Making pastrami is truly a labour of love, and piling it on fresh bread with the perfect amount of mustard can make for a truly delicious sandwich. Chef Nitzan Cohen has always had a dream to run a deli serving up this classic sandwich and more, and he’s on his way to making this dream come true in Vancouver.
The Israeli-born Cohen tells Daily Hive via telephone that after working in the kitchen at Vancouver’s Blackbird Public House and as Executive Chef at the catering company Cocktails & Canapes, he looked at the local food scene and realized the city was missing a true Jewish delicatessen. And so Mensch. Jewish Delicatessen was born.
“Nobody is making their pastrami from scratch, New York-style,” adds Cohen, who points out that what’s chiefly available in Vancouver is Montreal Smoked Meat, often shipped in from other cities. Pastrami, by nature, is known for its spices, thanks to the zingy rub on the beef.
Mensch’s pastrami, Cohen explains, goes through a long prep process: 8 hours of smoking, 10 days of brining, and four hours of steaming, all before its hand-sliced for customers.
“It’s a very, very slow process. But it’s worth waiting for,” adds Cohen.
Vancouverites first got a taste of Mensch’s hot pastrami and deli fare recently through a set of brunch pop-ups that sold out almost as soon as seats became available. Thrilled by the pop-ups’ success, Cohen set out to take the next step for Mensch. Jewish Delicatessen, which is to secure a location for an extended pop-up.
Taking over a vacated market/butcher shop at 666 East Broadway (at Fraser Street), Mensch will be running a summer lunch-only shop from July 18 to September 9, 2016. Open from 11 am to 3 pm, Mensch’s menu will include their signature hot pastrami and a Reuben on rye, beet-cured lox on a poppyseed bagel, and egg salad on challah bread, all with a housemade dill pickle, with sweet lokshen kugel for dessert.
The pop-up shop will be counter service only, with all items packed to-go (though if you can’t wait to nosh, you can perch at a bench inside the shop). Cohen says he will also have a delivery service set-up for those who can’t make it to the shop in person.
Cohen says the summer shop is getting him ready to land a permanent location in Vancouver for Mensch, where he can create a neighbourhood feel and offer an expanded menu of dishes dear to his heart.
“I always had my connection to these dishes, but I never had the chance to do it commercially,” Cohen explains. “When I was younger [and in Israel] I thought I would grow up, live in New York, and open my own deli. Life took me in a different direction…now I’m older, and I’ve decided I wanted to go back to that dream and make it happen.”
While Cohen makes Mensch a reality and searches for the right permanent Vancouver location, customers will want to check out the pop-up to experience a cuisine Vancouver doesn’t currently offer.
“I’m giving the city the deli we deserve,” says Cohen.
Mensch. Jewish Delicatessen summer shop
Address: 666 East Broadway, Vancouver