Behind the Toque: Greenpoint Chef Eldad Shem Tov of Glasserie

Welcome to our new Greenpointers food series called Behind the Toque.

Behind the Toque is where we’ll be featuring Greenpoint’s most talented chefs discussing their cooking philosophies, restaurant operations and community relationships. As a special treat, we’ll also feature a recipe pulled directly from their current menu, so you can enjoy Greenpoint’s favorite cult dishes in the comfort of your very own home.

Chef Eldad Shem Tov is the new chef at Glasserie, the chic, sophisticated Middle Eastern haven nestled in an old, repurposed glass factory at 95 Commercial Street. He welcomed us to his restaurant on a snowy Sunday evening with the perfect appetizer: luscious tahini and a heavenly housemade grilled flatbread.

Read on to find out how Chef Eldad is trying to reframe American notions of sharing food, to cook his delicious recipe, and to get one of the best dining deals in Brooklyn.

Chef Eldad, hard at work. Image by Kimisa H. courtesy of BrunchWith.
Chef Eldad, hard at work. Photo via Kimisa H. courtesy of BrunchWith.

Turnip and grouper. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.
Turnip and grouper. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

GP: You took over as the Executive Chef of Glasserie about eight months after it opened. What was your intention coming in? Was there anything you really wanted to change?

Eldad: For me, it didn’t start like that, the desire to change right away. Especially in a place like Glasserie, which is so neighborhood-focused. First, I needed to learn: who are the people? What do they want? The food we make here, Middle Eastern food, it’s not about the chef. Obviously, one person leads the mindset, but it’s easier to develop a language when you take yourself a little bit out of the picture.

glasserie beets
Beautiful beets. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

 

GP: What would you say is the relationship you have tried to create between Greenpoint and Glasserie?

Eldad: It’s really about introducing the culture. When it comes to sharing, people here have an idea of tapas, or a piece of turkey in the middle of the table and everyone shares it. But sharing for me is different. It’s not, “I’m cutting a piece and you take a bite.” It’s about the philosophy of the culture and how we’re sitting together at the table, drinking the same wine, with a lot of plates and different colors coming to the table at different stages, and we all eat it together. When you give into that that’s when you can really enjoy. You forget about the chef, and the technique, and you can just dig in, hopefully enjoy the flavors, and the atmosphere, and the hospitality, and you come back because of that, not because of the background of the chef.

glasserie rose milk custard with pistachio mint
Rose milk custark with pistachio, mint and Asian pear. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

 

GP: As a chef, is there any sort of philosophy that guides your work?

This is my living room. That’s definitely how I look at it. It’s a more holistic approach, very intuitive. You can come one day and eat a dish and it will look a specific way. You come the second day and maybe it will look different, or be on a different plate. As long as the flavors are there, the right technique, it’s fine. You have the soul and energy of the person who made it.

GP: Is there a dish on the menu you’re particularly excited about?

Eldad: On the weekdays we’ve started a skewer box. It’s ridiculous, for $15 you get a drink, a wooden box filled with flatbread that we make here, the skewer of the day—chicken or lamb or vegetable or fish—with tahini, harissa, and herb salad. It’s better than a burger. It’s fresh, and we know exactly what’s coming from where. Everything is local. It’s very cheap for what you’re getting and it’s made for the neighborhood, not for people coming in from Manhattan. It’s street food that we’re bringing into Greenpoint, with a cocktail next to it.

Chicken kebab box, with grilled flatbread, herb salad, tahini, pickled vegetables, and harissa.
Chicken kebab box, with grilled flatbread, herb salad, tahini, pickled vegetables, and harissa. Photo by Remy Amezcua.

GP: Is there a particular cocktail you pair it with?

Eldad: The skewer box comes with arak, which is an Israeli version of ouzo; it has a little grapefruit it in. It’s an anise drink, very common in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. It’s very uplifting and light. When you serve it at a table, usually you have a few things with it: the arak neat, with a glass, you have a second glass with ice, and a third glass with water or grapefruit or orange juice, and then you build it yourself and can have it the whole meal. The arak is clear, like water, but when it starts to touch ice it becomes cloudy and that’s the chemical reaction. In Israel it’s almost always summer and warm, so it’s like you’re sitting on the beach. You can get drunk really fast. I personally always like it with citrus, and when you pair it with citrus, which is in season now, it becomes a winter drink.

Fish kebab box with the traditional arak setup.
Fish kebab box with the traditional arak setup. Photo by Remy Amezcua.

GP: Has the neighborhood inspired you to put a different twist on certain things? Or is it more about presenting the cuisine and the culture to Greenpoint?

Eldad: No, I think definitely it’s back and forth. For example, we started a whole animal program. It’s something that is very natural to me, and the region I come from, but it’s not something I thought I’d easily be able to create in a restaurant like this. We’re not fine dining, and our prices are quite reasonable for the neighborhood with the quality of the ingredients we use, which are 65 percent organic and 80 percent locally-sourced. To find the right lamb it took me about a year and a half. Most of the lambs here are very strong in flavor, which is one of the reasons people are afraid of lamb. In Israel we have small lambs, and the flavor is very delicate. On the weekend we offer a lamb feast, which is a tasting menu of lamb, still in the philosophy of the Middle East and sharing. It’s all served down the middle of the table, and each dish comes from a different part of the animal. The prices are fairly cheap, $45 per person for the whole meal.

glasserie lamb for dinner
Lamb for dinner. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

 

GP: That’s an unbelievable deal. It’s hard to find a tasting menu these days that’s even remotely affordable.

Eldad: And it’s always a ceremony. It’s the service, and the wine, and the pairing. It’s a lot of fuss. And when you go, it feels like you’re going to work. Now I need to hear the story of the chef, and where the ingredients are coming from, and it’s too much information. I’ve been in that environment, I’ve worked in that environment, and eventually even I felt that not everyone wanted it.

glasserie lamb sunchokes basmati dinner
Lamb, sunchokes and basmati. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

 

GP: Do you make everything in-house?

Eldad: There’s nothing in the restaurant we don’t make in-house. Pickles, fermentation, butchery, all the breads: flatbreads filled with fresh dried herbs, griddled bread, challah bread, pita bread. Even if you think you know flat bread or pita, after you eat one of ours you know it’s not the same.

glasserie peas
Peas in various incarnations. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

 

THE RECIPE: PICKLED CAULIFLOWER AND CUCUMBER

Glasserie uses two common Middle Eastern pickling techniques. One is known as “1:2:3 Syrup,” with the parts by weight being: Sugar (one part), Apple Cider Vinegar (two parts), and Water (three parts). We like it less sweet and crisper in flavor, but you can play with the ratios of sugar and vinegar as desired. In Scandinavia they use on part vinegar and two parts sugar, which results in sweeter product.

Another method we use is salt water at a ratio of 50g kosher salt to 1L water.

Either can be used as a base, and then toasted spices and herbs can be added, trying not to overpower the natural flavors of the original product. It works great with vegetables, fruits, fish, and poultry (for fish and poultry the 1:2:3 base is generally best)

Pickled Cauliflower:

1 fresh cauliflower head with leaves broken into mid-size florets
1 part sugar
2 part apple cider vinegar
3 parts water
20g toasted coriander seeds
20g toasted fennel seeds
15g toasted cumin seeds
2 pc dry Chile de árbol, broken in half
5 crushed garlic cloves

Dissolve sugar in water with a little bit of heat. Chill and add the vinegar.

Arrange all the ingredients in a very clean pickling jar and cover with the liquid.

Leave for four to five days in room temperature in a dark place, then refrigerate. Can keep for at least two months, closed. Once open try to use within two weeks.

glasserie summer
Summer dishes. Photo via @glasserienyc Instagram.

 

Pickled Whole Small Cucumbers:

1kg crisp, small cucumbers (seedless if possible), usually called Persian or Israeli cucumbers
1L water
50g kosher salt
1/2 bunch dill
5 unpeeled crushed garlic cloves
2 pc dried Chile de árbol, broken in half
1 pc jalapeño, broken in half

Dissolve salt in water with a little bit of heat. Chill right away.

Arrange all the ingredients in a very clean pickling jar and cover with the liquid.

Leave for four to five days in room temperature in a dark place, then refrigerate. Can kept for at least two months, closed. Once open, try to use within two weeks.

About Amanda Aldinger

Amanda Aldinger lives for the overripe banana sale at Freddie's, Selamat Pagi's Sambal Deviled Eggs, rosé all day, and Bruce Willis.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *