Members of Global Dining Access by Resy have exclusive early access to reservations for “8 Nights at Birdie G’s.” An eligible American Express card must be on file to unlock access. Reservations can be found here on the Birdie’s G’s Resy page, or via the individual links below.
As you might expect in a city with the second-largest Jewish population in the country, Los Angeles has no shortage of worthwhile Jewish food. The No. 19 at Langer’s (coleslaw-topped pastrami, but we know you knew that); Canter’s served-all-night matzoh ball soup; and Diamond Bakery’s signature corn rye are nothing short of iconic.
More recently, our Jewish food scene has expanded beyond deli culture to include Israeli destinations like Bavel and Mazal, increasingly tasty bagels from Courage and Belle’s, and ingenious mashups with other cuisines (see: Malli’s Mexican-Jewish or Yangban’s Korean-Jewish cooking ). Still, most Jewish food in Los Angeles is cooked at home, and the Jewish holidays often get short shrift in not just our restaurants but restaurants anywhere.
This Hanukkah, the chef Jeremy Fox is determined to change all that. He’s invited 10 chefs to his Jewish-American restaurant in Santa Monica to cook their own versions of Hanukkah dishes in a dinner series he’s calling, appropriately, “8 Nights at Birdie G’s.” The events will unfold over the course of two weeks starting in late November and feature notable Jewish chefs from across the country, including Michael Solomonov of Laser Wolf (Philadelphia and New York) and local talents such as Katianna and John Hong (Yangban). For Fox, the series is a festive way to celebrate Hanukkah alongside chefs that he admires, in a restaurant atmosphere. “People will have their own Hanukkah dinners [at home], but these chefs will put their own stamp on the holidays,” he says.
Latkes will likely be available on most, if not all, nights. The regular Birdie G’s menu — think farmers market relish trays and corned tri-tip steak with fries — will be offered every night, in addition to a selection of dishes from the visiting chefs. Fox opted for an à la carte format in lieu of ticketed set menus to keep the dinners accessible and casual. “If someone’s a big fan of Michael Solomonov, they can come in and get only his dishes. Or they can get some of ours, too. And they can meet him and say hello,” he says. You can feel the naches.
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In his own cooking, Fox is fascinated by exploring Jewish food across the diaspora. Chicken soup, babka, and overstuffed deli sandwiches have their place, but Fox calls them “low-hanging fruit in terms of what’s represented” in restaurants. His own background is Hungarian, Russian, German, and Polish, and he’s established a cuisine at Birdie G’s that’s rooted in Eastern European Ashkenazi cooking with a California spin. His menu evolves with the seasons and whichever historic recipes he can uncover (not always an easy task in post-Holocaust kitchens, where recipes weren’t always recorded). “There are things that never made it into restaurants but are embedded in certain families,” Fox says.
The guest chefs themselves come from diverse backgrounds. Katianna and John Hong have recently been acclaimed for their Jewish-accented Korean cuisine at Yangban in Downtown L.A., and plan to serve their matzoh ball soup with sujebi and schmaltz-roasted Korean mirepoix and a smoked trout schmear on December 7th. The latter dish incorporates house-cured and hot-smoked trout, pea leaves, and fresh-grated horseradish root, a play on the creamy whitefish spread they both loved as children frequenting Jewish delis (Katianna as a South Korean adoptee of a Jewish father, and John in the predominantly Jewish Chicago neighborhood where he grew up).
Elizabeth Heitner and Nestor Silva of the popular Mexican-Jewish pop-up Malli haven’t landed on a final menu yet, but for Hanukkahs past, they’ve made sufganiyot filled with guava jam and cheese and latkes with mole amarillo, apples, purslane, and crema. The couple also has an idea for a bean-and-cheese blintz that resembles enfrijoladas, a dish that Silva first began tinkering with while working as a sous chef at Fox’s other restaurant, Rustic Canyon.
Miles Thompson, a local chef known for his work revitalizing Michael’s in Santa Monica — and who will soon be opening his own restaurant — often incorporates fermentation (“lots of misos,” Fox says) into his cooking. And Solomonov, who is Israeli, says he loves Hanukkah “because you can fry a bunch of s—.”
For the chefs who are coming from Chicago (Lee Wolen of Boka) and the East Coast, it’ll be a boon to utilize farmers market produce that’s otherwise unavailable to them in the wintertime. Solomonov says what he serves will ultimately be “more about what we have access to when we’re there, [because] California might as well be a different country when it comes to produce.”
Compared to some other, more somber Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is a decidedly jubilant affair. And since it spans eight nights, there’s plenty of time to explore celebratory Jewish dishes beyond the standard-issue latkes. Fox remembers his grandmother’s comfort-food dishes, such as chicken and dumplings, Swedish meatballs, kasha, and beef tongue (“which only my grandfather and I ate”). Katianna Hong says that some of her fondest memories of her own Jewish grandmother’s cooking are from Hanukkah: “She would make roasted orange duckling; brisket and egg noodles; matzoh ball soup; shredded potato and onion latkes; [and] cinnamon, raisin, and walnut rugelach,” she says.
8 Nights at Birdie G’s is a chance for Fox, Hong, and the rest of the chefs to cook their own version of the dishes they grew up eating during Hanukkah, and for Jewish (and non-Jewish!) Angelenos to celebrate a holiday that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It’s also an opportunity for some of the best chefs in the country to collaborate with their peers. “Jeremy is one of the most talented American chefs right now,” says Solomonov, and “to be able to cook with him is just such a dream.”
The Full Lineup + Ticket Information
11/28 — Sang Yoon, Father’s Office
11/29 — Lee Wolen, Boka
12/1 — Michael Solomonov, Zahav