NY Post reports on Kosher Combat at famed 1st date NYC Steak house Le Marais.
OY! IT'S KOSHER COMBAT
TOP EATERY 'SMEAR' RAP
By BILL SANDERSON
March 28, 2007 -- Everything is kosher at Manhattan's popular Le Marais steakhouse, its owners insist.
And they've filed a $10 million lawsuit to bar a former supervisor at the restaurant from saying otherwise.
A state judge yesterday ordered Isaac Bitton, a former mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, to stop posting to the Internet any statements about Le Marais or its employees - including the restaurant's head chef, Mark Hennessey, whom Bitton called "a Jew hater."
Bitton's son said last night that his father will not comply with the order. "We have enough tape recordings and documents to prove the story," said Yisrael Bitton.
A lawyer for Le Marais, Richard Klass, said Bitton's allegations have cut business at the French kosher Midtown eatery by 30 percent.
Le Marais is backed by the Orthodox Union, an international kosher certification organization that says it thoroughly investigated Bitton's charges and found "no evidence of intent" that the restaurant's chef sought to break kosher rules.
On a Web page, Bitton claims the Orthodox Union "up to the highest echelons" endorses "a cover-up of the facts to protect their business interests."
The OU responded, "Mr. Bitton developed amazing conspiratorial theories involving crime organizations to explain why people denied his allegations, and attributed dark and evil motives to sincere and honest individuals within the OU."
One of Bitton's allegations is that dairy margarine "was placed in a pot with other food" in the restaurant's kitchen several months ago. Kosher law forbids mixing dairy and meat.
But the OU said it was an honest error, and the food was not served.
Bitton also complains that Hennessey ordered non-kosher fish to be delivered to the restaurant during the Sabbath, when Le Marais was closed. But the fish company said the delivery was a mistake.
And, Bitton says, strawberries arrived in the kitchen without having been checked by Bitton or the eatery's other mashgiach. "When I later checked those strawberries I found several worms in them," Bitton said.
To make matters worse, says Bitton, Hennessey sometimes lit the restaurant's ovens. Under kosher law, that's a job for the restaurant's mashgiachs.
Bitton quit working at the restaurant three weeks ago.
"The fact that the chef and owners of the restaurant are not Jewish makes it an even more precarious situation," Klass said. "The people who eat there are relying on the mashgiach."