One of the places I knew I had to stop by when I was in New York last week was Russ and Daughters, the venerable storefront in the Lower East Side that has been selling smoked fish, caviar and other amazing delicacies - like their LOX BAGELS - for 100 years. However, we were tight on time and I wasn't sure if we'd be able to make the routine 45 to 60 minute wait work.
Then: brainwave. Go to the newly opened Russ and Daughters Cafe a few blocks away on Orchard Street instead. We'd get their early to avoid lines and eat enough smoked salmon to satisfy our deprived DC appetites and maybe even sneak in a brunch dish.
Little did I know that our minds would be blown.
There's really not much I can say to really justify how delicious this meal was. Maybe it was the humidity and heat growing outside that made me appreciate being inside the cool, well-appointed restaurant and the simple but powerful flavors of everything we ordered - which was...a lot. The eggs with smoked salmon could have done with a bit more salt but I'm kind of nitpicking at this point given that the stars of the show, the smoked fish - salmon and herring in our case - were knock outs.
I like that the new cafe is a modern nod to the original storefront. You can get a "sit down" version of my favorite bagel sandwich at R&D, the Super Heebster, which is topped with a smoked whitefish and salmon salad and wasabi-infused roe all piled onto bagel toasts, instead of the regular bagel. (I mean, come on. WASABI INFUSED ROE.)
Their "Boards" selection is also a good way of getting some of the classics though if you're going with a larger group, have a look at the "Platters", which offers a medley of different smoked fishes for a larger (and hungrier) crowd. Don't overlook the soups or salads selection either because I ordered their borscht because I wanted something chilled on a hot day and it is far and away the best borscht I've ever had. Literally. We actually had to order more bread just to sop up the rest of the soup that clung to the side of the bowl.
I will also add that their drinks selection is fantastic - good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike, including what I'm sure are fantastic house-made egg creams. Seltzer water (what else) is also offered free as an option for the table.
None of this will come as a surprise:
Food: 5/5 (Order everything)
Drinks: 5/5 (Smoked pepper Bloody Mary's?!)
Ambiance: Small, quiet cafe with retro touches. Fish counters identical to the ones at the original Russ & Daughters, where fish is being sliced to order. Quiet and (for once) actually possible to have a conversation.
Jasmine says: A more than worthy modern take on the classic New York institution. Five chomps.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.