New York City has its fair share of world-renowned steakhouses, but only a few notable kosher steakhouses. Reserve Cut is both Downtown Manhattan’s only kosher steakhouse and Manhattan’s largest kosher steakhouse overall. Located in The Setai at 40 Broad Street, the restaurant seats well over 200 people in dining rooms filled with black leather chairs and grey banquettes.
Owner Albert Allaham came to New York from Damascus, Syria in 1999 at the age of 12. He comes from a long lineage of expert butchers dating back over 200 years from Syria, with The Prime Cut in Brooklyn being an example of his family’s meat expertise. However, fans of Reserve Cut know to expect a modern approach to kosher fare, with plenty of interesting fusion fare blended into the menu. The Volcano is one of the surprising menu options available, combining spicy tuna, Asian pear and avocado.
Albert spoke to Downtown about Reserve Cut’s past, present and future. The restaurant can be experienced online at www.reservecut.com, while social media die-hards can follow it through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
What came first: Your idea for a kosher steakhouse, or the idea of opening up a steakhouse?
Albert Allaham: Difficult question. My inability to find a great kosher steakhouse in New York City sparked my idea for opening Reserve Cut. As a butcher, I naturally think of steaks. It was a perfect marriage.
Are you the one and only kosher steakhouse in the Financial District?
AA: While there are a few others in Manhattan, we are the only one of our kind. It’s a unique market, and what really sets us apart is the fact that every single steak is handpicked by my father and butchered by me. We are committed to offering seamless service, a deep sense of hospitality, and PERFECT ingredients handled with respect, cooked honestly and well.
For someone that isn’t concerned with food being kosher, how would you describe Reserve Cut?
AA: Cuisine-wise, we are a modern American steakhouse with global influences. We offer the highest-quality meats, and an elegant ambiance that is enhanced by a dimly-lit space and a beautiful hall of glassed-in meshuval wine bottles leading up to the dining area. Our dishes are plated with artful touches that showcase their inventiveness.
We are also really quite unique as we offer a bar and lounge, four private dining/meeting rooms, and seating for 250 guests.
What made you choose your location downtown? Had you spent a lot of time around the FiDi area?
AA: It was a natural decision, as it would make us centrally located to the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges, as well as the Midtown, Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and FDR Drive. We would also have all major subways nearby and the Staten Island Ferry…All roads lead to Reserve Cut.
You were a butcher before opening up Reserve Cut. Is there anything you miss about being a butcher?
AA: I still consider myself a butcher at heart, as the roles are the same: to take care of my guests. I also spend time working in the kitchen as the restaurant’s head butcher, and oversee the meat’s aging process, so fortunately I don’t get to miss being a butcher very often.
Did anyone in your family lineage wind up in a non-meat-oriented career? Any teachers?
AA: We all started in the meat business, however, my family also has outside business interests as well. There are no teachers in my immediate family, but we are teaching, coaching and mentoring 150 associates every day.
What is your favorite item in the menu at Reserve Cut?
AA: I don’t have a single favorite menu item. I put my passion in every dish, so they all have a special meaning to me.
In general, what is your preferred cut of steak?
AA: An 18-ounce Wagyu Bone-In Steak. It is the BEST steak in the city.
When someone mentions being a vegetarian or a vegan, do you have a usual defense of why you are a meat eater?
AA: I descend from a family of butchers, so I’ve always been surrounded by the meat industry and eating meats. It’s how I was raised.
What’s ahead for Reserve Cut? Any special events or promotions?
AA: Brand expansion. We’re creating Reserve Events, which is going to use Reserve Cut catering. We already have an event booked for this summer, and we’re working on a few locations in the city right now. Miami is also a hot destination, as is L.A. If Israel was closer, it would be my next restaurant. Israel has been one of the top 10 in dining in the world. We also have new menus that we will be announcing this summer.
Is there a possibility of another Reserve Cut opening in the future?
AA: Absolutely. When I open my next restaurant, one of my ideas is to have three chefs, and the chefs will work together to change dining in the three restaurants seasonally and have a tasting menu weekly.
When you’re not busy with the restaurant, how do you like to spend your free time?
AA: Spending time with my family and friends.
Finally, Albert, any last words for the kids?
AA: I would say, to any young business owner, to not be afraid. If you think it’s going to be too big of a space, if you think the rent is going to be too much, don’t worry. Just go after it. You’ll succeed.