Friday, August 14, 2020

Manhattan—Part-time Teaneck resident Kevin Cohnen, owner of Pitopia, a 10-seat kosher take-out restaurant just south of Times Square, was excited to share the results of his one-night-only pop up restaurant, featuring food by Mexico-City born celebrity chef Katsuji Tanube of Los Angeles’ Mexikosher.

On a rainy night, Cohnen shared that the pop-up served 1,000 dinners to a standing room only crowd over the course of the day, and while they intended to stay open until midnight, the restaurant ran out of most supplies, including all of their salsas and house-specialty “beef confit carnitas” cooked in duck fat, by 11 p.m. Kosher foodies as well as fans of Tanube from his appearances on Top Chef and Chopped stretched down the block on 37th Street near Broadway, waiting 15 minutes to an hour just to get inside.

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Pitopia staff worked with Tanube to prepare and serve burritos and tacos, all for $15 a plate; reviews indicated a high level of interest in his authentic Mexican fare that is generally unfamiliar yet enthusiastically sought after by kosher foodies. His menu included lamb braised in banana leaves, Mayan style chicken with aromatics, and the previously mentioned star item of beef carnitas, which has been indicated in a an oft-cited Los Angeles food article in the New York Times by Jennifer Medina as virtually identical in flavor to traditional carnitas made with pork. Tanube also prepared four types of fresh salsa, including mango habanero and chipotle, leaving customers the choice to add whatever heat they wished to their meal.

The carnitas and lamb dishes were moist and subtly flavored, without the spiciness or tomato and jalepeno flavors generally associated with the all-too-familiar American-style taco seasoning. The effect was a refreshing surprise to many trying Tanube’s food for the first time. While some customers found the slow cooked chicken to be dry, they were quick to say that that the combinations of flavors brought forward by the beautifully prepared rice, beans, pickled red onions and guacamole inside their burritos and tacos more than made up for it.

Cohnen indicated that the pop-up event was an incredible success and he is happy to have tried out the concept, and would enjoy working with Tanube again. “Mexikosher was coming to the East Coast, and he [Tanube] wanted to test out the market. The market seemed to be very interested, if the pop-up was any indication. The only trouble was that it was raining,” he said.

Pitopia is also interested in playing host to any other celebrity-type kosher restaurants. “Any restaurant (like Romanian in Chicago or Jeff’s Gourmet Sausages in L.A.) where people get on a plane with food to take back to their friends, we would like to host you in New York,” Cohnen said.

For more info on future pop-ups at Pitopia, visit pitopiausa.com.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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