You’d better have some thick skin if you’re going to open a restaurant called “Traif” in the heart of Hasidic Williamsburg — especially when the thick skin is a crispy pork belly.
Fortunately, chef and co-owner Jason Marcus, who opened the restaurant Traif — Hebrew for “non-Kosher” — is just having fun with the name, not sticking it to his largely Hasidic neighbors.
“For me, ‘traif’ represents two things,” said Jewish chef and co-owner Jason Marcus. “Yeah, we’re cooking a lot of traif — I just happen to really love pork and shellfish. But [the name] really represents our philosophical view of how restaurants should be free of rules. We’re just people who live for good food.”
The menu isn’t exclusively pork and shellfish, but it certainly makes an attempt at most every variation on the two, including that pork belly with braised artichokes and muscat grapes ($7), sea scallops with pea risotto ($16) and braised port cheeks with prune jus and polenta ($15).
“I don’t think I’m being un-Jewish by eating un-kosher foods. To me, it’s the same as not wearing yarmulke or growing a long beard,” said Marcus, who honed his skills at Eleven Madison Park.
Opening in one of Brooklyn’s most-Jewish neighborhoods was purely coincidental, Marcus said, claiming that the eatery was originally slated for the East Village.
The good news is that the only ruffled feathers seem to be in Marcus’s kitchen. The South Williamsburg neighbors seem uninterested — and some were even welcoming.
“According to Jewish law, you’re allowed to sell non-kosher foods. You’re just not allowed to eat them, so there is really no problem,” said Moishe Low, who lives in South Williamsburg. “I’m probably not going to eat there, but I wish him luck.”
Another resident, Moshe Perlman, thought Marcus was “a bit chutzpah-ish,” but decided that calling a restaurant Traif was “just for attention.”
Attention, yes — but for the joy of well-cooked traif.
“Pork, shellfish, it’s what I cherish,” Marcus said. “I’m sorry that a group of religious people doesn’t, but I do. I think they’re beautiful creatures and, more importantly, they make delicious food.”
Traif [229 S. Fourth St. between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street in Williamsburg, (347) 844-9578].