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July 7, 2022
Our group, with David Olusoga and Chef Eros in the center.

I’m not a foodie. My wife is, but finding restaurant experiences we can both truly enjoy is not the easiest thing. I’m pretty straight forward when it comes time to eat: If it tastes good, I’ll order it again next time, and I’m rarely going to order the new, adventurous foods. If pizza, pasta, hot dogs or sandwiches are on the menu, you can safely assume I will order one of them. My wife Adi, on the other hand, connects with food in a way I’ll never fully understand. She wants to try everything new, she lights up at the thought of a Michelin star restaurant, and if food she expects to be great is merely good, I can sense her disappointment. Most of our food-based differences can be chalked up to personality; you’re either a foodie or you’re not.

However, there is one other major variable in this equation: I have always followed the Jewish laws of a kosher diet, but she does not. This is nothing new, and is one of the many issues we discussed ad nauseum when we were dating; I’m a Modern Orthodox Jew, and while she does care about the holidays and traditions, she does not “keep” kosher. I have no interest in changing the religious levels of others, and was not going to date someone on the condition they would become more like myself. We came to common ground about what our house would be (kosher, so anyone could eat there without issue, including myself), and how our children would be raised (also kosher, but neither hiding the decisions of their mother, nor casting judgment upon those choices). While our house is thus a kosher safe haven for me, it’s when we go out that Adi can really get her foodie on.

Adi getting her foodie on

When we’ve traveled to China and Thailand, my kosher and American tongue was both revolted and fascinated watching her and other friends eating everything from tarantulas and scorpions to beetles and bees; whether local street food or delicacies, they were not things I could ingest with a ten-foot pole. But what always made me jealous were the experiences I could see that she and my friends were having. It was not just the tastes of the food, it was the other cultures you’d be sharing with, in a way I could not fully know. There would be nights they would visit a fancy, famous restaurant, and I would stay in the hotel and hear the stories after. And other nights I would join my wife and friends, and watch them taste foods I could never try, while bothering the waiter with endless questions to see what I could safely order. In either scenario, I was an outsider to the foodie experience. An important caveat I must clarify: Within my kosher diet I do allow myself to enjoy vegan or vegetarian food depending on where I am, so it’s not as if I’m eating canned tuna out of my suitcase on these trips, as many “stricter” kosher folks will do.

In May of 2019, we went on an incredible trip to South Africa. There were 18 of us, and it was such a great experience that three years later we still have a “South Africa” WhatsApp group that we message each other on quite often. One of my friends sent a message a few months ago about a new African dinner club experience, and perhaps we should have a mini-reunion and try the food. What happened next was a delightful, memorable, true foodie experience, and I was able to be a part of it!

Ilé means “home” in the Nigerian language Yoruba. And it’s taken literally, in Chef Tolu “Eros” Erogbogbo’s sake. Introducing himself as Chef Eros, Ilé is not merely a restaurant, it is a dining experience built into his home. Eating there does not mean ordering food from a menu, it means Chef Eros’s excellent staff will bring everyone their beautifully-plated courses, and you get the pleasure of him introducing each dish to the room before you take a bite. The food is a combination of spices and tastes that remind him of his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria. He brings ingredients over in his suitcase, and his flavors transport you to places introduced by his storytelling. The bread and fresh butter was one of the best breads I’ve ever tasted, and the Pepper Soup made Adi’s eyes roll to the back of her head. She was in total bliss. These courses are small, like tastings, but by the end of the night none of us left hungry. There were eight of us friends enjoying our reunion, among us five had no restrictions, and three of us had combinations of vegan and vegetarian food.

With Chef Eros

It’s currently BYOB, but both water and a lovely hibiscus drink were flowing merrily, and the atmosphere is truly fun and fascinating. In the few months since this has begun, he has enjoyed the company of celebrities and people flying in for the experience. It is in Hollywood, parking is free and easy to find on the street, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and there are different ways to try it.

One of the most amazing things is how easily Chef Eros and his wonderful business partner David Olusoga are able to adapt to the needs of others. They have already had a night for an entirely kosher crowd, describing to me how a mashgiach came to prepare the kitchen and ensure everything would be done appropriately. They told me how happy they would be to create more meals for strictly kosher crowds, and I can see how happy it makes them bringing a bit of their home to our palettes. David visited us often throughout the meal, discussing how these two met and how much they believe in bringing authentic Nigerian food, in this beautiful way, to Los Angeles. I’m so very glad and grateful to have this shared dining experience with my foodie wife.

Feel free to visit their website here, as well as reading this wonderful article written in Eater Los Angeles, with photographs here.

 


Boaz Hepner works as a Registered Nurse in Saint John’s Health Center, and teaches COVID vaccine education throughout the hospital, and to the community at large. He grew up in LA in Pico/Robertson and lives here with his wife and daughter. He helped clean up the area by adding the dozens of trash cans that can still be seen from Roxbury to La Cienega. He can be found with his family enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.

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