Anyone who strives to maintain a kosher diet can tell you the options for dining out are close to bupkis. But not totally. Kosher Grill is among the few glatt kosher restaurants in the area, and its International Drive location allows it to serve visitors as well as locals.
In simplest terms, the word kosher is derived from a Hebrew word that means to be pure, proper, or suitable for consumption. In that respect, we should all eat kosher.
But of course there’s more to “keeping kosher” from a religious standpoint, with rules on which types of foods and how and where they’re prepared to make them suitable for consumption that are stipulated in the Torah. Some of these laws call for keeping meat and dairy products separate, even to the extent that they be prepared with different utensils and even washed in separate sinks. But that’s an oversimplification of a very complex custom.
A restaurant cannot just declare itself kosher. It has to be “koshered” by a qualified rabbi, and its adherence to proper procedures constantly verified. At Kosher Grill, the Rabbinical supervision is provided the RCF–Rabbinate of Central and North Florida, whose president is Rabbi Sholom Dubov. I’ve called on Rabbi Dubov in the past when I was writing an article on how a kitchen is koshered and again to speak to my students when I was teaching a class on Culture and Cuisine at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. A mashgiach from RCF is onsite at Kosher Grill at all times of operation.
It should be mentioned that food prepared under strict kosher supervision isn’t necessarily going to be high quality or even palatable – that’s still up to the cook. But fortunately, the food at Kosher Grill is good.
I especially liked the falafel hummus appetizer that gave me two favorite dishes in one. The hummus was thick and velvety, garnished with whole chickpeas that tasted as though they’d been freshly boiled. I was startled by the darkness of the falafels at first; they appeared as though they’d been left in the fryer too long. But they weren’t burnt, and the inside was a bright green from the parsley and cilantro that had been blended with the garbanzos, onions and a hefty helping of garlic. I used one of the puffy pitas that came with the dish to make a falafel and hummus sandwich.
I also sampled the eggplant baladi appetizer, and Israeli style preparation of roasted eggplant, the stem still attached, with chopped tomatoes and parsley, all covered with tahini sauce. The flesh of the eggplant was delightfully pulpy. This appetizer came with a whole miniature baguette.
For an entree I chose the kufta kababs, ground beef and lamb blended with onions, garlic and other spices that were fashioned more like hamburger patties than the usual tubular shape when skewered. The meat was firm but not tough and the flavors were well balanced. This dish also came with two pitas and a choice of two side dishes. I chose the rice and beans and Israeli salad, which was sort of like getting three sides. The salad, comprised of diced cucumber, tomato and onions, needed a seasoning boost. A dash of salt helped.
There is a small dining area inside the restaurant but I ordered my food for pickup. The bag it was in had been sealed with tape that said the contents were verified kosher unless the tape had been tampered with.
The staff were friendly and helpful, especially when answering specific questions about the menu.
This year, Passover, Ramadan and Easter all occur at the same time (Passover is April 15). I think all will find the food at Kosher Grill to be worth trying. And to those who observe Passover, chag sameach.
Kosher Grill is at 5615 International Drive, Orlando (map). It is open for lunch and dinner Sunday through Friday (closes at 4 p.m. Fridays). The phone number is 407-392-2292