What happens when a chef does something artistically outrageous and his customers fail to notice?
That one of the conundrums faced by Yair Yosefi of Tel Aviv’s popular Brut Wine Bar, who’s scheduled for a two-night residency at Butcher & Bee in September. Like many of his Israeli peers, Yosefi is resolutely irreligious, a status he’s able to convey at his restaurant by serving roast lamb bellies with yogurt vinaigrette. “It is extremely nonkosher, which makes it fun,” he says.
But for American eaters, it may not immediately register that Yosefi is violating the fundamental Jewish culinary taboo against serving a baby animal in its mother’s milk. So Yosefi plans to do what he did during a weeklong pop-up in Japan and “just give a small sentence beneath every dish on the menu to explain the history and culture behind the ideas.”
Still, Yosefi suspects that even if their details require translation, his dishes will be understood by another population that confronts a complicated history and fraught politics on a daily basis.
“Terroir is not only land and culture: It’s also people,” he says. “I think what caught (Butcher & Bee owner) Michael (Shemtov)’s eye when he came into Brut was that we Israelis are a bit like Southerners: We’re happy eating and drinking. It’s not always easy, maybe life in New York or L.A. is more posh, but we do it in a happier manner.”
Shemtov suggested Yosefi’s crew prepare for its first trip to the American South by watching various documentaries starring Sean Brock; until Yosefi learned the chef had recently sworn off alcohol, he was scheming to share a bottle of bourbon with him.
“We play a lot with moonshine, and always drink lots of bourbon, so to drink some Pappy is a dream for us,” Yosefi says. “I would love to go into a competition of bourbon drinking with any Southerner: We try to party as much as we can.”
According to Yosefi, only big brand bourbon reaches Israel. By the same token, very little of the country’s wine made by small producers is exported, although Shemtov says the restaurant will celebrate Yosefi’s residency with a selection of small-batch Israeli wines currently unavailable in Charleston.
Yosefi has not yet hammered out his a la carte or tasting menus but is thinking about oysters, tartare and chickpeas.
“We want people to discover a bit of modern Israeli cuisine with lots of ingredients from the South,” he says. “Everybody should come: It will be lots of fun. And if everybody has questions, they should pop into the kitchen.”
Butcher & Bee is hosting Yosefi from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 21 and 22. The first night coincides with the second night of Rosh Hashanah, but Shemtov reiterates “this will not be a traditional holiday dinner.”
Additionally, “the tasting menu can be booked in advance, but doesn’t have to be.”
For more information, visit butcherandbee.com or call 843-619-0202.