**Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ** - A new beachfront restaurant in this South Florida city is billing itself as the country’s first kabbalistic restaurant.
Café Emunah is relatively new to the competitive kosher dining scene in the area, yet it has already distinguished itself with its holistic approach to kosher food — combining organic chic with a dash of Jewish mysticism.
Open only a few months, the restaurant is already attracting a sizable following as evidenced by the buzzing 50-seat dining room on a recent weeknight. The café’s Asian-inspired menu of fish and sushi dishes has also drawn attention for its embrace of organic ingredients, a rarity among kosher eateries, and for its pluralistic environment.
“We’re looking for an authentic mysticism, an authentic kabbalistic experience,” said Marla Reis, the restaurant’s creator and co-owner. “It’s really all about bringing about spiritual awareness and understanding that everything is connected to God.”
A combination restaurant-lounge, the eatery — which borrows its name from the Hebrew word for “faith” — features stylish couches and a small library of Kabbalah and spirituality books for guests to peruse or to use during the restaurant’s weekly Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism classes, as well as guest lecturers and regular painting and meditation workshops.
Reis, 43, a psychologist, also personally conducts “talking sessions” to go along with meals. These sessions can be about whatever topic the client specifies.
“They can speak to me about spirituality, parenting, health or bringing more organics into their lives,” Reis said. “Whatever they want.”
The religious theme also manifests itself in other ways, starting with food descriptions. Patrons can order a “Genesis salad” composed of smoked salmon, romaine lettuce and pomegranate reduction; or the “Emunah roll,” made with yellowtail, crispy plantains, shredded coconut and cilantro.
“I wanted to bring the fine dining experience to the kosher community,” Reis said. “And to show people who never had a kosher meal… that you can have a kosher meal and it can be amazing.”
Environmental awareness is noticeable in the eatery’s use of recycled napkins, compostable takeout containers and triple-filtered water. The decor is Scandinavian-Zen with natural woods, large open windows, ergonomic chairs and chandeliers outfitted with flowing sheer skirting. Organic teas are served with individual timers that monitor optimum steeping time.
The restaurant is not affiliated with the Kabbalah Centre (Reis says she’s never been to any of its branches), but it is closely connected to a Chabad House two blocks away.
Rabbi Moshe Meir Lipszyc , spiritual leader of Chabad Lubavitch of Fort Lauderdale, is a co-owner along with Reis.
The restaurant’s proximity to the Chabad House has also posed an unexpected problem.
“We’re having trouble getting our liquor license, because we are so close to a synagogue,” Reis laughed. Once the restaurant obtains a liquor license, there is hope of serving organic beers and wines from Israel.
Using organic ingredients has also posed some religious riddles for Lipszyc, namely deciding which blessing to say over hydroponic lettuce.
“We weren’t sure if it should be ‘ha’adama,’ since technically it’s not grown in the ground but in mineral water,” the rabbi said. Ultimately, after consulting with other rabbinical authorities, it was decided that the usual blessing for greens could be recited.