Having grown up in New York City, I feel like I know my way around Jewish cooking. I do not suffer a bad bagel. I eat my matzoh with butter (or just plain), and I know the difference between rugelach and hamentaschen (and by the end of this post, you will, too!). While I still haven’t been to a Passover seder, I do like a good brisket. With the largest Jewish community outside of Israel here in New York, it’s hard not to have access to or a basic understanding of Jewish food.
I love a good bagel.
When I heard about the opening of Kutsher’s Tribeca and its attempt to re-imagine many traditional Jewish dishes in a fresh, contemporary gourmet style, I knew I had to check it out. I also knew that my dining companion had to be New Friend M, after hearing stories of her mother’s legendary latkes back in December. Plus, it’s Restaurant Week(s) here in New York, so the perfect time to sample a new restaurant’s menu.
Kutsher’s Tribeca – I love the ceilings.
By the way, big props to the staff at Kutsher’s who were both friendly and knowledgeable. The service was great all around.
I was so torn about what appetizer to get. I told New Friend M that I had never tried gefilte fish before. Why? Well, much of the gefilte fish I’d seen was usually sold in these awful looking jars. Fish in a jar? No, thanks. At the same time, if stores stock it, someone must be eating it.
Something about fish in a jar just doesn’t sit right with me.
Gefilte fish is essentially a poached fish ball/almost pate-like spread made of deboned minced white fish (and/or pike fish), breadcrumbs or matzo and onions. It’s usually served as an appetizer with grated horseradish mixed with beets and a dash of lemon juice.
Wild Halibut Gefilte Fish
with horseradish beet tartare
New Friend M mentioned that her mother makes her own gefilte fish from scratch and that this was a pretty close second. I am a total gelfilte fish convert now. Kutsher’s uses halibut instead of the traditional pike, includes bits of carrot, and there was nothing preservative-laden at all about this fish. It tasted fresh and homemade to me. The horseradish had a just a hint of bite and was not overwhelming in the least. It was not going to overpower that fish, and that made it the perfect partner.
I admired New Friend M’s matzo ball soup from afar. I’m going back for this. She said it was superb. Usually matzo ball soup has more than one ball.
We were both hungry, and I couldn’t leave there without having Kutsher’s latkes especially since New Friend M loves them. I didn’t get a picture of the latkes, so you’ll just have to see a better version below.
The latkes come with a trio of caviar as shown here or with apple compote (the more traditional option that we had)
For the main course, we both had the
Wild Mushroom & Fresh Ricotta Kreplach
with walnut pesto, olive oil schmaltz, and fresh black pepper sheep’s milk cheese
Despite my familiarity with Jewish cuisine, I’d never had kreplach before. New Friend M told me to imagine tortellini or dumplings, but Kutsher’s version surprised us both. These were like huge filling pieces of potato filled “ravioli” (but not really…it’s hard to describe). This is such a comforting dish and again made me feel as if I was eating something more homemade than anything. The cheese and the pesto worked quite well together. I had to tell myself to save room for dessert, so I left some on the plate.
Yay for dessert!
Rugelach is made of a cream cheese dough that is shaped almost like a mini-croissant or rolled like a wrap, and the filings range from dried fruit to cinnamon. My mom loves these, but we always bought them at the supermarket. These are the freshest rugelach I’ve ever had. Ever. Apparently, they are baked daily at Kutsher’s. I can tell.
Hamentaschen are cookies shaped into a triangle with a fruit filling. I’m not into tri-color cookies, but I can appreciate anything with a layer of chocolate on the top. I also think they are traditionally Italian-American (maybe?).
Black & White Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich
with a thick chocolate dip
I love black and white cookies, and then there’s vanilla gelato wedged in the middle. Yes! Plus, chocolate sauce? Fuggedaboutit!
Zach Kutsher (the grandson of the owner of the original Kutsher’s, an upstate New York country club) and his partners are on to something here. This is just good food period, and I hope Kutsher’s stays around long enough for me to learn even more about Jewish cuisine.
P.S. – If you keep kosher, I don’t think this place is kosher certified.
186 Franklin Street
New York, NY