The Hyatt's Glatt Kosher Kitchen

The new Glatt Kosher Kitchen at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Town Lake stands as the latest advancement in Austin kosher cuisine. The label "glatt" means that this kitchen meets the strictest requirements of kosher cooking, under the supervision of a local Rabbi, Rabbi Levertov. The Hyatt converted its old Foothills dining space into a rather elegant kosher dining room, complete with its own dishes, glasses, flatware, napkins, and corkscrews. In-house and off-site catering services are available, with at least two working days notice. While there do exist a few other caterers who rent a synagogue's facility or use their customers' own kitchens for kosher cooking, the Hyatt presents the only exclusive kosher catering operation in town.

I wondered about the constraints the Hyatt's chef experiences when managing this kosher kitchen. My own thoughts concerned the frequent substitution of margarine (a non-dairy) for butter and the necessary duplication of kitchen tools for preparing meat and dairy items separately. The catering director mentioned no impassable limitation, assuring me of the highest quality food. I had the opportunity to sample some of the Hyatt's fare at their grand opening dinner this past summer. There, I remained committed to high standards of taste, while satisfying my curiosities about kosher service.

Salmon, chicken, and vegetarian dishes nicely balance the Hyatt's complete kosher menu. For the grand opening, they first served an appetizer of wilted greens packaged in fillo and garnished with a red pepper and corn salsa. These bite-size, basket-shaped starters were quite delicate, with fresh flavors compensating for any insubstantiality. Additional courses prepared with fillo dough, however, exhausted this idea. Also disappointing, the main course of seared salmon with cracked pepper lacked flavor and moistness. Pepper dust barely garnished the fish, contributing little to its flavor. The side vegetables, while appetizing in presentation, were closer to raw than one would expect from their freshly steamed surfaces. It seems even a specialized kitchen as this can suffer from mass-production mediocrity, resulting from rushed kitchen operations.

I'd attribute most of the celebration's inadequacies, however, to enormous preview pressure, and remain supportive of the Hyatt's efforts to produce consistently high-quality kosher service while it matures. Of course, we should all applaud the Hyatt for its renovations, reaching out to serve a growing community that has gone so long with few dining options.

No doubt, the Hyatt's menu and service warrant a second appraisal. But with only catered events as dining options, as they have been 'til now, this was difficult to do. Now, the Hyatt is offering the first in what it hopes is a series of Family Kosher Restaurant Nights. On December 12, 6-9pm, the kosher kitchen opens to serve the general public a kosher buffet in its new dining room (call 480-2002, for reservations.) -- R.W.

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