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Good Taste: Moshe's Café International Glatt Kosher Cuisine
January 10, 2005 by Howard Blas

153 East 53rd Street, corner of Lexington Avenue, at the sunken plaza of Citigroup Center, Manhattan.

“Which building do you work in?” asks Avraham Matayav, the friendly, soft-spoken immigrant from Tajikistan and proprietor of Moshe’s Café International Glatt Kosher Cuisine. The eatery, Avraham explains, is named for the broker who helped him find his prime location in midtown Manhattan.

Like his Biblical namesake who waited at his tent to greet guests, Avraham peeks out of the sliding glass window to welcome his customers, most of whom he seems to know by name and place of work.

Moshe’s - with 15 circular metal tables outside - is located in the invisible-from-the-street sunken courtyard of the Citigroup Center that he shares with the Market Card Shop and the back entrance to St. Peter’s Cathedral. It’s one of the few kosher spots in this part of town.

And it offers a rich selection. The menu features grilled kaufta kebabs made from ground beef ($9.85 for a large platter, $7.65 for regular size) and fried or grilled marinated chicken breasts ($8.90 and $7.65). Avraham says most of the items are creations of his Israeli cousin, a chef at the Sheraton City Towers in Ramat Gan. One wonders how many take-out or sit-down meals Avraham must sell to pay the rent, but there seems to be a steady flow of customers, not all of them obviously Jewish.

On my first visit, I tried the beef and barley soup ($3.50), fatty but tasty, with shredded carrots mixed in, and had a well-seasoned felafel in a pitah ($4.50) and fries; the free soda was a nice touch. (The accompanying salad was more tomato than cucumber, and the tehinah, I’d find out on a brief visit to the kitchen, was store-bought.)

On my next visit, I ordered the excellent grilled baby chicken chao-chao (described by the proprietor as a “special chicken steak marinated with 50 types of spices, mainly from Israel”) on a baguette. I also sampled the shwarma plate.

Unless you find it difficult to negotiate the 50 or so steps down to the sunken plaza, Moshe’s is well worth the effort.

Howard Blas
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