How a Persian-Italian Jew Created One The Greatest Kosher Mexican Eating places

Lenny’s Casita, which presents genuine Mexican meals, has develop into one of many main kosher eating places in Los Angeles

Through the pandemic, eating places shuttered around the globe. In Los Angeles, all the things switched to takeout, which meant that many cooks and waiters had been all of a sudden left with out a job.

A kind of cooks was Lenny Nourafchan, an LA native who was working at Charcoal Grill & Bar, a high-end Israeli restaurant within the fashionable Melrose district. He’d labored in eating places in New York and LA for years and determined that Covid was the right time to open his personal enterprise.

The Persian-Italian Jew began a pop-up known as Lenny’s Casita, serving meals just a few nights every week out of the again of Western Kosher, a kosher grocery retailer in Pico-Robertson, one of many bustling Jewish communities in LA. Nourafchan, who didn’t all the time preserve kosher, had loved the nonkosher Mexican meals of LA, and now that he does preserve kosher he wished to deliver that delicacies to the Jewish group. He additionally wished to faucet into the expertise of his kitchen workers.

“Each kitchen I labored in, the cooks had been all Mexican,” he mentioned. “It hit me at some point that we had been instructing Mexican cooks how you can cook dinner Japanese or Italian meals as an alternative of letting them do what they do finest. It was an ‘A-ha!’ second.”

Lenny’s Casita supplied kosher takes on non-kosher meals, like Taco Bell’s Crunch Wrap Supreme, a flour tortilla wrapped with alternative of protein and salsa, crispy corn tostada and grilled on either side, and Chalupas, with black beans, fajita veggies, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and spicy aioli.

The restaurant grew to become a fast hit, and shortly, Nourafchan was in a position to safe a storefront and open his personal area.

As we speak, two years after Lenny’s began, it now presents quite a lot of meats like smoked brisket, beef cheek, rooster, and carne asada, the preferred dish there may be the corn ribs, that are vegan and include garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper.

“Certainly one of my important objectives as a chef has all the time been to make vegan gadgets style as scrumptious as meat,” mentioned Nourafchan. “Whereas my specialty has all the time been and can all the time be meat, one in every of my bestsellers at Lenny’s Casita is the Corn Ribs. It takes on a taste like salted buttered popcorn and it plates superbly as nicely. Its simplicity tends to shock individuals.”

The chef exhibits off his versatile cooking expertise on Fridays, when his restaurant additionally presents Israeli takeout gadgets at its Shabbat Shuk. Signature dishes embrace Roasted Jalapeno, which is made from charred jalapenos, peeled and deseeded after which marinated with garlic, Wagyu Boneless Quick Ribs, which is described as “probably the most tender, scrumptious meat that exists on the planet,” and Truffle Baba Ganoush, an upscale tackle a traditional Israeli dish.

Nourafchan initially discovered how you can cook dinner at 3 years previous, when he made polenta together with his Italian grandmother. He found that high-quality components are essential, and overcomplicating a dish is rarely beneficial.

“The idea and the model of Italian cooking from my grandmother particularly has been the simplicity of delicate flavors,” he mentioned. “I need the components to shine. The extra you attempt to cowl up and masks them, you’re going to have a nasty high quality product. The Corn Ribs are an ideal instance. Individuals go loopy for them, however they’ve only a few components. The standard of the corn is what makes them so good.”

Rising up, Nourafchan adopted conventional Jewish apply, however he didn’t preserve kosher for a part of his teen years. That’s when he tried dishes like Mexican Avenue Corn, genuine LA tacos and burritos, and Taco Bell menu gadgets that will encourage him to begin Lenny’s many years later.

“After I began retaining kosher once more, I missed that meals, so I recreated it in a kosher manner,” he mentioned. “It’s manner higher than the Taco Bell variations.”

A loyal husband, father, and Jew, Nourafchan splits his time between his dwelling, the restaurant, and synagogue. He wakes up within the morning, prays with a minyan, does carpool for his youngsters, learns Torah, after which goes to the restaurant to handle it. He’s dwelling for dinner, after which goes to synagogue for afternoon and night prayers.

“Then I am going straight again to the restaurant to greet the shoppers and test on all the things,” he mentioned.

He attributes his success to “brachas (blessings) from Hashem,” he mentioned. “That’s it, 100%. It’s all utterly within the fingers of Hashem.”

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