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L.A.’s Got Kosher closes restaurant to focus on challah

A stalwart of the Los Angeles kosher restaurant scene has closed its doors, citing the pandemic’s effect on business.

The kosher Tunisian restaurant Harissa and its adjoining bakery and deli Got Kosher have closed for good, chef and owner Alain Cohen announced on Sunday.

“We have been losing money for months and it is not possible to do more,” Cohen wrote in a statement posted to Instagram.

Cohen, whose pretzel challah is the Got Kosher brand’s most well-known product, added that he plans to make bread the sole focus of the company going forward.

Based in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, where Cohen established Got Kosher as a catering company for several years before the sit-down restaurant opened in 2010, Got Kosher was an original: a place whose menu reflected the Mizrahi heritage of not only its founder, but also L.A.’s growing French Jewish scene.

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But patrons, judging by Yelp reviews, complained of slow service, and in 2019 the restaurant was forced to close temporarily following a failed health department inspection. Harissa memorably tried to disguise its ‘C’ rating — which must be posted prominently in a store window — with a larger sign next to it enlarging the ‘A’ in the restaurant’s name.

Still, Cohen offered kosher Angelenos an international variety of flavors: Harissa’s complet poisson, pulled brisket sandwiches and house couscous all earned fans.

Cohen’s runaway hit, however, was Got Kosher’s challah, braided with pretzel dough and pocked by kalamata olives or Belgian chocolate chunks. The success of the pretzel challah — sold both at the Pico Boulevard location and at local Whole Foods stores — will be the lynchpin of Cohen’s next venture, which will retain the Got Kosher brand name.

In his announcement, Cohen said “the lack of customers, the lack of employees, the lack of revenues and the decision of the landlord to sell the building” drove the decision to close. He did not reply to a request for comment emailed Monday.

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