New York–style Chinese food with Jewish roots: Man, we love America. Genghis Cohen, the long-standing American Chinese restaurant on Fairfax, is hosting a pop-up brunch Dec. 17 with buzzed-about San Francisco–based Wise Sons Jewish Deli. The result? A meal that’s seemingly incongruous, strangely comforting and decidedly hip. In a word, L.A.
The $40 prix fixe menu will feature schmaltz toast with chopped liver, Chinese chicken salad and pastrami fried rice. There will also be bialys and bagels, of course — all baked by Wise Sons, which has been receiving New York Times acclaim since its 2012 inception. And, because it wouldn’t really be an L.A. brunch if there wasn’t pepita pesto drizzled on something, cue delicate vegetable hash with poached eggs, finished with said pesto and za’atar.
You don’t have to be a Genghis Cohen regular to recognize its type: plush pleather booths, dim lighting, red accent walls. There’s a bit of Old Hollywood charm, along with self-conscious kitsch — a menu heading reads “Foo foo drinks from China.” The original owners were Jewish, hence the “Cohen”; it follows that Krispy Kanton Knishes are on the menu, although the more traditional New York–Chinese plump, blistered egg rolls steal the show.
Nostalgia reigns supreme here, a quality that Marc Rose and Med Abrous were determined to preserve when they took over ownership in 2015. It seems somehow fitting, then, that they’re collaborating with Wise Sons, which has garnered Bay Area attention for its traditional Jewish comfort food. Wise Sons co-owner and L.A. native Evan Bloom uses his grandparents' recipes, and the deli — with four locations and counting — makes its pastrami, pickles and cream cheese in-house.
Ari Bloom, Evan’s brother, who's also from L.A., contextualizes the event: “Our grandmother who’s 101 still lives [around the corner from Genghis Cohen], and we’ve known this restaurant since it opened, since the ’80s. It’s a homecoming. Very much so.”
Like any good story, this pop-up comes full circle on many levels. But if you can’t make it, don’t fret: There’s perhaps no better time to experience the Jewish Chinese tradition than on Christmas, and you better believe Genghis Cohen will be open then.
740 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; (323) 653-0640, genghiscohen.com.