Location: 370 Montgomery Ave., Merion Station
Contact: (610) 664-4919, citronandrose.com.
Cuisine: Glatt kosher.
Cost: Appetizers $9-$12, entrées $14-$28, desserts $9.
Attire: Business casual.
Atmosphere: Smart and refined.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 5:30-10 p.m.
Extras: Al fresco tables in-season; off-premises catering available.
Chef Michael Solomonov is always up for the unexpected. He opened Zahav in Old City a few years ago, bringing fresh Israeli flavors to unsuspecting diners. It took some time, but the risk he assumed has since landed him on “best of” lists locally and nationally, while earning him a coveted James Beard Foundation Award.
So it’s not a shock that Solomonov’s new Main Line venture with owner David Magerman pushes the envelope even further. “We grew up in kosher households, so this is dear to our heart,” he says of the glatt-kosher Citron and Rose in Merion Station. “We wanted to do something new and exciting and stimulating.”
What to many may seem like an untraditional approach to building a menu is actually as traditional as it comes, relying on centuries-old Jewish beliefs and techniques. Following kashrut, the dishes are made of certified glatt-kosher meats, and there is no pork, no shellfish and no dairy.
That may seem like a lot of “nos” for your average diner, but the one thing you won’t find during a meal here is a lack of flavor. “Don’t worry, we are a restaurant first,” says Solomonov.
The space is bright and modern, shedding all preconceived notions of a Sunday supper at Bubbe’s. Blond wood tables and darkly stained floors accent crisp whites and tranquil, watery blues on the walls. Linen-covered seating lines the dining room, which opens into a space that can be used as a private room for up to 15. Glass windows connect the dining room to the marble-topped bar and chef’s table, which spills into the open-concept kitchen.
The bar is a great spot to grab dinner on a busy evening, or even to commence a big night with a few cocktails. The kosher drink list features upgraded twists on classic blends—like the Reb Roy (a Rob Roy with a dash of Manischewitz) and the Cosmonaut, in which the conventional cosmo gets an earthy enhancement thanks to beet-juice syrup instead of cranberry. We couldn’t get enough of the Tea & Sympathy, a warming highball of bourbon, honey, lemon and black tea. Kosher wines and craft beers are also available.
Meals begin with a basket of bread. Since butter isn’t kosher, Solomonov and chef de cuisine Yehuda Sichel went with the next best option: schmaltz. Studded with garlic and red onion, it spreads onto the crispy rye rolls like velvet, providing so much flavor that you’ll likely forget to contemplate the caloric content.
If you didn’t grow up in a Jewish kitchen, you may need to consult the staff—or your smartphone—to discern parts of the menu. The tasty results, however, are easy to relate to.
The hearty mixture in our mushroom knish was made with kasha (a traditional grain) sweetened by carrots and dried fruit. The Citron Salad packed some serious heft, with beets, hazelnuts and a cool, creamy dill dressing. Coriander and fennel perked up a beef tartare (paired with two bone-marrow croquettes you’ll wish there were more of.)
Our veal roulade had more fat than we preferred. But its accompanying celery-root-and-apple kugel balanced sweet and savory with ease. The roast chicken’s paprika-infused honey glaze provided a nice counterpoint to the fat-braised potatoes it arrived on. A downright hearty forkful, the vegetarian galuska (mini dumplings) were tossed with chestnuts and root veggies.
As for desserts, the chocolate babka (yes, of Seinfeld fame) resembled a small cinnamon bun, with chocolate ribboning through to the center. Our super-moist honey cake was accented with a luscious apple sorbet, and the chocolate mousse’s crowning glory was a topping of just-sour-enough cherries.
But the sweet finish that’s already getting a rep is the challah French-toast pudding—creamy little sticks of custard topped with praline pecans and dairy-free coffee ice cream (it’s soy milk).
The Skinny: Citron and Rose is a dream come true for Orthodox Jews. Some are even driving from Brooklyn, N.Y., for a weekly Sunday supper. Still, the food is approachable and well crafted enough to satisfy just about anyone—and that bodes well for this spot’s future.
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