A World of Flavors at Hillel’s Kitchen

Gambit 9/27/11

People looking for a traditional Jewish holiday meal for Rosh Hashana this week are expected by the hundreds at the Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life, the new Jewish student center at Tulane University.

But throughout the year, traditional Jewish fare and a great deal more is served at Hillel’s Kitchen, a kosher restaurant inside the center. It’s open to the public, and in fact it’s exceptionally friendly to vegetarians and vegans.

Of course, there’s also house-cured pastrami, salmon burgers, chicken salad and chili dogs, so this is far from a meatless kitchen. But there is a clear focus on fresh, health-conscious meals here. That’s the hand of chef Harveen Khera, who opened Hillel’s Kitchen earlier this year in the Mintz Center, a new, 10,000-square-foot building at 912 Broadway, just by Tulane’s Uptown campus.

The Mintz Center on Broadway

Originally from London, Khera built a culinary career in San Francisco, where she ran the French-Indian fusion restaurant Tallula in that city’s Castro neighborhood. She helped design a kitchen for the Mintz Center and soon that work evolved into planning this public restaurant for the center. Her menu is inexpensive and loaded with locally-sourced and house-made staples.

“Coming to New Orleans, my highest ambition was having people get as close to good food as possible, and when you strip away all the bells and whistles more people can do that,” she says.

Israeli cucumber salad

Customers at Hillel’s Kitchen order from a service counter, and they can see directly into the restaurant’s very large and gleaming kitchen. The dining room itself has the feel of a bright, stylishly-finished dining hall where students, teachers and parents out for lunch with their children dine together at large communal tables.

Inside Hillels Kitchen

The chef is not Jewish, though she says cooking inside the parameters of kosher requirements has been inspiring.

“People think kosher cooking is limited, but really it’s open to so much more,” Khera says.

Her list of specials recently included a lamb bacon BLT, for instance, while Vietnamese-style roasted duck po-boys are on her menu. The kitchen mixes up traditional Jewish deli specialties (bagels with lox and latkes), all-American comfort food (meatloaf sandwiches) and international flavors (the Indian puffed rice salad bel puri and the French socca chickpea pancakes). In-house preparation, from the pickles to the breads to the smoked salmon, is a uniting feature, along, of course, with Kosher Rabbinic supervision.

Hillel’s Kitchen is open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Each Friday evening, the Mintz Center serves a free Shabbat dinner in its dining room. This week, the center will also serve meals for Rosh Hashana. See the center’s High Holiday’s schedule for details.

Hillel’s Kitchen
912 Broadway, 909-9919

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