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Coffee with the Chef: Elie Kahlon


MAY 13, 2015    LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015, 1:21 AM

Elie Kahlon

Novo, Ridgewood

Novo, a refined modern Mediterranean restaurant, may be the first restaurant that 28-year-old Elie Kahlon has ever been in charge of, but the Israeli native clearly knows what he’s doing. In January, The Record gave the elegantly subdued Ridgewood spot a 3 1/2 out of 4 star review. Novo has also won OpenTable Diners’ Choice award in 2014 and 2015.

Before becoming the opening executive chef of 8-month-old Novo, Kahlon worked at some of the most prominent restaurants in Tel Aviv and New York City, including one-Michelin-star Oceana and the now-closed two-Michelin-star Gordon Ramsay at The London.

Here, he discusses his favorite local restaurant, his favorite kitchen tool and what most annoys him about diners.

Dish I’m most proud of: There are two, actually. One is the appetizer called taboon cauliflower. Everyone talks about it. Everyone wants to know how I make it. Even people who don’t like cauliflower like this cauliflower dish. I bake a cauliflower dressed in a green tahini sauce in a taboon, a brick oven, making the cauliflower taste buttery, and then sprinkle black currants, pine nuts and fresh herbs over it to give it a sweet, crunchy, nutty flavor. And the most popular main course is our seafood couscous. The couscous is homemade; so is the seafood stock. It is a nice composed dish that is completed with chickpeas and homemade pickled kohlrabi, to give it crunch.

What annoys me most about diners: Last week, one diner asked that we cook grouper medium-rare. I said no. I know how to cook each and every fish, and I didn’t want the customer not to have an enjoyable experience. It wasn’t going to taste good. The manager had to talk to him, and he agreed to have me cook it exactly as it should be cooked. He enjoyed the grouper. He cleaned his plate.