Novo in Ridgewood bringing new tastes and flavors to North Jersey
MARCH 18, 2015 LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2015, 4:01 PM
BY ESTHER DAVIDOWITZ
FOOD EDITOR |
Executive chef Elie Kahlon is sitting in the elegantly subdued 74-seat dining room of Novo in Ridgewood, arguably North Jersey’s best new restaurant. In front of him is a big, plastic bag stuffed with smaller plastic bags that hold spices he had brought back from his last trip to his native country, Israel.
“I don’t like to use local spice,” said the dark-haired, olive-skinned Kahlon in heavy-accented English.
The 6-foot, 4-inch Ridgewood resident quickly opens bag after bag, sniffing and tasting what’s inside: Moroccan coriander, Middle Eastern curry, dried Persian lime, dried sumac flowers, a Mideast cinnamon-like clove, Tunisian paprika … “You see how red the paprika is,” he says, holding up its see-through bag. “It’s so much better than the paprika you can get from anywhere else.”
Many food lovers would argue that Kahlon’s food is not only better than the fare found in most North Jersey restaurants — The Record gave the five-month-old restaurant a 3 1/2-out-of-4 star review in January — but it is unlike much, if not all, food found in the area. His is a refined modern Mediterranean cuisine; think foods of the Middle East and North Africa, elevated by the use of sophisticated, most often, French cooking techniques.
He uses a Middle East open-flame oven, called a taboon, to sear and roast meats, vegetables and flatbreads; a couscoussier, an Arabic double-chambered food steamer, to make his own couscous; a dehydrating machine to produce dried-out fruits popular in Mideast dishes, including lemons, oranges and olives, which he uses to make crusts for fish or garnishes for salads.