Old Wine, New... Martini Glass?

By Leah Hochbaum

Published September 23, 2005, issue of September 23, 2005.
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Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, a three-tiered restaurant, cocktail lounge and performance space that opened on New York’s Lower East Side earlier this month, is a peculiar mix of Jewish and Latin cultures — much like the neighborhood it calls home.

And it’s in the spirit of pluralism that the club’s founders, brothers Phil and Jesse Hartman, created their signature drink, the Manischevitini.

The concoction — a heady mix of Grey Goose vodka, a fresh orange and a splash of the sugary sweet Sabbath dinner staple — very well may be the first-ever cocktail developed using kosher wine.

“Each time we made it, we tried less and less Manischewitz,” Jesse said with a laugh. But now he thinks the staff has it down perfectly.

The lounge, which the Hartmans named after a beloved uncle, is imbued with the spirit of nostalgia.

“We both live in the neighborhood and mourn the loss of some of its famed cultural and culinary institutions,” older brother Phil said over a kosher-style yet decidedly trayf meal of kreplach and deep-fried latkes. “We wanted to pay homage to a lot of what we love about the Lower East Side, specifically its eccentric Jewish tradition,” explained the elder Hartman, who is also co-owner of the Two Boots Pizza chain.

The menu, which includes such kosher standbys as matzo ball soup, chopped liver and Hartman-family-recipe brisket, also features such nonkosher complements as a rotisserie chicken served with scallion cream cheese — a violation of the prohibition against eating dairy and meat at the same time. And there’s also Dr. Brown’s root beer-glazed double pork chops, a violation of the prohibition against eating pork chops — glazed or otherwise.

Though the brothers claim that everything on the menu is great, Jesse, who fronts the synth-pop band Laptop when not playing restaurateur, is partial to Mo’s Pickins, an assortment of appetizers that includes chorizo meatballs, white fish escabeche, deviled eggs, and an avocado and couscous salad — all served on a Seder plate, with a piece of Streits matzo.

“Our chef is not Jewish, but he married a Jewish girl from Great Neck, [N.Y.], and it’s amazing how much he channels her spirit,” Phil said.

But while teaching the chef to cook Jewish was relatively painless, schooling the staff in the intricacies of Jewish pronunciation was more troublesome.

“Teaching them how to say ‘kreplach’ and ‘challah’— that took time,” Phil said.






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