Hardly strictly bagels | LChaim Sushi splits from NorCal certification agency


When a flier for a Jewish festival in the South Bay hit cyberspace earlier this month, the blurb about the food offerings noted that vendor L’Chaim Sushi is “supervised by the Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California.”

Actually, it’s not. Not anymore.

“The Vaad made an announcement in December that L’Chaim Sushi was no longer under our supervision,” Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman, chairman of the Vaad’s executive board, said last week.

Promotional material for Jewbilee — Sunday, Jan. 25 at the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos — has since been changed to describe L’Chaim Sushi as “the Bay Area’s only kosher and sustainable sushi provider,” noting that it’s “under Orthodox supervision and certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.”

Indeed, Rabbi Alex Shandrovsky, owner of L’Chaim Sushi, announced last week that his 16-month-old operation is now under the kosher supervision of Rabbi Joel Landau of Congregation Adath Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco.

“What’s essential for people to know is that our company has the same dedication to kashrut that we’ve always had,” Shandrovsky said. “We have expanded, we have a new full-time mashgiach in Heshy Fried [formerly of kosher caterer Epic Bites], we are kosher for both milchig [dairy] and sushi — and we have the utmost dedication to kashrut and our clients.”

L’Chaim Sushi launched in late 2013 in the kosher kitchen at Adath Israel under the supervision of the Vaad, also known as Sunrise Kosher. In March 2014, the business moved onto the property of its fish supplier, Royal Hawaiian Seafood in South San Francisco, but it has outgrown that tiny 125-square-foot office and likely will move back to Adath Israel.

Rabbi Alex Shandrovsky

L’Chaim Sushi has grown, largely by building up a list of corporate clients. Now, by serving catered lunches at some pretty big tech firms, filling online orders and catering events, L’Chaim is serving more than 2,000 people a month, Shandrovsky said.

Hundreds more will get to sample its sushi, sashimi and vegetarian rolls at Jewbilee, where L’Chaim also will run the “Epic Bites grilled cheese station.” That’s one of the perks of employing Fried; in addition to being the mashgiach, he also will work as a sous chef and help out in the kitchen.

So what went wrong in the L’Chaim-Vaad relationship?

From my remote viewpoint, I can understand why Vaad certification might present certain challenges. For example, it’s not easy for a neophyte business to budget thousands of dollars a year for a mashgiach who is not required to help out in the kitchen the way Fried does.

Also, the Vaad has a lot of strict rules, understandably, such as one about who can hold the keys that open and close the business every day to ensure kashrut compliance. But what if I’m the owner, my mashgiach is sick, I have a big order to fill that day, and I can’t get into my own kitchen because I’m not allowed to have a key?

Shandrovsky said opting out of Vaad certification is “my own personal choice.” He wanted local supervision, and he didn’t want to submit to the full spectrum of the Vaad’s stringent regulations.

Feldman, the head of the NorCal Vaad’s five-man executive committee, didn’t get into specifics other than to say that L’Chaim lost its Vaad supervision because of its “failure to comply with the Vaad’s kashrut policies.”


PASTRAMI IN A PARKLET: The owners of Saul’s Deli have submitted an application to build a parklet on the street directly in front of their Berkeley restaurant.

Proposed parklet in front of Saul’s Deli in Berkeley

Though Saul’s wouldn’t be able to serve food in the parklet because it’s a public space, people could grab a takeout item and eat it there. The proposal includes seating, planter boxes and a canopy, built across three diagonal parking spaces.

To move the process along, Saul’s is doing something it has never done before: selling discounted gift cards (similar to deals one might find via Groupon or LivingSocial). Through an Indiegogo campaign, co-owners Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman hope to raise $15,000 for the project, which will be privately funded at a total estimated cost of $45,000 to $50,000.

Available online only, the discount cards will be sold through Feb. 19 at www.indiegogo.com/at/ParkletatVine.

Some of the deals: a $30 Saul’s value card for $25; a $50 card for $38; a $100 card for $73; and a $300 card plus two Saul’s T-shirts for $220. The Jewish Music Festival also is offering a gift card on the same website, and other nearby merchants have some offers, too.

This story is somewhat big news in Berkeley, which so far has only one other parklet (in front of the Cheese Board). San Francisco has more than 40, although none are adjacent to chopped liver, kreplach and matzah brei.



Test-phase bagels at Wise Sons Deli photos/instagram

By posting a few pictures on Instagram, Wise Sons Deli has created a small swell of excitement about an impending new product: bagels. One picture shows bagels boiling in water, the other a finished pile of shiny, crisp-looking bagels. Still in the test phase in the restaurant’s prep space/baking kitchen in the Mission Market Mall, a few blocks from its 24th Street location, the bagels won’t be on sale for at least two more weeks, co-owner Leo Beckerman said. Addit-ionally, Wise Sons’ website now includes a “bagel window” category, but the co-owners are mum on where and when it will open … Kosher Pop-Ups in Berkeley is returning Feb. 22 with a fine-dining, adults-only event in Berkeley titled “Pre-Purim Persian Party” at the West Side Café, 2570 Ninth St. Last year there were two such kosher dinners, one a gourmet meal and the other a pizza fest, both prepared by Epic Bites chef Isaac Bernstein, who has since moved to New York. The meal this time — with items such as ballotine of lamb for meat eaters and smoky eggplant carpaccio for vegetarians — will be prepared by Dina’s Kosher Catering of San Francisco. Cost is $60 and seating is very limited. Contact [email protected] … In celebration of California’s foie gras ban being overturned by a judge earlier this month, Shorty Goldstein’s Deli in San Francisco was offering the controversial delicacy atop its Rachel sandwich last week (or any sandwich at the customer’s request) … Augie’s Authen-tic Montreal Smoke Meat continues to push its savory deli sandwiches as a pop-up operation. Owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski will be at the Rite Spot Café, 2099 Folsom St., S.F., from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25 (and the last Sunday of every month thereafter) and at Beauty’s Bagel Shop, 3838 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 9. Order your sandwiches “medium” or “fat” (according to the website: “If you want lean, go get a pastrami sandwich”) … Saul’s Deli in Berkeley is participating in San Francisco Beer Week with a Feb. 11 beer-food pairing with Trumer Brewery. For more details, visit www.sfbeerweek.org … Authentic Bagel Company in Oakland has been open every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a few months. As for its expansion into the space next door, it’s been a slow grind, and the job probably won’t be finished until at least April. 

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Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.