It's not easy keeping a kosher kitchen: Meats and dairy can't mix, foods have to be approved by a rabbi, and those are just the foods not considered treif. Then there's the ritual cleansing of ovens and immersing dishes and utensils in rainwater. Genesis Steakhouse & Wine Bar has all of this covered, and it's allowed the restaurant to serve Jewish (and goyishe) customers steaks, burgers and beef ribs, to name just a few, from its fleishik (meat but no dairy) kitchen since 2014.
But in March, yet another type of flesh joined the bill of fare. It was then that owner Jason Goldstein converted part of the 3D-printed bar to house a sushi cooler for chef Stephen Chan. As with many items that grace the menu at Genesis, sushi was added thanks to a customer request. That one came from accident attorney Steve Lee, a Genesis regular. To ensure all would go smoothly, he helped pay for equipment. In return, a California roll topped with whitefish and spicy sauce, then baked, is named in his honor.
It's one of 15 rolls, including basics such as spicy tuna or Philadelphia rolls, as well as Chan's own creations. But what differentiates it all is the ingredients. Genesis can only use whole fish, because a rabbi must approve each one to confirm that it has both fins and scales, as required by kosher law. That means that no shellfish is allowed in the restaurant, nor is eel, catfish or any bottom-feeding fish.
So Genesis has had to communicate clearly with its distributors—and get creative. That California roll? The kanikama is made without crab juice. The ebi sunomono pictured at top features tangy cucumber salad bedecked with toothsome chunks of pollock made to resemble shrimp in both appearance and taste. Chan says he adds ginger to sweeten them and give the flesh a more authentic shellfish taste. Same for the scallops, also made from pollock, and served nigiri style. Since dairy can't enter the kitchen, the Philadelphia roll is made with silken tofu in place of cream cheese, much the same way tofu is used to make the Hollandaise sauce for Sunday's brunch's brisket Benedict.
Sushi is served at lunch and dinner, as well as on the happy hour menu, where it joins dishes such as deviled eggs topped with microgreens and pastrami crisped to resemble bacon. And rolls like the Nemo prove that Chan knows what he's doing. The spicy tuna, rolled with avocado, is legitimately spicy. A fiery ponzu tops the chunks of salmon the wraps moist rice.
It's no surprise that regulars have taken to the new addition, ordering vast catering trays of the rolls. And what isn't used that day on the sushi bar will still find its way onto plates in the form of ceviche and poke. Proof that even one of Houston's handful of kosher restaurants knows how to keep it diverse.