New Kosher "Bistro" at Canyons Resort Receiving Rave Reviews

By Bill Ligety
Feb 24, 2012

There are two things that Rabbi Benny Zippel really enjoys: One is keeping a kosher diet and the other is eating out. “And for some reason in Utah the two are not easy to combine,” said the leader of Salt Lake City’s Chabad Lubavitch. That was the case before a certified-kosher restaurant opened at Canyons Resort in Park City. Bistro at Canyons is being billed as a “new American kosher bistro,” and the first certified kosher restaurant at any ski resort in the nation. Since it opened in mid-December, hundreds of Jews and many others from Utah and around the globe have found their way into the fine-dining restaurant, inside the Silverado Lodge. “We had to open up the banquet room during our first week, which coincided with Hanukkah, because of the demand,” said John Murcko, the executive corporate chef for Talisker, the company that owns Canyons. But even after the religious holiday, the restaurant — which seats about 75 people — has remained busy. Murcko said some nights the restaurant serves 250 servings. While most are tourists staying at the resort, there’s also Zippel and other local diners. “Next month it will be 20 years since my wife and I moved to Utah,” Zippel said. “And it took 20 years to be able to go out to dinner.” While it may seem odd to have a kosher restaurant in Utah, let alone a ski resort, Murcko said the restaurant is an attractive amenity for kosher travelers who usually must bring appropriate food on their vacations. “Once you understand the Jewish culture, you can see how difficult it is to travel and maintain a kosher diet,” said Murcko, whose wife and boss are both Jewish. Talisker chairman Jack Bistricer, who lives in Toronto and keeps a kosher diet, travels regularly to Utah and other cities with Talisker properties. dinner.” While it may seem odd to have a kosher restaurant in Utah, let alone a ski resort, Murcko said the restaurant is an attractive amenity for kosher travelers who usually must bring appropriate food on their vacations.

What is Kosher:  Most people assume “keeping kosher” is simply eating food blessed by a rabbi. But following the Jewish dietary law, known as Kashrut, is far more complicated. For example, Jews who keep kosher will eat meat only from an animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. That makes beef, venison and lamb acceptable, but not pork. Turkey and chicken are allowed, as is fish with scales and fins. But shrimp and other shellfish are prohibited.

Jews who keep a kosher diet also never eat dairy products with meat, even storing, cleaning and using separate sets of utensils. Neutral items, called “parve,” are to be eaten with meat and dairy dishes. These include eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables.

There also are rules that govern how animals are to be slaughtered, which must be done by a rabbi with a special knife. After the slaughter, the lungs of the animals are checked for abnormalities. Animals with adhesions, cuts or bruises from a disease are disqualified.

To ensure that everything meets those strict standards, Bistro at Canyons has hired Mendel Wilmovsky, aka “Rabbi Mendy,” to supervise the kitchen. The Brooklyn native checks incoming orders, ensures that the correct knives and cutting boards are used and even washes every piece of fresh produce by hand.

All that attention to detail has earned Bistro at Canyons a COR certification from the Kashruth Council of Canada, an organization that certifies more than 1,000 facilities and products.

While those high standards appeal to observant Jews, they also resonate with Muslims, who follow a similarly strict Halal diet. More and more people also see kosher food as a safe alternative to mass-produced foods and bacteria-related outbreaks.

“A lot of people want to eat a kosher diet because of its standard of cleanliness and the humane way the animals are raised and killed,” Murcko said

The Food:  The menu served Monday-Thursday at Bistro looks like any other fine dinning establishment, with prime-cut steaks, chicken served three ways, grilled ahi tuna, hand-made gnocchi filled with braised beef cheek, and even a house-made pastrami sandwich.

  A small shul — a type of synagogue —is adjacent to the Bistro. On Friday and Saturday nights following services, the restaurant offers a five-course Sabbath dinner that includes traditional Jewish foods such as gefilte fish and kugel.

“These are dishes that they are accustomed to eating, but we are preparing them in a way that’s more exciting,” said chef de cuisine Zeke Wray.

One thing you won’t find on the menu is butter, cream or cheese. To avoid possible mistakes, the restaurant decided to completely eliminate dairy from the menu, Wray said. Chefs use olive oils and nut butters to add fat — and flavor. And diners hardly notice.

“People will go the first time because they want to see what a kosher restaurant is like,” said Alex Shapiro, executive director of The United Jewish Federation of Utah, who dined recently at Bistro. “They will go a second time because they enjoyed the food and experience.”

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 21 2012 10:54AM Updated Feb 23, 2012 12:05PM

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