This text is part of the special book Plaisirs
When discussing Montreal’s culinary scene, one cannot overlook the influence of Jewish culture. If the metropolis has its classics (de smoked meat from Schwartz’s, Saint-Viateur bagels, Wilensky’s beef salami sandwiches), a new generation of Jewish restaurants has been settling in our gastronomic landscape for several years now. The Arthurs Nosh Bar is one of them and the couple Steinberg-Cohen, behind the concept, help promote this traditional cuisine with a personal and modern touch. Meeting with two young chefs to learn a bit more about the meal they had during this celebration. Second text in a three-part series.
Meet the two leaders
When Alex and Raegan developed the first menus at Arthurs, whose name is a tribute to Raegan’s late father, in 2016, they chose to revisit quintessential dishes from their Jewish culinary heritage.
Although they both share the same faith, the cuisine of the two families is a bit different, as Raegan’s has Russian and Romanian roots, while Alex’s is of Moroccan descent. The Arthurs menu is therefore inspired by the Jewish cuisine of Eastern Europe, Ashkenazi, and that of Morocco, Sephardic.
However, it is mainly Ashkenazi-inspired dishes that make up the restaurant’s menu. “We wanted to create a so-called aperitif Jewish cuisine, consisting of light menus and fish. The Ashkenazi cuisine lent itself well to this with its smoked salmon, matzahhis sandwiches from schnitzel And his latkes says Alex. He adds that they still have some Moroccan Jewish dishes, such as: Chakchoukaserved for brunch.
In addition, some recipes, such as soup with matzah balls, have been revisited with a slightly more “Moroccan” touch: with grilled onions, peppers and fresh coriander. A staple of Arthur’s Nosh Bar, this soup is also an important dish at Passover celebrations in Ashkenazi culture. “At home,” says Raegan, “we weren’t very religious, but we still celebrated holidays with the family with traditional dishes, always starting with soup with matza balls. †
Both nostalgic and religious
Raegan fondly recalls childhood meals. “My father loved food, he celebrated food! My mother cooked for a long time and put various dishes on the table, such as gefilte fish, a white fish stuffed and served cold with a horseradish sauce, or the aubergine salad cooked with Romanian-inspired red peppers and for dessert, unleavened chocolate cake and poached pears. †
“We are pickier about religion than we are in Raegan’s family,” Alex says. Usually, if we allow ourselves a few deviations, at Passover we eat strictly kosher and follow traditional rituals, such as that of the Seder. †
Among Moroccans, the meat on the menu is undoubtedly lamb. “However, with Passover it takes on a symbolic dimension. Alex explains that Passover celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from slavery to the Pharaohs. “Pesach means ‘pass over; the Israelites and their lastborn passed away by virtue of the blood of the Lamb that spread over their gates, spared by the Angel of Death during the last plague of Egypt. The tradition is therefore that we eat lamb in memory of this important event. “Even the soup served with meals contains it. “We don’t have soup with matzah balls † instead we serve split pea soup with braised lamb,” says Alex.
Other dishes are also part of the Seder ritual: “The charoset, a puree made from a mixture of nuts, figs, dates, apples and red wine represents the mortar the slaves made to build the pyramids. All dishes are associated with events of the liberation of the Jewish people,” explains Alex.
He adds that during this ritual, his father chants the traditional prayers. Especially for children, it tells the story of the Exodus and explains the symbolic meaning of each of the dishes served with the meal.
Only among Moroccan Jews is the mimouna celebrated, at 8and Passover, with a variety of desserts where the use of yeast is allowed after being banned for the past 7 days. The star of this table is the mufletta, a puff pastry made for this feast. “During this evening we knock on the door of the neighbors to invite them to dinner and we are also invited to their home. We see people and we taste Moroccan delicacies. It’s such a happy time! says Alex.
Our two leaders will soon receive their families in their new home. They hope to keep their traditions alive and pass them on to their children.