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Elite’s Fresh Update on ‘Kosher Gourmet Food’

Elite Cuisine of Hancock Park and West Los Angeles serves--are you ready-- Kosher gourmet food. It would take a couple hundred pages of Talmudic discussion to evaluate that phrase, so I’ll refrain.

While I didn’t find the ghost of Escoffier--or the guiding presence of Alice Waters--at Elite, neither did I find the sort of “gourmet” dishes I think of as “Haute de Cruise.”

What you get at Elite is simple food, made with eagle-eyed care (in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, dairy and meat products are not mixed and there is no shellfish or pork). The meals tend to be unadorned, made with far less oil than one generally finds, and very, very fresh.

Along with the familiar brisket, noodle pudding, stuffed cabbage, schnitzel and homemade gefilte fish garnered from Eastern European culture, Elite prepares Middle Eastern dishes, including several eggplant salads and chicken with apricots and oranges. After all, kosher cuisine appears in different guises throughout the world, reflecting the many places where Jews live.

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You might think of stuffed cabbage and noodle pudding as being the weight of a handsome doorstop, but Elite’s hand-rolled cabbage leaves filled with a juicy mixture of rice and ground beef are positively delicate. Both sweet noodle kugel (certainly no featherweight, festooned as it is with streusel and apricots) and pepperly potato kugel are also lighter than usual.

Salads are available by the plate ($3.50 for one, $5.50 for two, $7.50 for three) or by the pound, and prices are extremely modest compared with many upscale take-out venues. There is a particularly alert potato salad ($2.95 per pound) made with chunky, firm onions. Cucumber salad ($2.95) is well-modulated and smooth; black bean salad, while not exciting, has a nice clean taste. And garbanzo salad is the real thing, not canned.

The Israeli salad, a combination of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley, is lively. Hatzilim ($7.95 per pound), the Israeli version of baba ghannouj , tahini and crushed roasted eggplant, is light, frothy and fabulous. Eggplant salad is also wonderful in brazen, seriously garlic way.

I’d imagine that the snow pea and fresh corn salad ($7.95 per pound) is seasonal. It’s crunchy and super sweet and doused with a beguiling dressing. But the rice salad with peanuts was pedestrian. As for the chicken salad, well, the walnuts, raisins and green onions were without reproach, but the poor chicken had been zealously pulverized into a paste.

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In the serious protein department, tender beefy ribs are a good bet, cloaked in a chaste tomato sauce. If meat loaf grew on trees, I’d say Elite’s ($6.95 per pound), full of juicy sweet onions, tasted just picked. The baked salmon steaks, sturdy and $14.95 per pound, were overcooked. The chicken schnitzel ($9.50 per pound), a large boneless, skinless breast, comes lightly breaded, lightly fried and rather unadorned. Baked chicken with apricots and oranges had a generous homemade taste.

It all reminds me of an old ad campaign for Levy’s Rye Bread: You don’t have to know your brisket from your schnitzel , your milchig from your fleishig to recognize spankingly fresh food.

Elite Cuisine, 7119 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 930-1303. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Also at 9303 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 859-7633. Open Sunday 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. MasterCard and Visa accepted at both locations. Parking in front.


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