table and suggest he try to find a mashgiah knowledgeable about wines who could then double as a sommelier, but my wife advised me to let them handle their own internal affairs.

Let your eyes sashay to the sushi menu for starters, because the cost of a single salad or appetizer from the regular selections can fetch a nine-piece sashimi platter or six-piece sushi sampler or a trio of hand rolls, such as white tuna, hamachi, and spicy salmon. In fact the sushi bar rolls out such dashing presentations of pristine fish you might want to forgo the French fare altogether.

An evening special of stuffed cabbage was worth every cent. It arrived looking nothing like the traditional tomato-sauced, raisin-sweetened east European roll; rather it was shaped like a giant portobello mushroom cap and painted brown with a dense beef demi-glace. The gently braised dome of translucent green leaf came packed with a delicate veal and beef filling and was flecked with minced carrots and onions; underneath were wondrously fluffy mashed potatoes encircled by meaty logs of demi-glaced portobello mushroom.

One of the best of the bistrolike entrées was a small yet succulent duck breast with haricots verts and deliciously herbed, roasted fingerling potatoes. An accompanying honey-ginger sauce was clumpily textured but did contribute a suitably sweet contrast to the bird.

Rib steak brought a neat, petite nine-ounce disk of juicy meat sided by mushy spaghetti regrettably wed with an overly potent, palate-pounding porcini sauce. This spaghetti is also offered as one of four à la carte pastas, the other three composed of penne paired with either pesto, tomato sauce, or tuna, olives, and tomato sauce.

Although many of the main courses proved satisfactory, at these prices the accompaniments seemed pedestrian. Honey-and-lemon-sauced veal medallions, weighing only 6.6 ounces, are served with asparagus and portobello mushrooms — for $43. At Levana, one of New York's premier kosher restaurants, $40 brings a far heftier, first-cut veal chop with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and cumin-scented chanterelles (much classier cousin to the plebian portobello). And while Juliette's $18 hamburger, a half-pounder with French fries and mixed greens, costs less than the $29 burger at Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan, the meat patty in the latter establishment consoles the high roller with a center of preserved truffles and sides of mache salad and pommes soufflé.

A stout square of sea bass, one of four fish selections, was simply but sure-handedly sautéed in olive oil and aptly matched with a stack of grilled ratatouille vegetables — eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, and red onion (thank goodness we didn't start with the vegetables millefeuille). Other seafood choices are sesame-crusted tuna with teriyaki sauce; grilled salmon with béarnaise sauce; and Dover sole meunire. Maybe Juliette could lower its prices a bit by using locally caught fish instead of flying it in from England.

Warm apple tart, or tarte Tatin, turned out to be a pizzalike disc of partially uncooked dough topped with thinly sliced green apples and a pinch of sugar. Not even a pool of melted vanilla ice cream on top could drown the surprisingly unpleasant flavors. Interestingly the apple pie contained more ice cream than the ice cream cake, a frozen, nutty granolalike substance that resembled an almond-crusted hockey puck and had little to do with ice cream but ultimately proved to be pleasingly palatable. Desserts, as well as other kosher comestibles, are also available at Juliette's handsomely appointed take-out shop next door.

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