The UN Plaza Grill, located at 845 United Nations Plaza in New York City, has launched a brand new series of menus to celebrate chefs and cuisines from around the world. While the upscale kosher steakhouse will continue to have its usual menu, it will now also be featuring a carefully-curated, smaller prix fixe menu highlighting an appetizer, entree, and dessert from an international guest chef. With the restaurant’s close proximity to the UN in New York, it’s fitting that the team is working so hard to display delicious food from around the world. The Montclair Girl sat dawn with the UN Plaza Grill’s culinary director, Ines Chattas, to learn all about this initiative and the work that goes on behind the menus. Read on for a look at UN Plaza Grill, a kosher Manhattan spot with an exciting array of global pop-up chefs on the horizon.
Backstory Behind UN Plaza Grill’s Global Pop-Up Menus
Before the endeavor into global pop-up menus, the UN Plaza Grill’s mission was to redefine kosher eating. When owner Albert Gad opened the restaurant a few years ago, his goal was to “give people a different feeling about kosher dining,” according to JTA. After becoming a beloved spot for both kosher and non-kosher diners alike with bold flavors and a beautiful interior, the UN Plaza Grill — like so many restaurants — was hit hard during Covid and closed in March of 2020. But something even better rose from the ashes — and Albert bounced back stronger.
One of the beautiful connections to come out of the pandemic closure resulted from Albert’s relocating to Miami, where he got to know Ines Chattas. Ines, who is now the culinary director of the UN Plaza Grill, hails from Argentina and currently has three restaurants in Miami. She happened to meet Albert at one of them.
“The owner of the UN Plaza Grill lives in one of the condominiums where I have a restaurant,” Ines told MG. “So for a long time, we had been chatting about how I could cooperate with him, and one day we made it happen.”
Despite living in Miami and already having a hefty workload, Ines joined forces with the UN Plaza Grill in October of 2021 where she began overseeing the culinary aspect of the restaurant. She now travels to New York every couple of week to ensure the dishes that are served are all high quality as well as to help design special menus. Though Ines was too humble to reveal this in her conversation with The Montclair Girl, she is now a trailblazer among the male-dominated kosher restaurant industry in Manhattan.
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And now, Ines is heavily involved in helping manage and put together the global chef pop-up program.
The restaurant plans to feature small prix fixe menus curated by chefs from around the world. Each menu will focus on a different country and be available for a limited time (a couple of weeks), though the highlights from each temporary menu may make their way into the restaurant’s permanent full-time offerings. The recipes and menus will be designed by the global chefs, though the actual cooking will be done by in-house UN Plaza Grill chefs.
Ines described this global initiative as Albert’s ‘baby’ — something he cares so deeply about and has wanted for so long. It makes sense for a restaurant directly across the street from the UN to commit itself to displaying food from all around the world.
“We decided to go ahead and put this idea into motion and make it a collab with wonderful global chefs that specialize in the cuisines that we’re presenting,” Ines said. She also mentioned this is a wonderful opportunity to be able to work and connect with all different kinds of people.
To help find the global chefs to feature, Ines enlisted the aid of Lévana Kirschenbaum. Lévana is a chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author who is a force in the upscale kosher dining industry. She was the first woman to open a kosher restaurant in Manhattan, and she’s also lovingly referred to as the ‘Jewish Julia Child.’
Ines and Lévana met in December when she came to do a tasting at the UN Plaza Grill — and they clicked right away. Ines was impressed by Lévana’s fierce personality and recognized Lévana as someone you’d want in your corner.
“She gives me the best advice,” Ines said. “She knows so much – this is the first time I’m involved in a kosher restaurant, and there’s a lot of ingredients I’m not able to use and she helps me find a lot of alternatives. She helps me find ingredients that I miss sometimes.”
Together, Ines and Lévana are locating talented chefs from around the world and working to curate, refine, and polish these kosher pop-up menus.
The Israeli Menu + Pop-Up Line-Up
First up on the global pop-up menu was Israel, which ran between May 22nd and June 2nd. As a kosher restaurant, Israel was a natural first starting point. The Israeli menu was created by Ben & Zikki, an Israeli husband and wife culinary team.
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(Photo credit: @benandzikki)
“They have this vibrant energy,” Ines said of Ben + Zikki. “When we met, we felt like we knew each other.”
Ben + Zikki put together a modern Israeli menu that Ines and her team implemented. Before launching the menu to the public, Ben + Zikki — along with the rest of the UN Plaza Grill team — tasted everything together and made the final touches.
And the hard work paid off. The attention, care, and passion that went into this project leapt out of the dishes. Every morsel of food was bursting with flavor, artfully plated, and masterfully prepared.
The Israeli menu featured three starters: a fennel salad with roasted almonds and citrus; charred eggplant with cured chilis and fresh tomato; and masbacha (which is like a chunky hummus) with Israeli salad, shuk spices, and dukkah. All three dishes are bold in flavor — the masbacha in particular was fragrant and addictive, and the eggplant was full of spice and paired beautifully with the sweet wine that comes with the prix fixe meal.
For the main course, the restaurant served up baharat chicken, fish kebabs in a spicy tomato sauce, and a roasted cauliflower on top of a garlic mashed potato dip that was utterly to die for. There was something earthy and warming about each entree, as if you could feel the hard work that went into their creations.
What’s more, both the starters and the mains featured vegan and gluten-free options, making this an easy spot to bring friends with many dietary restrictions.
The menu finished off with tahini fudge truffles, which were equal parts rich and unique, and a coconut lemon cream pavlova — a vibrant, citrusy finale to a satisfying meal.
It was evident how in love Ines was with so many of the dishes on the Israeli menu. Though the Israeli pop-up is over, many of these dishes will likely make their way to the UN Plaza Grill’s main menu. They’re all worth trying.
The price of the pop-up prix fixe menu is $77. This includes one appetizer, one entree, one dessert, and a glass of house wine — all kosher, of course.
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Ines and Lévana are already planning their next menus, though there’s also still a lot up in the air. The second chef to be featured is set already, however, and will be Rinku Bhattacharya, who is known for her earthy approach to Indian cooking. There will also at some point be French Moroccan (which is Lévana’s background), Latin fusion (which Ines will lead, given her Argentinian roots), and so much more. This program is planning to run throughout 2022.
Dining at the UN Plaza Grill
Dining at the UN Plaza Grill is, simply put, a special experience. With gorgeous cylindrical light fixtures shining in different colors, white tablecloths, and kind staff, a meal at the UN Plaza Grill is both relaxing and delicious. It’s also in a quiet, tucked-away part of Manhattan right by the East River. The restaurant itself is worth a visit alone even without the global pop-up chef program. Of course, the inclusion of this program renders this spot an absolute must-visit.
When it comes to her favorite part of the job, Ines says she loves “when the customer sits down and enjoys what we have prepared.”
“I also enjoy a lot of the creative process,” she added. “Doing a menu together, it’s fun to source for different ingredients. I love all of it, everything.”
To follow along as the pop-up menus become available, click here.