When Rock N Roll Sushi & Noodle Bar opens on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck in the coming weeks, it will be the culmination of nearly a year of planning, inspections, and brainstorming. It will also be another stop in the culinary journey of co-owner and chef David Pearlman, a resident of Bergenfield, NJ, and owner of Executive Caterers, a catering company that caters to parties large and small, brissim, bar and bat mitzvahs, and weddings.
Raised in Staten Island, Pearlman grew up around food; his father is the owner of Garden of Eat-In in Brooklyn, a restaurant that has been a mainstay on Avenue J in an era where new cafes open and close with seemingly regular precision. Also a very talented singer, Pearlman often worked for his father behind the counter during his stint as a singer for The Chevra, to the delight of several teenage fans, and where he first learned the ins and out of the restaurant business.
At the time, though, Pearlman planned to attend medical school, and he began pre-med studies at Yeshiva University. “My course load was so intense that I barely had any time to have a life, and when I did have the time, I didn’t have the energy,” recalled Pealrman. “I decided to switch out of YU and attend Brooklyn College, where I was able to have a more flexible schedule.” Pearlman attended a paramedic training course and was a member of Hatzalah, but he soon realized that his professional passion lay in the culinary arts.
He signed up for The International Culinary Center (formerly known as The French Culinary Institute) in Manhattan, where he specialized in baking and pastry and studied with renowned instructors like Ron Ben-Israel, the Israeli pastry chef who hosted The Food Network’s culinary competition Sweet Genius. “The value of the actual program, more so than learning about making great bread or other baked goods, was the discipline, respect and overall skill set I learned just by being there and learning and working with true professionals,” said Pearlman. “I learned how to be in a kitchen and picked up cooking techniques that don’t only apply to pastry-making.”
After he graduated in 2004, Pearlman began a string of jobs in kitchens, first in the non-kosher world, and then in the kosher world, such as RAM Caterers, Josh’s Place Catering and The Pasta Factory in Teaneck.
A chance conversation with the principal of The Frisch School, who was looking for someone to cater his school’s Shabbaton at Lake George on very short notice after an abrupt cancellation, led Pearlman to his first official independent catering job. Though he had about a week to pull it together, Pearlman executed a wonderful weekend’s worth of meals, to great acclaim from both the administration and students. Since then, he has become the go-to caterer for school Shabbatons for schools like SAR, TABC, Ramaz, and organizations like The Manhattan Jewish Experience. He was operating out of a small storehouse in Brooklyn, but the commute and narrow physical space of the storehouse limited him. Nearly three years ago, he took over a kitchen warehouse in Englewood, and officially founded Executive Caterers. The company quickly added bar and bat mitzvahs, synagogue dinners, brissim and weddings to its culinary repertoire.
Pearlman’s busy schedule and long days in the kitchen and at the events themselves, finishing last-minute details, took a toll on his eating habits, and last year, he committed himself to doing the Weight Watchers diet. He found himself eating a lot of sushi, which every Weight Watchers subscriber knows is low in points. “I was buying so much sushi that I realized I really couldn’t afford it anymore, and I began to think how great it would be to have a cheap and good sushi option in the area, which as of now, doesn’t really exist,” Pearlman explained. “There’s no reason why kosher sushi establishments can’t charge the same prices as many non-kosher ones. The base ingredients for kosher sushi versus non-kosher sushi are the same, and the few extra dollars a month that a kosher establishment incurs for its kashrut supervision doesn’t justify the 30-50% markup that exists in so many sushi restaurants.”
Along with his friend and co-entrepreneur Avram Zamist, he began to brainstorm about a service that would deliver quality sushi at a low cost to customers; an easy click-and-order online delivery service for area residents. But once he and Zamist found a hot property on Queen Anne Road, the two decided to set up an actual store, and though they are budgeting for a small space for seating, the primary idea is still for it to serve as a destination primarily meant for takeout.
“Finding the location was the easiest part of the whole process,” said Pearlman, who, despite his insider knowledge of the restaurant business, still did not anticipate the long laundry list of things needed to get done before the grand opening.
Pearlman and Zamist had visited Teaneck’s municipal building to ask for checklist of things to do to make sure the restaurant opened smoothly, and months later, they are still working furiously to make sure everything is in place for the grand opening this summer.
Pearlman summarized, “After making sure the location for our eatery was zoned in a space that allows for that type of business, we needed to submit our layout and design plans to an architect; secure a building inspector to make sure every code is up to date, like the fire code and the plumbing code; find licensed contractors for anything that needed improvement or updating; go through numerous visits and feedback from the health department and building inspector; obtain all the proper permits – and this is all before we turn to obtaining the hashgacha.”
Though the opening has been delayed several times already, Pearlman and Zamist are both confident that the coming weeks will finally introduce customers to a very innovative concept: excellent sushi that is also economically-priced.
“It’s a basic model: kosher sushi done well, inexpensively” said Pearlman. “This is a side business for us, and we’re not looking to it as the sole source of our income. Rather, we’re looking to really offer something to the community that they haven’t had before. Furthermore, we exist for our customers, and we hope to create an environment in which they feel welcome and appreciated, which they are. In turn, we hope that they will support us in this new venture.”
Anyone who’s had the privilege of eating a meal prepared by Pearlman (full disclosure: I have had the privilege several times) knows well the careful attention to detail, taste and aesthetics that Pearlman pays to every course he creates. Rock N Roll Sushi & Noodle Bar will no doubt be a welcome addition to Teaneck’s culinary selections.
By Tova Ross