In this week’s installment of our series of visiting OU Kosher restaurants throughout the country operating under the stress of Covid-19, we speak to the owner of a restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The story behind the creation of the restaurant Burnt Offerings is one of serendipity. Two women hailing from two different continents meet at a birthday party that one catered and the other celebrated. Alexandra Emtsova, one of the partners told me, after meeting they combined talents to form a place where “old country meets Las Vegas. “
Burnt Offerings which is approaching its one-year anniversary, is the brainchild of entrepreneur Alexandra Emtsova and head chef Jennifer Eckman, two women bold enough to bring a European-American menu to the state of Nevada. They call it Yiddish cuisine and stand apart from the other local restaurants that only offer Mediterranean menus.
Alexandra hails from Russia. She comes from a family that owned luxury hotels. That experience provided her with an introduction to fine dining and luxury goods which she translated into a career in Las Vegas. There she worked with top chefs while demonstrating a talent for introducing quality wines at showpiece restaurants.
Jennifer comes from Los Angeles where her parents owned a catering business for 25 years. She grew up in that environment which led her to ultimately consult to create menus for kosher and non-kosher restaurants.
Alexandra recounted to me their story of meeting which had fortune and destiny written all over it. Jennifer was hired by Alexandra’s husband to throw a surprise birthday party for Alexandra. Alexandra’s husband asked Jennifer to create a menu that appealed to a range of palates.
Alexandra was so impressed with the menu that she made the effort to find out about the chef and organizer behind the event. After meeting Jennifer, they struck up a relationship and ultimately set out to create Burnt Offerings. Just as the menu at Alexandra’s party was representative of accommodating to all tastes so does their restaurant boast kosher and non-kosher visitors. She says that one of their mottos is, “The food is good, it happens to be kosher.”
It’s not hard to project interpretations of the name of the restaurant, “Burnt Offerings.” Alexandra confirms that it is firstly to remind one of the “meat” sacrifices on the altar. More importantly, however, it speaks to the menu, that has the word “burnt” attached to some of its dishes like the “burnt brisket”. She told me that “the burnt brisket is smoked in-house for 18 hours,” and because she has dishes such as the burnt brisket, burgers and schnitzel it’s a true smokehouse.
Alexandra brings her previous expertise in wine to the restaurant showcasing an impressive selection. When I asked her what her favorites were, she responded certain Herzog limited editions, as well as Cave and Mensch wine. She laughingly said, that “in the end the customers only want Bartenura anyway.”
Regarding Covid-19, Las Vegas is currently in Phase 2, so the restaurant is allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. They are very strict in adhering to all the other guidelines as well, namely, having all employees wear masks, providing guests with face masks if requested, table spacing of at least 6 feet, limiting tables to five, and encouraging advanced reservations.
What advice would she give to someone who wants to open a restaurant? She says, “create a budget and do market research.” When asked to sum up the restaurant business in one word, she said “challenging and ever-changing.” In ever-changing she explained that to succeed in this business, you always have to “be changing the menu while keeping it interesting.” Alexandra said that the most gratifying part of the business is, “when new customers come from all over the world and tell her that they were recommended to come to her from their friends and acquaintances.”