Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, June 25, 2017-10:17 pm
Kosher steakhouses aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in New York City. But I wish they were. We need more of them, as they can be quite interesting from a culinary standpoint.
Talia’s Steakhouse on Amsterdam Avenue is an example of that.
This Upper West Side eatery is highly approachable, as its menu further proves that one needn’t hold to the laws of kashrut to enjoy kosher edibles. Perhaps the most significant testament to that is the eatery’s longevity; it has been a fixture in the area for about 15 years. Given its quality menu, friendly service and cheery atmosphere, that should come as no surprise. What should: that I’ve only been here once in my 44 years on this earth. That will, I expect, change in the near future.
The restaurant itself covers a substantial portion of the block (in nice weather, there’s sidewalk seating), and inside it can get quite crowded with locals, including many of the Jewish faith, but also a substantial number of non-Jews looking for a tasty steak in the neighborhood. Within, Talia’s showcases mustard-colored walls—some hung with art—and white tablecloths, plus background music and the game on the telly. Also: real flowers … a nice touch. It’s not the most elegant place, yet it’s definitely comfy. Just like an area place should be.
Area places should also provide tasty provisions, and for the most part, that’s what you get at Talia’s. Take the Middle Eastern salad platter, for example; featuring crisp, sour beets topped with parsley, along with rich eggplant, garlicky homemade hummus and tahini, and crunchy slaw, it’s quite an enjoyable way to begin the meal. Then you have the salmon croquettes, and although these balls of fish are well fried and savory, the sweet sauce served with them doesn’t match … the fritters are good enough as they are. Much more successful are the Moroccan cigars, filled with flavorful ground meat, and the falafel, saturated with chickpea goodness and of an appealing, grainy texture. Other fun stuff: kibbeh, judiciously spiced and protein-filled; Israeli salad, a mix of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions that is laced with parsley; and the regular and sweet potato fries, along with the onion rings (the former are not all as crispy as you’d like, but they’ve got that tuber character that you look for in such dishes).
Mains: The steaks, including the butcher’s cut option, are tender, not dry as kosher meat often is, smartly seasoned. Brisket, not generally my favorite portion of the cow, is flaky, toothsome, touched with the scent of carrots and celery. Kebabs are moist, interspersed with vegetables, cooked with precise timing. This is beef country, and thankfully, it’s done right. You won’t always find that in all parts of this city.
What to do with dessert at a non-dairy restaurant? Well, the parve chocolate souffle, paired with a light sorbet of the same flavor, is not bad at all—like a molten chocolate lava cake, not the most inspired thing in the universe, but definitely palatable. There are drinks: The assortment of cocktails is decent, and the kosher wine list is not extensive but is wisely picked. Prices aren’t cheap—the steaks hover in the 50-buck range, while other entrees run a 20-spot or so lower—yet these provisions don’t look all that expensive when compared to the offerings at the other major steakhouses around town. I’d take the bovine munchies here any day over any lesser-quality chow. I’m sure a lot of folks in the locale would agree.
Judging by the amount of birthdays celebrated at Talia’s, I’m certain there’s no shortage of folks on its side. At Talia’s, marking special occasions is a good thing.
My only wish: that I could do it more often.
Photos by April Mutuc