Delicatessen

by Susan on July 29, 2008

[Food:3/5]

After a two-year delay Delicatessen has finally opened its doors, and they’re huge. Multiple garage-like openings give Delicatessen an open air feel and allow its cool vibe to flow freely to the sidewalks on the SoHo-NoLIta border. Delicatessen is run by the experienced people behind Cafeteria and it’s a good bet that its presence in the neighborhood will be just as big as its doors.

Inside, apron-clad servers bustle about the white tables and wooden walls hung with horizontal mirrors. It’s hard not to like. The noise level was ideal for the atmosphere – buzzing, but not conversation impairing.

Two rooms downstairs are uber-swanky. Glassware-filled shelves decorate the bar area while graffiti-painted walls and a cored-out atrium make another ideal for lounging.

Despite a definite hip factor, there wasn’t a hint of attitude from the friendly and welcoming staff. Our server was knowledgeable about the menu and attentive throughout the night.

The cuisine? Haute diner. In addition to Delicatessen’s inventive takes on greasy spoon favorites, the extensive menu is part comfort, part whimsical, part continental. There’s Pastrami on Rye, Burgers, and Matzo Ball Soup. There are Reuben Fritters and Cheeseburger Spring Rolls. There are Grilled Lamp Chops and Yellowfin Tuna.

Creative license runs most rampantly through the appetizers, where crowd pleasers, many of them deep-fried, abound. The crispy and greasy morsels arrive in adorable silver buckets with ramekins of dipping sauces.

The cheesy ground beef in the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls was reminiscent of Hamburger Helper. For two of my dining friends this translated to genius. I’d rather eat a slider, but can’t argue that the idea deserves kudos.

Reuben Fritters were very good, but the sauerkraut and corned beef lost their pungency in the frying process. Many bites tasted simply like fried cheese dipped into Thousand Island dressing. This was not necessarily a bad thing and I wouldn’t hesitate to order them again.

The best of the lot were the Halibut Tacos. Four crispy wanton envelopes were filled with shredded halibut and topped with a squirt of spiced guacamole and kimchi sour cream. They were delicious and fun.

A description of the day’s special Cucumber Soup promised spice and depth, but it arrived lackluster and watery.

For dinner, we kept the fryer bubbling. Chicken in a Bucket was incredibly moist and juicy. Before it hits the oil the chicken is soaked in buttermilk; seemingly for days.

The Fish and Chips used monkfish and was levels above the run-of-the-mill, battered, and fried cod that is the norm. Often, the small pieces of cod disintegrate under the weight of their oily crust. Here, the monkfish was flavorful, meaty, and dense.

A hearty sphere of BBQ Meatloaf looked like an oversized meatball. The ground beef was moist and flavored generously. Every bite, scooped up with creamy mashed potatoes and a drizzle of BBQ sauce, was tasty.

A preparation of Cantonese Style Atlantic Salmon demonstrated the kitchen’s breadth. The plump and pink filet, topped with a crispy skin, was cooked a perfect medium rare. Though the skin was salty, the well-executed fish, stir-fried bok choy and soy vinaigrette came together to create a refined and delightful dish.

The fun (and yes, the fryer) carried into our desserts.

Delicatessen’s take on S’mores involved breading the marshmallows in graham cracker crumbs and panko before frying them. Lovers of the traditional camping treat may not be impressed, but I, never a fan of black char on my marshmallows, found them to be fabulously gooey, crunchy, and sweet. The thin chocolate sauce, however, left me craving melted Hershey squares.

An Ovaltine Pudding featured layers of vanilla and chocolate pudding and mini malt balls. While it had all the right textures, it lacked richness.

The vibe is cool, the price points feel right, and there’s food to make everyone happy. Haute diner food might just have the makings of a NYC trend.

Delicatessen
54 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
212.226.0211

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