May 20, 2015
By Johanna Ginsberg
NJJN Staff Writer
‘We are here to serve,’ says Azerbaijani-born owner of Avalon Glatt
Avalon Glatt, a family-style kosher restaurant in Livingston under the Vaad Harabonim of MetroWest, opened May 18.
Photos by Johanna Ginsberg
Chaim Melik Shalmiyev, the owner, is not a newcomer to the restaurant business, although this marks his first restaurant in the United States. Previously, the Azerbaijan native owned two restaurants in Moscow.
The restaurant is awaiting final approval of its signage, and the sign from the previous tenant, a Thai restaurant, remains.
Avalon Glatt, a kosher restaurant in Livingston, opened its doors on May 18 and customers streamed in. Big enough to hold 30 people, it is decorated in earthy cream, brown, and deep red tones.
Chedva Hubsher and her daughter Noa, from Livingston, were the first to be seated. “I’m happy to have a kosher restaurant in town,” said Chedva, who called the menu “refreshing” and “varied.”
There was a bit of hubbub near the kitchen and at the register as owners Yana and Chaim Malik Shalmiyev were answering last-minute questions from the wait staff and stuffing freshly printed menus into plastic sleeves. Their son, Savi, who serves as both kosher supervisor and cashier, began taking the first takeout orders.
Chaim sat down with NJJN to discuss his new venture, which is under the supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of MetroWest.
“We try to create kind of comfort, family-style restaurant,” he said, his Russian accent thick. Sensitive to the high cost of being Jewish, he said, he wanted to provide an affordable restaurant option. “A lot of Jewish family is big. If you go five or six people in a restaurant and spend $300, that’s very expensive. We decided to give chance for many people for outside eating because people need it. Kids want to try. That’s why we created a kids’ menu. We have something for grandma, something for children, and something for the granddaughter. Everything for everybody.”
The menu skews Italian — the recipes were created by chef Gino Didonato — but offers a varied selection that includes everything from salads and sandwiches (at lunchtime) to steakhouse-type specials. The dinner menu features appetizers ($7-$9, including Italian “egg roll,” stuffed mushrooms, chicken wings, stuffed cabbage, and eggplant rollatini); soups ($6-$7); pasta (lasagna and meat ravioli for $16-$17); and burgers ($10-$18 depending on size and toppings). Entrees include chicken, beef, lamb, veal, and fish, with prices ranging from $14 for beef stew up to $35 for rack of lamb.
Chaim was born and raised in Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku. He made his way to Moscow University where he studied engineering and trained as a history teacher, but followed his family into business and owned two restaurants in Moscow before immigrating to the United States with his wife and two sons in 1997. (A third, who is about to become a bar mitzva, was born here.) While he has had a variety of jobs since arriving, from driving a limo to working as an EMT and medical technician, it was the high cost of tuition, he said, that drove him back to the restaurant business.
“You can say I’m like a returning son,” he said.
The name “Avalon,” he said, was easy to remember and easy to spell, and appealed to both the history teacher and the Jew in him. “Original meaning of Avalon is ‘apple in paradise.’ There are different mythologies,” he said, but he chose his favorite: “It’s Adam and Eve and the apple in paradise!”
Earnest in his attempt to provide what he thinks the local community wants, he’s not afraid to acknowledge that he will make mistakes. “We want people to know we are here to serve people,” he said. “The best thing, in my vision, is that people communicate with me.”
He laughed when he recalled that the first incarnation of the restaurant website — created by someone not familiar with the basic tenets of kashrut — included a picture of a lobster. “Then I got a call. There are lobsters on the website!”
Chaim is content with his “soft” opening and said he is rolling out slowly — and that’s okay. Asked how long he thought it would take to turn a profit, he answered with a smile and a shrug, “It’s everything in the hand of Hashem. I don’t think about anything. When He decide to give, He gives.”
Published in: Greater MetroWest News