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July 1999

Lox, stock, and ferfel: Jewish cuisine--more than just bagels

Reviews of two of Munich's Jewish restaurants

Cohen’s Theresienstraße 31, München Tel. (089) 2 80 95 45 Hours: daily 12:30-close The term “Jewish cooking” eludes definition since, much like American cooking, it encompasses, many regional influences which in turn reflect the diversification of an ancient culture. Jewish cooking does not, as many may think, only mean kosher. The robust textures of the eastern European kitchen, the spicy flavors of the Middle East and the homey taste of a New York bagel and lox are all part of the jewish eating experience. These culinary influences are rooted in the tradition of family: a tradition of gathering, giving thanks and enjoying the pleasures of the table. This family spirit, and the desire to present these joys are the guiding principles that inspired Jacques and Yocheved Cohen to open their Munich restaurant, Cohen’s. The restaurant is snugly tucked away in a quiet courtyard which lends atmosphere to the multi-cultural eating experience. Polished wood surfaces and starched linen tablecloths, dramatically accented by a long row of huge windows, gives the restaurant an appealingly airy feel. Since the menu is very extensive and includes dishes whose Hebrew, Yiddish or even Hungarian names might not be familiar to all patrons, interaction with the owners is a must. And they are happy to translate, often pulling up a chair to your table to explain how the dish is prepared. A mixed appetizer platter (DM 16) gets to the heart of Jewish eating. Chumus, a tangy mousse of mashed chickpeas with a strong cumin and citrus accent, a garlicky sesame dip laced with olive oil called tchina and schakschuka, hard cooked eggs stewed in a rich tomato sauce, shared the plate with the more familiar oniony chopped liver, American-style tunafish salad and a delicate chopped egg and sautéed onion salad. Crisp pita bread was provided to scoop it all up. The assortment of appetizers is large — everything from buttery corn on the cob to a creamy potato soup — and the portions are generous, so order with restraint to save room for the main course. As substantial as the assortment of appetizers is, it is surpassed by the array of entrées which vary daily. We tried a Rindsgulash (DM 22.50), a hearty beef stew bathed in a silken aromatic gravy, whose melt-in-your-mouth consistency owes to a cooking time of no less than 24 hours. The stew is paired with ferfel, tiny flecks of lightly spiced egg pasta and perfectly boiled potatoes. A generous Wienerschnitzel (DM 23.50), the pride of Vienna (and of the Cohens), is magnificently crisp. The secret here is that each cutlet is pounded thin and fried in a pan, the oil being refreshed with each preparation. Latkes, thin potato pancakes flavored with onion, are the pride of every good Yiddish kitchen, and Cohen’s is no exception. Accompanied by several slices of lox (DM 18) or with applesauce (DM 12), they are fried crunchy on the outside, but remain moist on the inside. All entrées are served with a choice of side dishes including a sweet and sour cucumber salad, roasted buckwheat groats, rice or fresh steamed vegetables. The usual beverage selections are nicely supplemented with Israeli wines, including a fruity chardonnay that held up well to the hearty food. If you have room for dessert, try the Topfenpalatschinken, a thin crepe filled with a lightly sweetened soft cheese. The chilled compote of dried fruits bathed in a dark, sweet syrup or the Israeli fruit cup, made from fresh, exotic fruits, make refreshing desserts. A cup of Arabian coffee, rich, black with a hint of cardamom, ends the meal on a fine note. Food 10, Service 10, Atmosphere 10. Danel Feinkost Wrestenriederstraße 9, München Tel. 2280 02 58 Closed Saturdays It used to be an ordeal to find a Jewish-style delicatessen in Munich, and a hankering for a pastrami sandwich had to go unfulfilled. However Danel Feinkost, a tiny shop in the Viktualienmarkt, fills that void admirably. The shelves are packed with a surprisingly large assortment of Jewish style products, such as macaroons, matzos and Manischewitz wines — all imported from the U.S. and Israel. The deli counter features an array of coldcuts (pastrami!) and homemade salads. Every tasty morsel sold in the store is strictly kosher — a blessing for those who are orthodox and those who are not. <<<

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