Photo Credit: Baruch Lytle

Rafaeli’s Palace
113-09 Queens Blvd
Forest Hills, NY 11375
[email protected]
Vaad Kashrut Mehadrin (VKM)



Having spent the last year traveling the country and experiencing regionally-influenced Jewish American cuisine, I was excited to finally be coming home to New York. Sure, I’d met some great people and enjoyed some good kosher regional food, such as deep-dish pizza in Chicago, fresh warm tortillas and authentic Mexican food down in the southwest. But in the end, I’m obligated to admit what every East Coast-loving Jew knows: there’s nothing like the culinary paradise that is the Big Apple, with hundreds of kosher restaurants representing every country in the world with a Jewish presence. It’s a city where only the best restaurants survive. New Yorkers should take a proud moment to appreciate just how good we have it. Needless to say, it’s great to be home.

Some of you might still remember one of my very first food reviews, Keep It Comin’, which highlighted the delicious meat-lovers paradise Mana Fusion Bar and Grill in Queens. At Mana, it was all about the meat; the tender, juicy and plentiful. When I heard Mana was no more, I thought, what about Chef Rafaeli? He’s the reason Mana was such a hot ticket. After all, great food doesn’t come from the tastefully decorated walls of a food establishment, but from the heart and soul of the chef. Thankfully, within hours of me settling back in my New York desk I got a call, “Please come join me for a meal at my new place Rafaeli’s Palace Glatt Kosher Restaurant (113-09 Queens Blvd)!”

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate Chef Rafaeli. He’s been cooking and tutoring foodies for years now on various social media platforms, with nearly 120k followers on Instagram, and nearly 150k on Facebook. Born in Uzbekistan, Chef Rafaeli learned under one of the top chefs in Israel, but always knew in his heart he was bound for New York City. At age 23, he set out to make his dream come true. After Mana closed, Chef Rafaeli saw the opportunity to bring his own creative vision to the customer for the first time. “When you come to Rafaeli’s, you’re not just coming for a meal, but to experience my passion, my creativity, and to enjoy fresh high-quality ingredients that are essential to making great food,” Chef said.

At my table, Chef bought out the standard fare Mize (four-style salad), and all of the initial table sides were fresh and made from scratch. “Everything you see here is homemade,” Rafaeli admitted, “the hummus, the tahini, the babaganush… we make everything homemade so the taste is absolutely amazing.”

I enjoyed a plov (traditional dish, with rice, carrots, meat and special seasoning), another standard fixture in middle eastern and food establishments, but not a given at Chef Rafaeli’s. Chef’s plov must be preordered (price varies based on size of table) – so making reservations to Chef’s is strongly encouraged. Question: why make such an anticipated item hard to get? The answer: unlike at other restaurants that defrost a plov that’s often made days in advance, Chef’s only serves his plov fresh. “It has to be preordered because it takes 2.5 to 3 hours to make; it’s a process that involves layers… first the meat is cooked, then the carrots, then the rice and all the juices seep down into the layers. When you eat the plov, the oil should be dripping from the rice.”

Okay, I’m convinced – everyone please order ahead. I enjoyed the Beef Lulya Kabob, so juicy and tender, with just enough spice and excellent topped with the side of onion. It reminded me of the incredible endless array of meats Chef Rafaeli used to serve to the tables at his previous kitchen. So glad to see that meat was still king at his new kitchen. Chef recommended a bottle of Herzog Variations Be-Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany and accentuate the flavors of the meat.

Next came Homemade Eggplant Ikra, the restaurant dish that inspired Rafaeli to pursue a dream of food, having experienced his own mother’s passion for cooking years earlier. “When you have a mother who was highly educated, but loved to cook every single day – it certainly affected me. I remember when I was nine years old, she used to call me to the kitchen and tell me to come help her so I can see how beautiful the food looked.” Chefs’ version of his mother’s Ikra is absolutely delicious – rustic, authentic and true to its regional nuances, but with something special. I picked up something uniquely fresh in every dish – a carrot in one dish, or a herb in another – sometimes I honestly couldn’t tell what the fresh-tasting item was that made a particular dish so special. And then I finally got it. Chef Rafaeli had managed to make fresh itself an actual ingredient in every one of his dishes.


Also recommended are the Prime Rib Eye (32 oz, served with grilled vegetable and a chimichurri sauce).

For dessert, try the Lokum Turkish Delight. Chef Rafaelis has full wine and liquor offerings.


Previous articleHaredi Father of Six from Brooklyn Serving in the War
Next articleHolier Than Thou Thinkest
Baruch Lytle is a Jewish Press staff writer.