MAY 6 - 12, 2005
by BEN MARCUS
Original Z-boy Allen Sarlo suggested we go to Malibu Chicken after a
couple of hours surfing First Point. After surfing, your body is screaming
for fuel that is good and wholesome. By my memory, Malibu Chicken was kind
of a greasy call, but Sarlo insisted, saying cryptically, "It's kosher."
We got there and Malibu Chicken was gone. Instead, we were greeted by a
new sign, clean and well lighted, with "Malibu Beach Grill" hovering over
the slogan "It's All Good." Next to the copyright logo, the name "Glatt"
was a little too prominently displayed. Jeez, even the sign painters have
big egos in Malibu.
Inside, a woman in colored dreads handed us printed paper menus,
apologized for them, explained that the new proper menus were coming soon,
apologized for the one typo on those new menus that were coming soon, told
us the specials, and asked us how we were and what we wanted to eat ? all
in the same breath.
The veggie burger looked good, but when I asked for cheese, she apologized
and said they couldn't serve cheeseburgers.
We ordered, then Sarlo and I sat outside on a fine Malibu night, the heavy
metal thunder of PCH interfering with the sound of crashing waves and our
view across the bay to the lights of Palos Verdes.
"I told you, it's kosher," Sarlo said. "This place, the food, the kitchen.
Big-time kosher. No BLTs here. No lobster burritos. But kosher means good.
It means healthy. The gnarliest Orthodox rabbi on the planet could come in
here and eat whatever and not fear the wrath."
The woman in dreads was Joyce Brooks Bogartz. She was simpatico.
She was savlanut, and for the next two hours, as the moon rose over Carson,
she introduced me to this secret society of kosher.
Turned out the copyright icon was a logo for Central California Kosher, a
certifier from Fresno: "Glatt is the highest level of kosher," Joyce said.
"The rabbi puts his hand inside the animal's lung and feels the lining.
Glatt means smooth. Smooth is good."
By now it was clear the restaurant formerly known as Malibu Chicken was
under new management, and the manager was He Who Cannot Be Named.
Joyce explained that Chabad of Malibu owns the building, and the current
rabbi/landlord, Levi Cunin, had wanted to open a kosher restaurant of the
highest standards for some time. After a brief struggle, Malibu Chicken
was gone, and Joyce, her husband Gary and sister Jacqueline came in to
meet a Higher Standard: "We had to strip the kitchen and rebuild it,"
Joyce said. "When observant Jewish people eat bread they wash their hands
first, and we had to have a sink for that. When the Health Department saw
that hand-washing sink too close to a cleaning sink, we got a B. I was
mortified ? we fixed it, and now we have an A."
I asked who was tougher, the County of L.A. Health Department or the
Torah, and Joyce smiled quietly to herself: "I'll get back to you."
I sat outside under the heat lamp with a laptop (they have WiFi), Googling
the All Knowing Internet for kosher laws and watching a steady stream of
Malibu hipsters, goyim and gangstas come and go.
Some of the crowd looked Jewish, some didn't. There was a continuous flow
of garumphy men wearing yarmulkes and loose clothes. You look at some of
these shape-challenged chaps and wonder, "How does Israel survive?" But
then there were others: lean, sharp-dressed, aware, coiffed and
bad-ass-looking, like Mossad officers. And then you think, "Okay, I get
it." They rolled up, ordered their food, then peeled down PCH in their
German cars, with their fine-dime shiksizzles by their sides.
The Malibu Beach Grill is open 16 hours, from 7 in the morning until 11 at
night, and I stayed until the last customer had left. Joyce ran her legs
off, smiling and kibitzing the whole time, bringing endless nosh: chicken
wings, tofu chili and chocolate-covered strawberries. It was, as the sign
said, all good, because kosher is all about attention to detail: "I clean
the lettuce on a light table," Joyce said, and she wasn't shticking.
I stuck around until Joyce said good night with a chocolate-chip cookie
the size of a land mine. As she and her crew cleaned the place with God
watching, I joked that He Who Cannot Be Named ordered the Sabbath so the
Jewish people would not work themselves to death. The restaurant, in
accordance with the Torah, is closed Saturdays, a potential gold-mine day:
"We close before sunset on Friday and open again Sunday morning, but we do
cater on Saturday nights," Joyce said, and smiled an eternal smile. "God
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Posted by Editor at 6:58 PM