Q. After two years of endless nagging, my kosher boyfriend has finally decided to come over to the dark side and, at least for one night, temporarily abandon his dietary restraint. Can you recommend a moderately priced place that serves such good pork and shellfish dishes that he’ll convert permanently?
Can any good come out of this?
Let's read the answer:
A. Great food can change minds and alter people’s lives for the better, it’s true. But so can faith, for those who have it. Helping you use food to persuade someone to abandon his religious principles cannot end well for me. (Nor for him, if his mother finds out.) The laws of kashrut are clear: No pork. No shellfish.
And so I cannot possibly recommend a visit to Momofuku Ssam Bar, where those two banned proteins often combine into Korean-inflected Continental deliciousness, and where a fellow might be introduced to the pleasures of cured hog’s jowl, served with Honeycrisp apple kimchi and a Lebanese yogurt cut with maple syrup.
Nor could I nod to the Spanish-style Casa Mono, where you can find a delicious chilled lobster with ham (a combination the great Calvin Trillin would call a double-trayf special). For you there can be no suckling pig at the Italian gem Maialino or pig’s trotter at the British pub the Breslin or barbecued oysters at the American bistro Marc Forgione in TriBeCa or clams in black bean sauce at the terrific Oriental Garden in Chinatown.
That said, if you want to skate close to the edge, where the ice is thin and crackly, Chinese is probably your best bet. As my hero Arthur Schwartz, formerly the restaurant critic for The Daily News and author of “Jewish Home Cooking,” put it: “The Chinese cut their food into small pieces before it is cooked, disguising the nonkosher foods. This last aspect seems silly, but it is a serious point. My late cousin Daniel, who kept kosher, along with many other otherwise observant people I have known, happily ate roast pork fried rice and egg foo yung. ‘What I can’t see won’t hurt me,’ was Danny’s attitude.”
But proceed with caution. The Torah calls Jews a holy people and prescribes for them a holy diet. If they choose to abandon it, so be it. But you ever argue with a rabbi? I’m not meshuga. Take this boy to the Prime Grill for a kosher steak and tell him you love him.
There's hope yet.