Tag Archives: Russ & Daughters

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

RUSS & DAUGHTERS, 179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street), Lower East Side

I’m a pretty terrible Jew. While I was raised conservatively, Bar Mitzvah’ed, and all that, I have strayed from my roots. I’ve become oblivious to even the major holidays. Today is the first day of Rosh Hashanna and I completely forgot. In fact, I was supposed to go eat some BBQ pork ribs with some friends while my fellow chosen people are home, praying, and hopefully keeping kosher. I’m terrible!

I did stop into Russ & Daughters, that emporioum of Jewish smoked fish and dairy the other day for a snack and I saw they had rolled out their gefilte fish. They only bring this out twice a year – so I realized a big Jewish holiday must be approaching.

Gefilte Fish at RUSS & DAUGHTERS

Gefilte fish is the subject of many nightmares of young Jewish kids forced to eat that gelatinous fish mound at the holiday table. Honestly I never minded the stuff that much. But I knew it had to get better than those store-bought science experiments.

Salmon and Whitefish Gefilte Fish at RUSS & DAUGHTERS

Russ & Daughters makes both a traditional gefilte fish (from pike, whitefish, and carp) and a much more mild, fancier version with salmon and whitefish. The latter tastes like actual meat from the sea with enough dill and pepper to elevate this to restaurant quality food. It wouldn’t be surprising if this was an appetizer at a fancy French restaurant that called it “fish paté”.

If the gefilte fish my parents brought to the table was this tasty, I might not have turned into such a bad Jew.

RUSS & DAUGHTERS
179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street)
Lower East Side
(212) 475-4880
russanddaughters.com

I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order. 

20. PICADITAS DE JAIBA at HECHO EN DUMBO

Hecho en Dumbo has nothing to do with a lovable little elephant, but in fact refers to the neighborhood where this Mexican gastropub was first created. They’ve since moved to the East Village, but their philosophy of refined, seasonal Mexican food in a drink-happy setting remains. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had a pretty memorable meal.

We started with these picaditas de jaiba, which are little corncakes of flavor. On top of the firm buttery patties, sits a delicious salad of fresh jumbo lump Dungeness crab meat tossed with a gently biting jalapeño oil and topped with ripe avocados. A squeeze of lime brings out the brightness and lightness. These small bites are too easy to gobble up regardless of the neighborhood. Price: $8

HECHO EN DUMBO
354 Bowery (between 3rd Street and Great Jones Street)
East Village
(212) 937-4245
hechoendumbo.com

19. PASTRAMI RUSS at RUSS & DAUGHTERS

You know I’m a big fan of the pastrami sandwich. I’ve spent months searching for the best version of the deli staple. That meaty, smoky goodness is a heart attack that’s more than worth it. But wait a minute, a pastrami sandwich minus the meat? Why would anybody do that?

If you’ve ever been to Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, you’ll understand. This is a classy old-time shop that specializes not in smoked meat, but rather smoked fish. If you want the hard stuff, you’ll have to go next door to Katz’s. But they make a pastrami sandwich here that rivals the classic version. You get to pick your bagel of choice for the Pastrami Russ, but trust me when I say you need to order it on pumpernickel. Not only will you get the approval of all the guys behind the counter, but these are the flavor combinations that make the most sense. With a generous schmear of mustard, crisp sauerkraut, and the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever taste, you won’t miss the actual meat for a minute. And you may live a little longer. Price: $10.45

RUSS & DAUGHTERS
179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street)
Lower East Side
(212) 475-4880
russanddaughters.com

18. CHIMBORI JALWA at TAMARIND TRIBECA

Crab cakes tend to be the same everywhere you go. Aside from the bread crumb to crab meat ratio, most versions are pan fried, served with citrus and an aioli of sorts. The chimbori jalwa appetizer at fancy Indian restaurant Tamarind Tribeca was unlike any crab cake experience I’ve had before.

The colorful tower of meat was loaded with plenty of sweet lump crab meat and tinged with some Indian spices, ginger, and garlic. It had a restrained hint of curry with lots of balanced sweet (tamarind) and spicy (chile) flavors. Served on a bright spiced tomato sauce with scattered scallions and corn kernels, it was complex and delicious. And made for my new favorite crab cake in the city (just beating out Del Frisco’s baked version from last year’s list). Price: $15

TAMARIND TRIBECA
99 Hudson Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street)
Tribeca
(212) 775-9000
tamarinde22.com

17. PIKE QUENELLES at MILLESIME

Millesime really is a little gem: a hidden, French brasserie that can work as a relaxing cafe or a fine dining seafood restaurant. It’s located above the bar in the Carlton Hotel and it will transport you to Paris. And not just because of the ambiance, but because of the expertly prepared seafood and classic dishes. Take the pike quenelles, which are made in the style of Jean-Louis Dumonet. I don’t know much about this old French chef, but I do know he made some amazing quenelles.

You don’t see quenelles too often in New York, especially not like these. The delicate little dumplings are absolutely delectable, so soft and tender in a rich tomato lobster butter sauce that begged to be sopped up. Reminiscent of an airy seafood sausage, they fell apart like a buttery soft matzo ball of the sea. Très bien! Price: $14

MILLESIME
92 Madison Avenue (between 28th and 29th Street)
Inside the Carlton Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 889-7100
millesimerestaurant.com

16. TOSTA MATRIMONIO at TERTULIA

The new Spanish tapas hotspot Tertulia is more than just a bar for celebrity watching. It’s one of the best restaurants of the year. Truly any of the dishes I tried could have made my Top 100. The fried eggplant was spectacular, as was the sliced acorn-fed Iberico ham, and I haven’t even mentioned the tender as sin ribeye. But the one dish that blew everything out of the water were the little anchovies that inconspicously lay on heavenly toast points.

They’re referred to as both “tosta matrimonio” and “black and white anchovies.” The two meaty fish (the black are cured and the white are pickled) are simply halved and arranged on a toast-bed of sweet roasted tomatoes, creamy tangy sheep’s milk cheese, and a generous drizzle of aged balasamic. The dish is a perfect example of balance and brightness with the sweet cheese and tomato pairing perfectly with the salty, acidic anchovies. And amazingly, the delicate dish don’t even taste fishy. Maybe that’s why so many celebrities come here. Price: $9

TERTULIA
359 Sixth Avenue (between Washington Place and West 4th Street)
Greenwich Village,
(646) 559-9909
tertulianyc.com

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

I was not expecting any of Time Out’s list items to overlap with my search for the best bagels in the city. There were a few dumpling options on the list this year and, last year I had plenty of pizza and a few pastrami sandwiches. But overall, bagels aren’t usually thought of as mind blowing or overly unique. And for the record, no bagel actually made the list this year, but something that is so enmeshed with the bagel did and I saw no other way to sample it then to order it with a bagel. I’m talking, of course, about cream cheese. Caviar cream cheese, to be more specific.

Russ & Daughters is an institution in the Lower East Side and it’s one of the few Jewish appetizing shops left in the city. An appetizing shop is not a store that specializes in chicken wings and mozzarella sticks, but rather things that are actually appetizing. I’m talking about smoked fish, bagels, cream cheese, etc. Basically, the opposite of a deli, which sells a variety of meats. These places focus more on dairy items, which are not kosher when combined with meat products.

I had been here many times in the past to try their gefilte fish and speciality sandwiches (like the Super Heebster, which is smoked whitefish and salmon salad with wasabi caviar and horseradish spiked cream cheese). But aside from a base for the sandwich, I had never truly sampled their bagels. And many people mention these among the best in the city. So I should do a separate bagel review, shouldn’t I?

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