28 Cheshvan5769
November 26, 2008

Gong (Japanese Food)
Located in Yerushalayim, 33 Jaffa Street (Beit Yoel), 02-625-0818
Open from 13:00-23:00
Under the supervision of Badatz Agudat Yisrael


Hello again,
It has been sometime since the last restaurant report. Please do not interpret the infrequency of reports with a lack of enthusiasm, but in all honesty, my duties as Israel Bureau Chief of Yeshiva World News (http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/) keep me quite occupied, compelling me to place these reports and JKN on a back burner since this endeavor is strictly voluntary.

I visited Gong on November 24, 2008, located in the heart of downtown Jerusalem, albeit somewhat hidden, around the corner from The Village Green. The follow the mess from the Jerusalem light rail construction and you will eventually get there.

Anyway, I met with the owner, Yishai Cooper, a non-Shomer Shabbos Jew who was an absolute delight. I mention that he is “not religious”, by his own definition, because it makes the fact that he is so concerned about kashrus that much more impressive. This is not just my impression, but the motion was seconded by the mashgiach, Rav Shimon, who prefers to remain without a last name in this report. Gong is under the supervision of Badatz Agudat Yisrael, Rav Binyamin Adler Shlita and Rav Fishbein.

Yishai told me that he is proud to be relied upon by chareidi Jews, and while he first only had Jerusalem Rabbinate supervision, not mehadrin, once he really understood the difference, he opted for Agudah because he wanted “a truly high standard”.

Rav Shimon and I toured the kitchen, and while it is cramped at best, one cannot help but noticing cleanliness is not ignored. When I entered, I found Rav Shimon inspecting a bill of lading, making certain goods that were delivered that morning matched the invoice and of course, that they are the proper items with the appropriate kosher certification.

By all accounts, Rav Shimon appears Yerushalmi, a chassidishe yid with prominent curly peyos (side locks) and of course, bearded and adorned in black garb.

He explained that all beef and poultry are under the supervision of Agudah. There are of course raw ingredients that are under the supervision of other agencies including Belz Machzikei Hadas, OU, Chatam Sofer Petach Tikvah and the Eida Chareidit. This might included canned fruit, chili sauce, flour, spices and much more. Rav Shimon added that items from the Far East and other areas are first taken to the Badatz Agudah laboratory and examined. Once they are approved, then they may be used, explaining they do not just accept any item with a hechsher from abroad, even a reliable one, but the raw ingredients must be locally approved.

Needless to say all flour is sifted and legumes/rice are inspected, one grain at a time, not just random spot checks. Greens are washed prior to use, and meat and fish are kept separate, despite crowded conditions. Separate racks and utensils are used for meat/poultry and fish. All fruits and vegetables shmitah l’chumra.

There is a story or two I wish to share, perhaps attesting to the diligence of the mashgiach and the integrity of the boss, Yishai Cooper that is. Do not let me forget, there is a mashgiach present all the time so obviously Rav Shimon does not live there. There is also Rav Elimelech, who I was not privileged to meet on this visit.

Anyway, Rav Shimon explained that even if a guest appears not to care, not an outwardly Mitzvah-observant Jew let’s say, wine is delivered to the table and opened only by the mashgiach on duty, no one else. In one case, a rather costly bottle of wine was ordered and Rav Shimon brought it to the table and opened it. A short time later, the waitress, a two-year veteran at Gong realized the wine was inadvertently deposited on the incorrect table, so she moved it to the table which ordered it, realizing the patrons were beginning to become a bit impatient.

When this was realized, Rav Shimon announced the wine may not be used and Yishai, who knew it was a rather costly bottle, immediately agreed and a second bottle was brought out. Rav Shimon told me this to highlight the enthusiasm in which Yishai operates and seeks to maintain a high level of kashrus. He said the first bottle was dumped and there was no anger, no snide remark, just business as usual with the realization that mistakes do happen.

Rav Shimon is at Gong for about a year, and explains that as is the case in the food business, from time-to-time there are questions, which he directs to Rav Shimon Kroizer, an Agudah inspector who oversees the mashgichim. He will usually give a response on the spot but there are times he will consult with others rabbis but such is the system and Yishai at least is more than eager to comply.

As we continued our discussion another rav appeared on the scene and it was none other than Rav Kroizer, who was more than happy to give me an expanded explanation on a number of issues I have been pondering regarding kashrus, not related to Gong specifically.

There is one non-Jew on the kitchen staff, who is responsible for egg rolls and sushi. All the remainder of the kitchen staff is Jews, simplifying matters somewhat. Rav Shimon points out that the Gong kitchen operation in particular, and the Agudah meats and poultry in general are compliant with the rulings of the Beit Yosef so Gong is more than acceptable for Sephardim who have additional stringencies regarding Bishul Akum.

Talking about egg rolls, challah is taken from the dough as required, and the remainder of the breads is purchased so no need to separate challah there.

Yishai asks that I inform readers that while it is not yet operational, he hopes in the near future to offer erev Shabbos fresh sushi for Shabbos take home. Call before you come to make sure it is up and running.

Anyway, if you decide to visit Gong just know the place is elegant, and despite the noisy disarray outside due to Jerusalem construction, the restaurant is anything but, offering a calm, relaxed chilled-out atmosphere. Rav Shimon urges clients to ask for him or Elimelech when they come if they have any questions whatsoever.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that before you are seated in any eatery, check the kashrus certificate to make certain it appears legitimate, that the date is valid, and that it is the same one you expect. No, photocopies are not acceptable. Any kosher certifying agency will only authorize that it is represented in the form of an original certificate, nothing less. In Jerusalem, stores seem to frequently change supervising agencies and a report of mine for example from a number of weeks or months ago may no longer be applicable since the restaurant may have changed supervising agencies.

I also stress in this forum that I am not a rabbi or a kashrus expert, just someone seeking to accurately document what he sees and relay it to you, the kosher consumer. Comments and feedback appreciated. Please write to jerusalemkn@gmail.com.

It never hurts to say hi to the mashgiach and ask a few questions to reassure yourself that you are getting the kashrus level you expect and deserve.

Yechiel Spira for Jerusalem Kosher News – be so kind as to encourage others to join this free forum to spread the word and enable visitors to Israel to maintain their kosher standard and not G-d forbid unknowingly find themselves in one of the growing number of establishments boasting unauthorized kashrut agencies, which do not live up to the wording on their certificates.


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