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Au revoir, dairy! Slope French bistro goes kosher

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When in Park Slope’s newest French restaurant, eat as observant Jews do.

Sonia and Dan Halimi have transformed Belleville Bistro into the kosher restaurant Chagall Bistro, bringing dairy-free French dining to a neighborhood where it’s harder to find kosher fare than it is to pick up a fine cabernet for under $10.

The French-born couple are confident they will win over Slopers who keep kosher and neighborhood foodies who crave a taste of Paris — but they admit it will be a big change when patrons see a menu with no creme, brie, or camembert.

“Normally in a French kitchen you have milk and butter everywhere,” said Dan.

The kosher couple quietly took over the Belleville Bistro at Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue last April and kept the same name — a big mistake, they now admit, because they couldn’t shed the eatery’s mediocre cred.

“The restaurant had suffered a reputation. It had gone up and down a lot,” said Sonia. “It’s been a very tough beginning.”

At first, the Halimis weren’t sure about implementing a kosher menu — which would bar previous favorites including escargot, pork, and shellfish.

“When we first came here we didn’t know Park Slope, so we didn’t make the choice of kosher right away because we didn’t know if it was the vibe for it,” said Sonia.

But when their chef quit last month, the couple decided it was time for a change, opting to switch the menu to Kosher and rename the join in honor of the Russian-Jewish painter Marc Chagall.

The Halimis approached about 10 chefs before they found chef Jean-Claude Teulade, who weas brave enough to take the gig — his first cooking in a kosher restaurant. French food without dairy or shellfish.

Teulade quickly designed an upscale French kosher menu that includes braised duck leg served in a spicy cilantro sauce ($16), beef tongue ($14), seared hake ($24), and a 14-ounce grilled rib-eye steak served with house-made French fries and a brandy-pepper sauce ($39) — offerings that are more expensive due to the stringent guidelines for ingredients.

The next step was earning kosher certification — a strict process that forced the restaurateurs to trash their china and frying pans, flame their silverware, glasses, and pots, and give away more than $4,000 of cheese, milk, butter, shellfish, meats, and foie gras to a food bank.

Then came the schedule: keeping kosher means the bistro is closed for Jewish Shabbat on Friday and Saturday — the busiest days at most restaurants.

Finally, there was dessert.

“Good French food kosher is not difficult, but the sauces and the desserts with no dairy — that’s the challenge,” said Sonia.

Dan admits the restaurant is still working out the kinks when it comes to the sweets, acknowledging the old creme brulee — made with dairy, not soy — was superior to the current offering ($11).

Kosher Park Slopers are thrilled to finally have a dining option in the neighborhood.

“It’s a dream come true,” said kosher Park Sloper Barbara Gordon. “The neighborhood is big enough and diverse enough to support a restaurant like this.”

Chagall Bistro [330 Fifth St., at Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, (718) 832–9777, open for dinner Sunday through Thursday at 5 pm, brunch on Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm].

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
Updated 10:08 pm, July 9, 2018: Headline updated, because this editor clearly doesn't speak French.
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Reasonable discourse

scott from park slope says:
Insta fail. Williamsburg, with its heavy hasidic and orthodox community, maybe. Park Slope? Non. If you stayed open on weekends, when most people here splurge, maybe they could get over the restricted options. But closing sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is a losing proposition for all but those families that follow that schedule. They tried a kosher restaurant at the intersection of 6th Street and 7th Ave, across from the hospital, 12 years ago and I don't think it lasted more than 4 weeks.

The other part of the insta fail is the prices. The cheapest entree you've got is $14? Yeah, you guys really didn't do your research. There was a Mediterranean place down the road on 5th Ave that tried to play at that range, and its existence was so brief that no one can even remember its name.

So, let's see. Restricted menu? Fail. Restricted schedule? Fail. Overly pricey offering? Fail. Fail, fail, and fail.

Maybe after this proposition craters we can get something we do lack in this neighborhood like a really great Russian restaurant or perhaps a Brazilian restaurant like Churrascaria Plataforma in Manhattan. That would be awesome.
March 12, 2013, 10:16 am
agree with Scott from PS says:
Agree with Scott on this one. I give them maybe 6-7 weeks.

How about a good steakhouse!!!
March 12, 2013, 10:37 am
ty from pps says:
If the owner wasn't Jewish (I'm assuming he is), you can stay open on Shabbath and still maintain kosher certification.
March 12, 2013, 11:12 am
scott from park slope says:
ty, that maybe gets around the restricted weekend schedule, but you're still talking about a limited menu and much higher than average prices. yes, some families that keep kosher and shabbath will go there because they're being catered to, but every such family in Park Slope would have to eat there at least twice a week to keep a place like that, with that kind of overhead, in business. even if their food is phenomenal, there are only so many times a month you can eat there before you get sick of it and want variety. you have to attract non-kosher Jews and everyone else with good food and reasonable prices if you want to stay in business in this city. the competition and choices are too fierce to get by with that sort of narrow focus, unless you're in an area heavily populated by those folks.
March 12, 2013, 1:39 pm
Pat from Park Slope says:
Funny that you three say this restaurant will fail. And for one of you, more specifically in 6 to 7 weeks. You are forgetting that they were open 7 days a week under "Belleville" for a year, and except for some weekends, the restaurant was mostly empty. Now that they are open under "Chagall" with a new look, new chef, new food, new pricing and new schedule, they have been more successful now than ever before and they told me that they had their best week ever the first week they were open under Chagall. All you have to do is pass by the restaurant during their hours of operation to see how packed the place is. When you have good food, good service, and a good atmosphere, you can be successful no matter where you are, what prices you charge, and what schedule you keep. It's a fact not only in Park Slope but anywhere in the world.
March 12, 2013, 2:08 pm
ty from pps says:
I don't think it's a sure fail... just saying that being closed on Friday/Saturday isn't a *must* for certification. If the chef is good, people will come.

And don't worry -- just because there's no butter, there's plenty of opportunity for delicious fat (beef, chicken, goose fat). It's French and kosher. Not vegan.
March 12, 2013, 2:14 pm
??? from ps says:
@Pat - http://parkslopestoop.com/blog/news/welcoming-french-kosher-how-belleville-became-chagall

It was strictly French. They looked to revitalize the restaurant by turning it into French Kosher. Normally a restaurant does not look to "revitalize" if it was doing well. So technically the French-Kosher have just opened for a week thus far...let's check back in a few more weeks shall we?
March 12, 2013, 2:16 pm
JAY from NYC says:
I though Bellevue sucked, and so not really hard to figure out why it was usually pretty empty.
I think Scott is likely right about this, BUT its NOT impossible that this works out, I am thinking that maybe it could work if it gets known as a niche restaurant which winds up basically owning the category., assuming of course the food is actually good.
If that happens, it could make it, but barring that, think it will fail, most new restaurants fail anyway, so not sure how a place makes it if they close on the busiest days of the week. Guess we will see, but its good that the space is being used and not being vacant. Good luck.
March 12, 2013, 6:18 pm
C. Brooks from Meadow Winds says:
Oy vey!
March 12, 2013, 7:45 pm
Jim from South Brooklyn says:
6 months is the over/under
March 13, 2013, 8:29 am
manposeur from BROKELAND says:
I don't think the Hassids will want to venture into Park Slope. I give this restaurant a few weeks before they change their menu. trying to be unique is one thing but not in "porkslope".
March 13, 2013, 9:57 am
k from fort greene says:
My boyfriend and I wandered in here for my birthday dinner because I wanted salmon and we had no idea it was Kosher until we were told that by the owner, but it didn't seem to make a difference-- we wanted the salmon and the hake and it did not seem overly priced for the atmosphere and I'm telling you that the food was phenomenal!!! The hummus, olive, basil, salmon paste dip appetizer was incredible and the fish was so so perfect. Give it a shot.
March 13, 2013, 1:45 pm
Homey from Crooklyn says:
Kosher is a neurosis.
March 13, 2013, 2:31 pm
kelly from park slope says:
i bet the high-ish prices are based on having to buy all kosher ingredients, which are probably more expensive than the regular kind. and hiring whatever rabbi to certify the place and continuously check it must be another small fortune.
March 17, 2013, 4:52 pm
sarah from park slope says:
I heard through the realtor grapevine that another niche restaurant will be opening soon in Park Slope. I'm not sure about where and when but supposedly it will be run by a Buddhist group from Mongolia and will specialize in dishes using rare black truffles from that region. And what I find most interesting is they have fast days six times each month when the restaurant will be closed (can't remember the name of this observance but I think it started with a upo...). Has anybody else heard anything about this?
March 18, 2013, 11:57 am
Tikra Namir from park slope says:
Now that is cool!
March 19, 2013, 10:30 am
Sandi from Jamaica, Queens says:
I think all you nay-sayers under-estimate the power of a really good kosher restaurant in NYC! There are a number of high-priced kosher places that observe the Friday night/Saturday closure and are going strong after many years. All they have to do is provide value for the money you spend there...(like every other eatery in NYC!)
April 3, 2013, 5:42 pm

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