In His Prime

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:06

Kosher restaurant owner and butcher carries on family business

Financial District In 2000, 12-year-old Albert Allaham emigrated from his native Syria to New York City to live with his brother in Brooklyn, leaving not only his parents and remaining siblings behind, but his legacy as well.

For four generations, Allaham's family worked as butchers in Damascus. At the time Allaham came to the United States, his father operated one of the largest butcher shops in the country, selling to restaurant and hotel clients and operating a retail shop, which Allaham visited every day after school.

"He used to teach me how to cut that, how to clean this, how to pick the meat," Allaham said. "How do you know the quality is good from looking at it."

It wasn't long before he found his way back into the family business. At age 21, Allaham and his brother opened Prime Cut, a kosher butcher shop in Coney Island that sells chicken, lamb and prime beef, among other kosher foods, and now Allaham owns Reserve Cut, a high-end kosher steakhouse in the Financial District that opened in September.

Allaham, 27, who has four brothers and a younger sister, said that before he opened Reserve Cut, he tried for years to find a decent kosher steak in the city.

"We're five boys, my family, and we used to go out a lot," Allaham said. "We used to come back home and say, 'what a waste. How come you can't get a good steak when you go out? How come you can't get a good burger when you go out?' I always wondered. I kept hearing from other people and family, and we had just came [from Syria], and we kept hearing, 'Oh, there is no such thing as a good kosher steakhouse."

The 311-seat restaurant, located on the second floor of the Setai Wall Street building, deviates from the traditional thick, wooden tables and floor length linens; diners sit at glass-top tables inlaid with iridescent shells, as Michael Jackson, Pharrell and Daft Punk play over the din of the vast dining room, evidence of Allaham's desire to cater to a younger crowd not often found in steak joints.

Allaham said he wanted the quality of the meat, which is all USDA prime and sourced from his butcher shop, then hand cut and dry-aged in the in-house aging room for no less than 34 days, combined with the atmosphere of the dining room, to create an experience that kosher customers would want to bring non-kosher diners to. Since all the meat is sourced through Prime Cut directly from slaughterhouses, Reserve Cut has access to prime kosher meat, which Allaham said is in high demand and hard to come by.

"Before I even came to the United States, people had the image that kosher is not good," Allaham said. "Even in our butcher shop we had the same issue. 'How is it so good?'"