SARA SCHENIRER: A First-Class Option

Past Articles:
DELICIOUS DAIRY FINE DINING COMES TO DEAL

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras



Mavorah recently partnered with Ralph Hanan to fulfill their vision ofopening a kosher dairy fine dining restaurant near his home town. With the expertise of Isaac’s brother, Sammy Mavorah, a restaurant start-up specialist, Ralph and Isaac created Sage Fine Dining (“Sage”) in Oakhurst, New Jersey. Just in time for Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekend, Sage opened its doors on Thursday night, May 10th to a full house. The restaurant seats 90 people, including tables outside, and is open for early lunch and late dinner seating.

Sage is certified by the JSOR and is the only restaurant in the Deal, NJ area that is Mehadrin. It only serves Chalav Yisrael,
Pat Yisrael, and Yashan and uses only pre-checked Pos’tiv or Bodeklettuce in its salads.

Sage is the only eating place of its kind in the Deal area.
The Yelpreviews from opening night and the Instagram buzz were wonderful. Customers love the food, and Sage has only received positive feedback about all its dishes. As a matter of fact, many of the customers come over to Ralph and Isaac in shul and compliment them on the cuisine and the decor.

What Are You Going to Ekel?

Sage serves home-style, classic, and innovative dairy, vegetarian, and fish dishes. Its menu embraces a broad and appealing variety of sushi offerings. I got to devour the daily special and theawesome sushi sandwich which was specially crafted for Sage. Sage offers starters such as vegetable and Mac ‘N Cheese egg rolls, tacos, and zucchini chips; salads, including truffle quinoa, Greek, Caesar, and more. Soups, featuring soup of the day and twoothers (the vegetable soup was yummy!); four kinds of 9-inch personal pizzas; and other entrees including vegetable dishes, pasta, and eleven kinds of gourmet fish dishes such as pastrami spiced flounder and rosemary mustard bronzino.

There is also a widearray of side dishes, desserts, and, of course, a children’s menu.

This writer had the pleasure of eating at Sage on Memorial Day weekend. Everything my husband and I ate was super tasty and special (and that’s a quote from my husband who has a discerning palate). The restaurant’s soft instrumental music (violins) and refined decoration and style give it a warm, comfortable, yet elegant ambience. The music was chosen to drown out noise and provide that soothing environment. Sage’s soft color scheme and design sends out positive vibes and jive with its name. I enjoyed the melodies and lovely potted plants, herbs hung on the walls, sage-colored napkins, and noted sage-themed dishes such as sage gnocchi.

Coming soon is a hand-crafted, homemade Sage butter that Ralph Hannon, the head chef, created.

I observed that the guests included teenagers, young adults, couples, and families with parents, young children, and grandparents who all appeared to be enjoying the fine fare, atmosphere, service, and just having fun.

The staff, including the hostess and servers, was very friendly and checked in with us regarding the arrival of our orders and did we need anything else. The restaurant is also very spacious and is sparkling clean.

Why Sage?

Mavorah, Hanan, and their families voted on the name and had many reasons for agreeing on Sage. Firstly, sage is a homonym with multiple meanings including herb, plant, a wise person, and a color. The plan was for a fine dairy and fish restaurant with lotsof salads and vegetarian dishes. Mavorah explained that he liked the idea of a one-word name and that he and his partner wanted their guests and families to feel welcome and relaxed, and enjoy a kosher fine dining experience and fantastic food.

Ralph Hanan is not only Mavorah’s business partner, but he is also Sage’s chief chef, an experienced caterer, and a good friend. He also devotes his time to many hesedactivities such as Hatzalah, Chaverim, and more.

If You Build It,
They Will Come

Mavorah, a successful entrepreneur, imagined owning a restaurant: “I think it’s every entrepreneur’s dream to open a restaurant and sit down to a fine meal at their own table.” Specifically, his dream was to open a high-quality kosher dairy restaurant in the Deal area for several reasons. Mavorah lives there, and this type of restaurant did not exist at the time. When the opportunity arose to purchase Tutto Bene (a dairy restaurant that closed a year ago) from
Mr. Sammy Saka, Mavorah did not hesitate. Mr. Saka was eager to pass the baton to Isaac and Ralph so that they could carry on and fulfill his desire to provide kosher dairy fine dining in Deal.
In their hearts, Mavorah and Hanan consider Saka their partner.

Isaac is a spiritual man and believes that it was hashgahat pratitthat enabled him to launch Sage. Three key events occurred within a few months, allowing the necessary pieces to fall into place. First, he heard that Mr. Saka was selling Tutto Bene. Isaac and Ralph met with Mr. Saka one afternoon on erev Shabbat and within an hour, they shook hands and Mr. Saka handed them the keys to the restaurant.

Second, Isaac’s brother, Sammy Mavorah, a restaurant start-up and managerial expert and former owner of several fine dining establishments in the U.S. and Israel, came in from Peru (where his business was located) to attend his niece, Molly Mavorah’s wedding. Sam agreed to stay and help Isaac and Ralph turn their dream into a reality. From soup to nuts (no pun intended), Sam got involved with refurbishing, designing the menu, hiring staff, and much more. He connected the dots, obtained the required licenses, and put the needed operational systems in place.

Third, around a month after the initial meeting, Lee Zakaria, executive director of Deal Sephardic Network (DSN), approached Ralph about opening a dairy restaurant at DSN (there had been a pizza place previously at DSN). Ralph, Isaac, and Sammy Mavorah met with Lee, David Botton, and Sammy Sitt, and agreed that the Sage team would open a Sage Express at DSN. Sage Express will primarily be grab ‘n go – people can stop by on the way to the beach just one block away. There will also be seating for 30 customers who choose to stay at Sage Express to dine. The menu will include salads, sushi, paninis, French fries, smoothies, drinks, and ice cream.

 Mr. Mavorah, a people person and an advocate of the best customer hospitality, shows up in a suit and tie, and on busy nights he walks from table to table, greeting his guests and asking about their meals and the service. He wants honest feedback and has already implemented some of the suggestions. Isaac says,
“I get a good feeling when I see my guests enjoying themselves… that’s what it’s all about for me.”

It turns out that young couples who live in Lakewood (20 or so miles away) also enjoy getting out and traveling to the Deal area for the fine dining experience at Sage.

 It’s heartwarming to hear Isaac talk about the “all hands-on deck” and family approach to making Sage a success. His daughter Molly is a photographer, and isin charge of graphics and advertising. Her husband Joe dons a chef’s coat and beautifully takes on the role of kitchen expeditor on days when the restaurant experiences very high volume, e.g. Mother’s Day. This is a crucial role as busy restaurants have a“Wheelman” or “Expeditor” to call tickets and organize plates in the kitchen, ensuring the orders are matched up correctly. Isaac’s younger children, Ness, Maya and Leeny, and his nephew Abe Mavorah, were also there on Mother’s Day, answering phones, serving as hosts, and even bussing tables.

Mavorah shared that the positive buzz about Sagehas spread like wildfire. Both his and his partner Ralph’s children’s classmates have also passed on the good word.

Isaac’s Approach to Success

Isaac believes that three components are vital for a restaurant’s success: 1) a solid investor, 2) an outstanding chef, and 3) a strong manager to pull it all together. The quality and quantity of the employees are also essential – without staff, you won’t have good food, good service, or customers.

Stay tuned for Sage Express which opens at DSN in late June.

Be sure to check out Sage’s website, https://sagefinedining.com/and follow it on Instagram @sagefinedining.