In a country where baba ghanoush, a Middle-Eastern favorite made of eggplant and mayonnaise or tahini is hard to come by, Chabad of Tokyo is luring Jewish patrons into its new restaurant with the taste of familiar cuisine from back home. Chana’s Place is the first kosher restaurant in Tokyo.
“For the most part the only place members of the Jewish community have eaten kosher food is at our home,” says the rabbi. “We host guests for Shabbat and the holiday meals, but we wanted to give locals a chance to take part in those meals at their chosen time.”
The small restaurant is inviting, and while reservations are required, it is seeing a fair amount of traffic. Its French chef has found a way to obtain hard-to-find ingredients, offering an eclectic menu of Japanese, Israeli and American cuisine.
Rabbi Mendi and Chana Sudakevich moved to Japan in 2000, building a Jewish community from soup to nuts. Using their kitchen, they filled takeout orders, making kosher available for the first time to Jewish locals and travelers there.
The restaurant now raises interest and awareness of kosher consumption. With the devaluation of the Yen by 40%, says Rabbi Sudakevich, Tokyo is seeing an influx of tourism, with many Jewish visitors. Chana’s Place offers them a kosher option: “We are giving them a chance to keep kosher while on vacation or business trips,” says the rabbi.