Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Mar 1, 2009 01:52 PM

Russ & Daughters - excellent

I've been meaning to try Russ & Daughters for a long time, but for some reason I never got around to it. I was watching the Bourdain episode about old New York and he went to Russ & Daughters. It looked great and I live literally a block or two away, so it reminded me I needed to try it. I decided to go here and pick up some food for breakfast for my gf and I.

It's a pretty well known place, but I'll go into a little description since the place is so cool. It's set up kind of like a butcher / deli on the left is glass display cases with all of their different fishes (mainly smoked fish, cream cheeses and some other random stuff like caviar) and on the right is another glass display cases showing off their chocolates and dried fruits. It's all white tile and white wood and the workers where butcher-esk outfits. It's totally packed and you have to take a # and wait for your # to be called. Very happy this place is so close to me.

Once your # is called they ask you what you want. I wanted bagels and cream cheese with lox and the Bourdain episode gave me the idea to try the herring in cream sauce (never had it before). They had about 6-7 different types of smoked salmon. I tried the Scottish Salmon and the Wild Western Lox. Both were excellent, not fishy at all, very smooth and smoky, but the western was a little more mild with a great flavor that I was more fond of.

- Onion bagel with scallion cream cheese and wild western lox: very good, the salmon is among the better smoked salmon that i've had anywhere. Very soft, melt in your mouth type texture with a very fresh smoky salmon flavor. The creme cheese was good and they didn't kill the bagel with cream cheese (i hate when they put about 10 lbs of it on a bagel). The bagel was good, but wasn't anything out of the ordinary (just a solid bagel). This was excellent albeit a bit expensive. I would definitely get this again.
- Herring in cream sauce and onions: I wasn't really sure what to expect with this, I was concerned it might be overly fishy, but my concerns were certainly overblown. The cream sauce is quite sweet, I was expecting it to be sorta sweet, but this was much sweeter than I was expecting. The creme sauce I believe is made with creme fraiche, its very good and sort of refreshing. The herring filets themselves were very good (they're totally de-boned), they do have a certain fishy flavor, but it is not overpowering and was fishy in a good way. The combo of the three (fish, cream sauce and onions) was really good. I was very surprised at how much I liked this dish.

Overall, this place is great and it definitely lived up to the high expectations that I had (i'm always concerned about old places with lofty reputations b/c 8 out of 10 times im disappointed). I highly recommend this place.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Cream sauce is made with SOUR CREAM

    funny thing how fish tastes a bit fishy.

    Russ & Daughters is the BEST
    next time try their whitefishand salmon salad...too die for.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pbjluver

      ah i was debating whether it was sour cream or creme fraiche, thanks for the correction

      well about "fish tasting fishy", there are many types of fish which, assuming they are fresh, do not taste fishy (go to any good sushi restaurant and you'll realize that)....i was just concerned b/c many preserved type fishes can be very fishy although that doesn't necessarily bother me (i very much like certain types of fishy fishes such as mackerel)

      agree with you, i was very pleasantly surprised at the quality and there were many other things i wanted to try and ill be trying them soon

      1. re: Lau

        Creme fraiche didn't exist back in the old country,

        1. re: Stuffed Monkey

          It did if the Old Country happens to be Normandy. :-)

        2. re: Lau

          Lau they use sour cream in the cream sauce with some sugar and vinegar.

          1. re: Lau

            You're right on to comment about the fishy-nes of the herring. Depending on how it's prepared, and all the rest, it can taste drastically different. My first exposure to the stuff was with a sweet amazing smooth version (and I think it may have came out of a jar, actually), but almost every subsequent attempt at eating it since, has ended without being able to finish the first bite. Herring can taste almost gingery and fuzzy with some anchovy-ness to it if it's not prepared right.

            Based on your report, I know I can eat their herring! I was always too scared to try it honestly.

        3. I recommend that you try the gaspe salmon on your next visit. The only thing I've ever had from R&D that I didn't like was the wasabi caviar, which I think is just weird and kind of icky. I like both wasabi and caviar, but

          7 Replies
          1. re: small h

            I was there over the weekend, and the guy had me try the whitefish salad with the wasabi caviar together. OMG! It really works! I just had some for breakfast this morning.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Interesting. I will give that a try & see whether adding whitefish redeems the wasabi caviar for me.

              1. re: small h

                I hope you do get to try it. If you think about it some more, the combo isn't too outlandish. I doubt the caviar is really flavored by wasabi -- it's probably horseradish with some green coloring. Real wasabi is very expensive and would be wasted on combining it with caviar. I've seen smoked fish combined with horseradish many times.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  how was the quality of their caviar? thats one of the few things i haven't tried yet?

                  1. re: Lau

                    It was fine -- probably similar to what you'd pick up at H-Mart or Mitsuwa. I only purchased a spoonful, which was enough to sprinkle a bit on the whitefish. When I ran out of whitefish salad (because DH almost ate the entire thing yesterday), I added some of the roe to cream cheese. That was pretty good too!

                  2. re: Miss Needle

                    Gefilte fish & horseradish go together like peanut butter & jelly (and lord knows I've had ikura with wasabi 10,000 times). But I did try the wasabi caviar a few years back and I thought it was very strange, and not good at all. Maybe they fixed it!

                    1. re: small h

                      Perhaps they did fix it. But I'm not a wasabi caviar expert. I didn't eat any of it in isolation as I purchased a very small amount to eat with my whitefish.

            2. The best among all the salmon, IMO, is the balik salmon. I tend to go with 3, one smoked (usually gaspe nova), a lox (belly lox), and balik salmon (the best). Also, if you havent tried the smoked sturgeon at R&D, you have tried nothing yet!

              15 Replies
              1. re: kobetobiko

                i did see the balik salmon and i was pretty curious about it given the price and the description, i will definitely try it

                the smoked sturgeon also looked great...only so much u can eat in one sitting!

                1. re: Lau

                  oh, I always buy them home and enjoy! Like I also buy pastrami at Katz's by pound, ask them to vacuum seal it, and bring it home. I brought back pounds of pastrami for my relatives in Japan every time!

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    Wow. The vacuum-sealing thing is great news. My wife - who is from Japan - actually asked them to do this some years back, was told no. Since my mother-in-law, who lives in Koiwa, Tokyo, is crazy about Katz's, we'd certainly love to bring some to her next time we visit. Do they slice it for you, or give it to you whole?

                    1. re: Polecat

                      Hi Polecat,

                      I am surprised that they said no! I usually go to the back of the counter (not the sandwich ordering line), and tell them that I want to get the pastrami by pound. For smaller amount (like 2 pounds) I will ask them to vacuum-seal into 1/2 packages, and for larger order I do one-lb individual packages. They always slice it for me, and give me a sample to taste first (I always ask for extra fatty! :D). They have always been very nice and we always chat for a bit while he is working on the pastrami and packaging. Perhaps asking your wife to buy it will be easier, cuz females like myself and my friend always get very nice service from them ;P

                      These vacuum sealed packages work so well even after freezing and reheating. We usually just steam the bag (unopened) until it is really hot. When you open the bag, all the meat is tender and juicy, with the juices oozing out from the bag! It is even better than eating at Katz's, because now you can pair it with good rye bread!

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        Thank you so much, Kobe, for this amazing idea. All these years I have been going to Katz' and I never realized that I could get meat vacuum packed! Out of town friends will be very happy!

                        Are you saying that you then freeze the sliced meat in the vacuum pack and that it does not suffer?

                        How do you steam after thawing--over a rack in a large pot?

                        And where in NYC can I find great rye bread like I had as a child? I've tried Orwashers and it does not compare.

                        1. re: erica

                          Hi erica,

                          Yes, I put the vacuum packs of sliced pastrami in the freezer and just thaw them in the fridge overnight before steaming. Then I put the unopened packs on a big plate and just heat it up by steaming. You can also just put the unopened packs into boiling water to reheat, as suggested by the people at Katz's. They told me that if you order online for out-of-state shipping, that's what they do - your order comes in vacuum sealed packages with instructions on how to reheat them.

                          I have only tried to keep them in the freeze for less than a month, and yes, the quality didn't suffer at all. No idea if they are kept for a long time, but then how can you possibly keep the delicious pastrami in the freezer for more than a month??? ;D

                          The key though, is that you must order the pastrami fatty. Taste first before they slice your entire order and seal. I think it is because the pastrami was fatty and moist enough that freezing and reheating didn't make the meat dry out. If it is a lean cut, I am sure the result will be severely impacted.

                          Also, be very very nice to the people! Since the slicing and packing process takes awhile, the nicer you are, the better they will pack your stuff, with care ;D I always tell them how much my relatives enjoyed their pastrami in the past, and they are proud to hear that and will make sure that your order comes in good quality.

                          Last but not least, try to avoid peak hours. You don't want to get a person to work solely on your order when there are long lines waiting at the counter for dine-in services.

                          Hope this help!
                          p.s. Not sure about the rye bread. I can eat it straight up, and for a more fusion version, my relatives and I paired the pastrami with the bun like momofuku's pork buns ;P Ok, no shoe-throwing please.

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            I just found some pictures of the vacuum sealed pastrami and how they looked like after steaming:
                            Pic 1: Moist Cut Pastrami in Vacuum Pack
                            Pic 2: pastrami after steaming and removed from vacuum pack - you can see the meat was still glittering with juice
                            Pic 3: Vacuum-sealed cured tongue. I also got tongue and corned beef from Katz's in the past, but pastrami was by far the favorite of my family (We have very good tongue in Japan, so they weren't as impressed)

                            The pictures showed was in 1/2 lb packs.

                            1. re: kobetobiko

                              OMG--This is truly earth-shattering news! Many many thanks for all of the tips!! I will have to try the tongue. I remember seeing the whole beef tongue on the counter when I was a child and my mom made it and somehow that thought turned me off..

                              I LOVE the idea of eating the meats with those buns, too...!!!

                              This is similar to the tongue my mother made; it is quite tasty, as I remember.

                     and sour tongue

                        2. re: kobetobiko

                          My wife was the one who asked, a few years back. So be it; we'll try again. Thanks.

                      2. re: kobetobiko

                        I plan on picking some vacuum packed pastrami tonight (yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!). About how much is 2 sandwiches worth? a pound? a pound and a half?
                        I have no clue, crazy, enormous Katz sandwiches.

                        1. re: ConOrama

                          I think a sandwich is about 1/2 pound, but you should just ask them :D

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            I've read that the sandwich at Katz's is 3/4 of a pound.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              jeez it really that much meat?...i love that place, but i always feel like hell after i eat there

                          2. re: ConOrama

                            The kid 'wouldnt' vacuum-seal it for me. He gave me a vague, 'machines broken', 'its complicated to use' hand-waving thing that dissolved into mumbling. I didnt argue since I was only going to be storing it for one night so it wasnt like I was going to be put out.

                            And OT, I stop by Russ and Daughters for the first time ever before Katz. I picked up half and quarter pounds of the Gapse, the herring and cream sauce, the whitefish/salmon salad, the chopped liver and beet/apple and herring salad and a package of rye crackers.

                            The Gapse, the herring and the whitefish were unbelievable. Unreal. I have not had that enjoyable of a 'new' eating experience in New York in quite some time. The whitefish salad was delicious, creamy and salty and rich. I didnt think I would love the herring but I did. Not anything like the herring in cream sauce Ive ever had before.
                            Spent the rest of the night going back to the kitchen to steal spoonfuls of this and that while standing in front of the fridge. And that was with a pound and a half of Katz pastrami sitting on my counter.
                            I cannot wait to go back for a bagel sandwich.

                            1. re: ConOrama

                              Perhaps they are only doing it for larger orders now... I guess it does cost for all those packaging and stuff. I bet if you get like 6 lbs they will do it for you!

                              Anyway, glad that you enjoyed R&D. These two places are just too good to be missed!

                    2. yeah, Russ&D is amazing and addictive...

                      i agree with the recs above to try the gaspe and the whitefish&salmon salad...i usually get those two items, and sometimes the Scottish...

                      they also have some pretty great halvah, and the nuts and dried fruits are yummy too...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Simon

                        Yes, the dried fruits look beautiful - I've still not tried any though. They also carry Kuzmi tea, which I like.

                        1. re: Simon

                          The Gaspe ( not sure that is sp. right) i agree with Simon, thats the one i like best in the smoked salmon. The herrings are interesting , and if you never had the pickled or marinated herring its something to be tried. There's matjes, and herring in wine sauce, and cream sauce with onions, and herring salad,,, the matjes is for those that like the stronger taste. their baked salmon is a favorite of many ( not me) ,,and my mother liked their smoked whitefish(whole fish).

                        2. Russ and Daughters is a treasure. During herring season, they will bring in still more varieties. I only regret that it's wall-mate, Ben's Cheese shop is no more. The staff there is superb, too. Don't be afraid to ask for suggestions.