Chefs Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi characterize their food as “authentically inauthentic.” To the snooty-sophisticated diner, maybe so. Leaving aside the question of what the real Jewish and real Japanese grandmas are cooking in their kitchens, I found the menu approachable, hosting a manageable list of a dozen-plus dishes I, for the most part, understood and felt excited about.
We began our meal like a proper Shabbat dinner – by breaking bread. Fresh, braided challah with raisin butter, both elements light and sweet. Now, it takes chutzpah to serve challah, and even more to charge diners for it as a standalone menu item. But the kitchen knows what it’s doing, and this was no ordinary dinner roll.
And then, two big bowls of goodness. First, we enjoyed the matzoh ball ramen, a dish that perfectly embodied the spirit of this restaurant. One fluffy matzoh ball bathed in flavorful, well-seasoned stock, floating amongst a heap of ramen and a tender slice of pork. Served with smaller serving bowls to share, this pseudo-sacrilegious combination was made to coexist. And finally, the lox bowl, complete with smoked salmon, rice, daikon, avocado, and plump ikura – chirashi gone sideways.
In the end, nothing about this meeting of two worlds confused me (except for my walk from the L train). If anything, Shalom Japan’s straightforward offerings from wonderful cultures had me wondering how uni would taste on a bagel…