A new kosher establishment in Overbrook focuses on sushi and pan-Asian dishes.
Among the hottest topics for local kosher foodies this fall: raw fish. The reason for all of this finny business: Sushi Talk, a kosher pan-Asian affair that recently opened on 7588 Haverford Ave.
Owner Hao-ting Tai, who prefers to be called “Leo,” began working as a chef in 1997, but never envisioned himself serving kosher food for a living.
“That’s what I call fate,” Tai said. “I think it’s a pity that the Jewish community was limited to a few other Chinese places.”
Tai, a native of Voorhees, originally worked as a sushi vendor for Zagara’s Fresh Markets in Marlton for two years before joining his brother, Harrison Tai, in his catering business.
That same year, he connected with Greenwald Catering in Lakewood, N.J., one of the most well-known catering companies on the East Coast. Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, the executive director of the Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania, was an early booster.
In 2005, he opened his own business, Casual and Decent Food, Inc., which started out as a secular business. However, he soon realized there was a strong need for kosher sushi in the Philadelphia Jewish community.
Once his equipment was koshered, word spread about his food throughout Philadelphia, he told the Jewish Exponent. He catered to numerous shuls, including Lower Merion Synagogue and the Chabad of Penn Wynne in Wynnewood. “I think they like me because of my communication skills,” he noted.
After 15 years of providing food in Philadelphia, Rabbi Moshe Brennan, the director of the Chabad of Penn Wynne thought it was the perfect time for him to expand. Brennan told him about the Haverford Avenue location and Tai went for it.
“The rabbi and all my clientele are in this area,” Tai said. “I always enjoy working with them.”
While catering is his first love, having a kitchen was important, he said.
“If you want to do a food business, a facility is necessary,” Tai said. “It’s very tough to keep going to events without a kitchen.”
The restaurant, which is under supervision by the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia Keystone-K, not only offers sushi and a variety of Chinese standbys, but meat dishes as well.
Brennan, who has been one of his regular customers since 2001, was smiling from ear to ear as he spoke about the food at Sushi Talk. He stops by often and said he loves anything fried.
“It was kind of natural for him to migrate from just doing sushi events,” the rabbi said.
“Rabbi Brennan is my guinea pig,” Tai said. “He brings new meaning to ‘rabbinical supervision.’ ”
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