A trip to PSY Street Kitchen in the San Fernando Valley may seem like traveling through another dimension of food. In this psychedelic zone, burger buns are black, bacon is beefy, salad comes hot, tahini overrides ketchup, and the rules are strictly kosher.
This mind-altering concept comes from Gal Ben Goya and chef Uzi Wizman, an enterprising couple influenced by their Israeli roots along with Wizman’s travels and studies of global cuisines. After Uzi landed in Los Angeles in 2015 and completed an internship alongside renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills, he ultimately sought to meld worldly flavors in ways that also captured the diverse diets and tastes of Los Angeles.
When Uzi and Gal first opened their restaurant in 2017, it went by the name PSYburger, reflecting the notable variety of burgers on the menu. However, the name couldn’t adequately convey the uniqueness of Uzi’s innovative burgers and other dishes, all designed to meet kosher dietary restrictions. Now with its renaming to PSY Street Kitchen, customers are more open to a creative food experience without setting their expectations on standard American burgers.
“Uzi makes things more modern, more his touch,” said Gal. “It’s a mix of a lot of things and different flavors from all over.”
Though the Classic Beef burger tops the menu list, its preparation takes it beyond its modest label. PSY’s beef burger meat is salted and soaked in a pickling process to meet kosher requirements, which also primes the beef for tasty drippings once grilled. The Classic is slathered with barbecue sauce and 1000 island dressing, along with a layer of PSY’s designated veggies: lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onions, and pickled cabbage.
To outfit your burger with some attitude, PSY Street Kitchen’s signature pretzel buns are sure to raise some eyebrows. From afar, these bulbous black and gold colored burger cushions might be mistaken for monstrous mega-sized mushrooms. To come up with this unique bun, Uzi sampled bread from 10 local bakeries before partnering with Dan Messinger at Bibi’s Bakery and Cafe, a kosher establishment in the Pico Robertson District. The duo created a hybrid bun that’s part pretzel and part challah bread, then finished it with a caramel coat that gives the bun its distinctive black veneer.
“Uzi’s favorite color is black. The whole restaurant is black. So, it was really exciting when we found this bun,” said Gal. For a more familiar look, sesame seed buns or whole wheat buns are also available for any burger. Or you can opt to go “protein style” with your burger of choice wrapped in lettuce or served on a plate with two side items.
Among the other beef options is the Kebab burger, which infuses the flavors of a kebab plate with pickled lemon, turkish salad, and raw tahini. The Sloppy Joe is PSY’s fusion take on the Middle Eastern pita sandwich, with the insides of the bun scooped out to form a pocket that encloses the saucy ground beef smothered in BBQ.
Additional varieties of meat burgers include Lamb, Grilled Chicken Breast, Spring Chicken (grilled marinated chicken thigh), and Schnitzel (batter-fried chicken breast). And the Miso Salmon Burger is a grilled ground salmon patty topped with aioli capers.
For vegetarians and vegans, the Falafel Burger and the Portobello Burger (grilled or batter fried) are go-to picks. And occasionally, a vegan version of the sloppy joe using several types of tofu is also available as a special.
You may notice on the menu that several burgers and other dishes share a particular ingredient in common. PSY Street Kitchen’s tahini spread, made from ground sesame seeds, finds its way into just about everything: burgers, salads, appetizers, and sides. PSY imports a raw tahini from Israel and adds nothing to it—no lemon, no salt.
“We use a special type of tahini that almost has the same texture as peanut butter,” said Gal. On the burgers, it’s a Middle Eastern answer to ketchup and mayo. When mixed with a sweet barbecue sauce, the flavor balance works like pairing peanut butter with jelly. This mix is featured on dishes such as the fried portobello appetizer Crunchy Shroom and the Portobello Burger.
Since kosher guidelines don’t allow serving meat with dairy, you won’t find a standard cheeseburger at PSY Street Kitchen. But an array of flavorful non-dairy topping options will keep your tastebuds suitably preoccupied. “We try to make the customer not miss dairy,” said Gal.
While vegan cheese is among the choices, more intriguing toppings include guacamole, kosher beef bacon, fried egg, and fried pickles, along with novel options such as truffle aioli, Turkish salad (made with stewed tomatoes and eggplant), and garlic confit, which is caramelized garlic cloves. “They’re like little garlic candies,” Gal described. “They’re amazing.”
If you’re feeling a bit less indulgent, PSY offers a few suggestions “when your heart says burger, but your jeans say salad,” as quoted in the folds of the printed menu. The Market Salad is the most popular option, with nine chopped vegetables tossed and stirred with tahini. The Hot Market Salad is a grilled version of mixed vegetables, topped with peanuts and mixed with a sweeter dressing over fresh greens.
On the starters menu, Roasted Cauliflower is the top seller, covered in garlic panko and served with tahini seasoned with lemon and paprika sauce. The BBQ Wings are coated with a sweet sauce that can be made spicy or mild. The Baked Potato is a whole potato sliced in half, grilled, and topped with truffle aioli and garlic confit. And then there’s the Eggplant Mess, where the chef takes a whole peeled eggplant, chars it on the grill, then mashes it together with several housemade sauces. Scooping spoonfuls of the eggplant mash onto the accompanying slices of bruschetta allows you to neatly deliver the tasty mess to your mouth. “It’s a fun dish if you like eggplant,” Gal said.
Though PSY Street Kitchen doesn’t offer a set dessert list, keep an eye on the specials for occasional temptations such as malabi brulee or hot fudge and ice cream cake, made from Uzi’s family recipe.
As the menu puts a groovy spin on kosher cuisine, the atmosphere inside PSY Street Kitchen evokes a similar sense of irreverence in its crowded strip mall location on Ventura Blvd. A large black and white wall mural depicts a giant burger and other ingredients floating against gravity in the funky, artistic style of skateboard culture and vinyl record shops.
On another wall, PSY’s massive, colorful burger logo is set against a chalky, dark brick pattern with its rainbow colors spilling out below the frame. The word “psychedelic” is also painted above the door, perhaps to prepare you for an offbeat dining experience.
For kosher customers who find it difficult to eat out, PSY Street Kitchen is a surprising and welcome change of pace from the everyday deli. But the appeal of Uzi’s unconventional menu has drawn equal attention from non-kosher diners. “I would say about 50 percent of our customers don’t care about kosher,” said Gal. “They just come here because the food is good, which is really fun for us.”
For restaurant hours and info, click the Foodzooka profiles below for the PSY Street Kitchen locations in Sherman Oaks and on the Westside. From there, you can also visit their website and follow them on social media.