BREADBAR co-owner Ali Chalabi and “Chief Gastronomy Officer” Noriyuki Sugie supply inventive chefs with a Century City stage at their monthly “Hatchi Series.” The series is less than a year old, and SBE has been a feeder system for more than a third of the guest chefs, including The Bazaar veterans Michael Voltaggio, Marcel Vigneron and Waylynn Lucas. On April 29, Saul Cooperstein, SBE’s Managing Director Business Development, steps away from the office and takes his turn in the kitchen with his refashioned vision of the deli experience, which he’s dubbed “Deli 2010.” Expect “Saul’s Pastrami” made with Japanese A-5 Wagyu Rib Cap, Reuben Croquettes, Bagel with Lox “Nigiri” and six other dishes that cost $8 apiece, plus five deli-inspired cocktails. CLICK HERE FOR THE MENU, and keep reading to learn more about Cooperstein’s history with delis, and his approach for Hatchi.
What’s your first deli memory?
My first deli memory is eating sandwiches at Togo’s in Santa Cruz with my family. I had turkey with avocado on wheat and I must have been no more than seven or eight years old. I have great memories of these sandwiches as avocado and mayo make everything taste pretty good. Another good memory of deli I have from growing up in Santa Cruz is from a place called Mike’s Deli. It was only open for a year or so but had a lot of individuality and great product. They always had six to ten different options of fresh baked bread that they sliced thick to order for every sandwich. The meat really became secondary to the taste of great warm bread just out of the oven. It really is a shame that the place didn’t make it as the quality was really good. However, neither of these were a true Jewish deli experience as these were hard to come by in Santa Cruz or even Northern California for that matter. It was not until I was older and able to visit New York to try Katz’s, Carnegie, 2nd Ave., and Stage that I really got the Jewish Deli experience. While it was great to experience classic New York Jewish deli twice a year on vacation, Los Angeles is really where my love of deli developed on a more consistent basis. Between Brent’s, Langer’s and Bay Cities, Los Angeles certainly has some great destinations. Before making my own pastrami I would frequently send interns of mine from SBE to Langer’s to pick up pastrami and rye bread to share with co-workers and our restaurant’s chefs. Nothing brings people together like great deli.
Have delis done enough to evolve?
I don’t think that it is delis’ responsibility to evolve. For the most part, delis are perfect in that they deliver a recognizable, approachable and tasty product at a reasonable cost. That is really all we can ask from any food genre. Evolving to anything beyond this is really the responsibility of individual entrepreneurs or chefs. For example Chef Jose Andres, who I really really admire, developed an amazing version of the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich for his minibar concept in DC that is also now on the menu at The Bazaar. Similarly he created a bagels and lox cone using crème fraiche and smoked salmon roe. These are singularly great dishes and perfect examples of a chef advancing deli. Similarly, Michael Voltaggio, another chef I admire, has a great version of a pastrami sandwich with rye and sauerkraut on his menu that uses Pigeon pastrami and is deconstructed. I think these are the types of individual chef-driven advancements that can help bring deli to a new level. I do hope that in the medium-term more chefs and restaurateurs provide this type of leading-edge advancement by adding new approaches to deli flavors to their menus. In terms of what I think is missing from the broader deli experience, I would lean towards uniqueness – particularly as it pertains to meat. Think of the best delis in Los Angeles and then try to determine which actually are cooking and curing their own deli meats. I would not expect to find many that are actually doing anything beyond steaming, heating and/or cutting the product they receive from a distributor. I hope more locations find a way to go back to basics and cure and cook their own product in a similar way to how new burger joints are popping up that grind and blend their own meat on premises. I am hoping that there will be someone who comes along, especially in Los Angeles, and does for deli in this respect what Adam Fleishman and Umami has done for burgers.
What’s your approach with the Deli 2010 menu?
My approach for Deli 2010 is to have fun. Apart from that I want to present approachable deli flavors using both technique and product that would not likely be found in your average corner deli. I expect that flavors will likely lean towards traditional Jewish deli with a few exceptions. Deli is one of the few areas where tradition has dominated. The destinations that are usually considered at the top of the market (Langer’s / Katz’s, etc.) brag about how long things have stayed the same. This presents somewhat of a unique opportunity to really create something different for guests. For example, my pastrami is made using A-5 wagyu rib steak and cooked sous vide to medium rare (instead of using choice brisket and steaming until beyond well done). This creates a flavor and texture profile that is really different from any other pastrami I have tried. I want to provide that same differentiating experience to guests. Another thing I consider central to my approach is that I will be leaning heavily on the expertise of friends I have developed in the restaurant industry to help with the dinner. This collaborative effort is one of the best parts of the food and beverage industry that I have experienced. Chefs, mixologists and sommeliers are some of the most generous people on earth with their time and expertise. I expect that developing the dishes, drinks and wine list in a collaborative process will ensure the best potential ideas, flavors and textures for each dish and the best pairings (whether wine or cocktail) for each course.
What are some dishes that you plan to serve?
The menu will feature both pastrami and corned beef. The corned beef is produced similar to the pastrami using A-5 wagyu rib steak and cooked sous vide…It was included on both Michael Voltaggio’s and Marcel Vigneron’s Hatchi menus. We are also working on a new approach to the Reuben that is advancing quickly and has received great feedback from the chefs working me on the dinner as well as pastrami and ‘bacon’ made from veal. Other things that I am really looking forward to are wine pairing and cocktail menus that we are developing for the dinner. I have some really talented people working with me on both beverage programs and I think it will be a lot of fun to integrate these elements not usually associated with the deli experience into the evening. In particular I think that the cocktails are going to be great delivering compelling pairings and flavors traditionally associated with Jewish deli.
Photo courtesy of Saul Cooperstein