Italian in Midtown
When you wear a yarmulke, your culinary options are pretty limited. While New York is one of the few cities in the US that actually has a handful of kosher options, at their price points, they are competing with the most expensive restaurants in the city. That's pretty rough given that the rules of the kosher diet limit how meat can be prepared (no butter, no milk). While you know you'll be guaranteed a quality piece of meat when you go kosher, the execution can at times fall short, making it difficult to justify the high price tag.
Since I have a number of kosher friends in my life, I've dined at places like Tevere (easily my favorite), Solo (where Top Chef winner Hung had a stint as head chef) and Prime Grill (most overpriced, average steak in Manhattan), all of which generally left me feeling unfulfilled and, well, broke. For the price of a lot of these places we could be eating at Eleven Madison Park and properly indulging. Always keeping an open mind however, when a Kosher friend and devoted Infatuation reader wanted to take us to her favorite Kosher spot to see how it measured up to our standards, we were down to give it a go and head to Mike's Bistro on the Upper West Side.
Mike's Bistro is a big deal in the world of kosher restaurants. Although its appearance might suggest differently, this is a popular special occasion spot, especially with the younger generation. It's plain and rather boring decor give Mike's the feel of a glorified basement. Excessive wood (not in a cool rustic way, but in an ordinary kitchen cabinet way) and bright lights are a bit of a turn off. Good thing the food isn't. A clear Italian influence makes this menu more ambitious than most kosher spots and I'd happily return.
Portobello Mushroom and Arugula Salad
Dressed in a Caesar style mushroom dressing and a port wine reduction and served with red onions and enoki mushroom, this salad got mixed reviews at the table. The dressing wasn't too heavy, and is nice for a Caesar style. All in all, this serves as a good palate cleanser between bites of the other heavy items on the menu. Then again, any crisp salad could have done the same.
Handmade Duck Gnocchi
We devoured two ENTREE sized portions of this dish as an appetizer. Enough said.
Beef Cheek Ravioli
This appetizer special was good, not great. It could have used more filling and less pasta. It was prepared nicely al dente though.
Traditional cassoulet is a stew made with white beans and various forms of pork. For a kosher version, Mike's Bistro uses a duck recipe that does not disappoint. The combination of the duck, smoked veal, white beans, cranberry beans, and chicken sausage create some intense layers of flavor that even an avid pork lover could appreciate. I would definitely order this again.
Fresh Cod Fritters
Cod/salmon cakes are the kosher version of a crab cake, and this one was only OK. The fish seemed fresh and there was a very nice panko crust, but I though the portion was very small for the price. In addition, the fritter itself was a bit dry.
Braised Boneless Short Ribs
You know how we feel about our short ribs here at The Infatuation. That said, these aren't the best we've ever had, but they were damn good. As usual, the meat was rich, tender, and nearly falling apart. We're not sure where the sauce was though, as the plate could have used a little more.
Black Angus Rib Eye Fillet
Trying to not think about the fact that we could be enjoying just about any steak of our choice at this price point ($45) is tough. That's pretty much all I could think about the entire time. Overall, the meat was well prepared and the reduction they poured over it was quite tasty. Is it worth $45? No dice. Is it better than the steaks at Prime Grill? Absolutely.
Sauteed Duck Breast
The skin on the duck breast was nice and crisp and the meat was perfectly cooked. The confit leg was falling off the bone. Love the yam fritters and the cranberry port sauce, but not sure what they were thinking with the braised red cabbage on the plate. There was way too much cabbage and it was way too sweet. More yam fritters please.
Braised Lamb Shank
I wasn't impressed with the lamb shank at all, and thought the seasonings were off and the flavor of the braised kale was completely overwhelming. Also, the meat was too fatty.