One must wonder if the Chef at u café (1436 Lexington Avenue, Bet E. 93rd E. 94th St, New York, NY 10128 – In Manattan’s Upper East Side – Telephone: 212.427.8223) was a painter of delightful still life canvasses in a former gilgul (incarnation). The attention to shape, the attention to color, the attention to detail, make the particular presentation unforgettable. Udi Ben Ari’s eye for color will remind you of some Caravaggio paintings, his shapes will bring to mind Breugel the Elder.
While the owner and his parents are Israelis, this dairy and fish restaurant features far more than mere Israeli fare. Udi graduated from Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island and that training shows through. Not only is the look of the food guaranteed to make your mouth water, the unique combination of flavors in each dish bespeaks of an all too rare understanding of the subtle nuances of the taste each ingredient brings to the total culinary experience.
On my fist visit to u café I ordered a Fritatta which, as you see below, was full of color and invitingly appetizing…
The next time I went I ordered a Salmon Burger…
Notice how the shape of the pepper, on top of the bread, fits in perfectly with the sauce at the bottom of the photo. Notice how well the cherry tomato’s color goes with the color of the pepper while it directs your attention to the fresh salad? Which 16th century painter’s eye was responsible for this dish’ perfect composition?
Now look at the shapes and unbelievable colors in their Halomi Salad…
I can hear those of you who know me saying, “But CS, you never eat fish!” It’s true I haven’t – even as a child – touched fish. Having seen another diner at the cafe at a table next to mine order the Salmon Burger, having smelled the non-fish aroma I thought I’d take a bold step and – with trepidation in my heart – I too ordered it. I shouldn’t have worried; it’s taste, it’s texture did not say fish! The perfect proportion of condiments made the burger taste very meat-like.
I finished by having a coffee and a slice of Tricolor Cake. A true feast for the eye of any chocolate lover and his palate.
Once you taste their food you soon understand why they won this year’s Kosherfest’s competition for the best sandwich!
The winning sandwich above is made with tarragon egg salad over smoked salmon with black caviar over brioche. Having eaten the very same one I photographed I must fully agree with the Kosherfest judges that it is the best sandwich in New York!
All in all, both my visits there were delightful experiences that proved you can eat art!
This Saturday night, November the 14th, there will be a cantorial kumzits at u café, I plan to be there. Come over and say hello!