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Dec 12, 2011 10:32 PM

Kutsher's "upscale jewish food" in Tribeca

It is an interesting concept, Jewish food in upscale tribeca. Kutsher's prices are certainly upscale.
They are a new restaurant and have to get the kinks out, so for one thing the service should get better.
The gefilte fish is made with halibut, which to me is tasteless and very dry. Carp, Whitefish, pike is traditional, but my mother had even made it with fresh caught perch, bass and pickerel and it was delicious. The varnishkas lack kasha and onions which is what I was in the mood for, however, they made what they call varnishkas with quinoa and mushrooms. Not exactly what one should call varnishkas. The red wine glazed flanken/shortribs were good and were $24. They were served with shmaltz ( chicken fat) mashed potatoes which were cold when it was served. The potato latkes were fluffy and not bad. I do not recommend the option of getting it with caviar, it gives it the wrong taste. Personally I prefer apple sauce with my latkes, I understand sour cream with them and have even had sugar on them. But caviar and sour cream together on them doesnt do it for me. The matzoh ball soup, has very good matzoh balls. The amount of broth you get is limited. There is no chicken in the soup . It has some diced carrots and celery in the soup. Falafel crusted salmon sounded interesting, I heard it was good.
The place is packed, every night. That is amazing. I will check it out again, to try some of the dishes I havent tried. Hopefully, they will do some traditional dishes and not try to get too "fancy".

186 Franklin St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. A lot of Jewish delis charge upscale prices these days! Prices seem similar to Sarge's, Second Ave., Katz's.

    Cold schmaltz mashed potatoes just sound dreadful....

    Thanks for the report, foodwhisperer.

    1. So disappointing. I was looking forward to trying the restaurant, but will stay away until I read more positive reports. Thanks for your report.

      1. Reading that report left this now-upstate Manhattanite with a twinge of schadenfreude. Some things can be over-gentrified, and Ashkenaz food seems to be one of them. I had a twinge of sadness, too, though (I'm sorry - this will be off topic, and if you wish I will start a new thread) because I haven't been in 2nd Ave since Abe's death. Brief report?

        5 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Thank you. Very useful. I apologize for the off-topic post.

          2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

            Interestingly, although I'm positive this Kutsher's place will be terrible, there is one example of successful "upscaling" of Ashkenazic cuisine: the food menu at Mile End in Brooklyn. I was so skeptical about the whole concept that it took me a while to realize how good what they do actually is.

            1. re: Sneakeater

              I put it in my phone. Thanks. Would love to hear more reports.

              1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                Mile End is in Brooklyn, so do a search on the Outer Boroughs board.


          3. <they made what they call varnishkas with quinoa and mushrooms. Not exactly what one should call varnishkas.>

            Varnishkes means noodles. If your quinoa came with bow-tie pasta, then quinoa varnishkes is exactly what one should call it.

            16 Replies
            1. re: small h

              It's not as simple as that.

              "vereniki is a Slavic word for a stuffed dumpling. Its diminutive form is varenichki and that word was corrupted in Yiddish as varnishke"

              "The origin of the word "varnishkes" is a bit more puzzling: it apparently comes from a Ukrainian word meaning "stuffed," and refers to the fact that the original Ukrainian dish was made by stuffing kasha into a shell, more like a knish or a pierogi. The Jewish version is made by tossing the kasha (buckwheat groats) with bow tie shaped egg noodles. "

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                My mom made that stuffed Ukrainian kasha varnishkes. I prefer the bowties, onions and schmaltz one. (If I remember right, "kasha" meant pretty much any cooked cereal to my mom, not just buckwheat groats.)

                1. re: gutsofsteel

                  I was simplifying in order to explain to foodwhisperer that varnishkes is not the grain component of the dish. Hence, you can have varnishkes without kasha.

                  I didn't know about the stuffed shells thing, so thanks for that. I'll let you know if Celentano ricotta varnishkes shows up in the frozen food section of my local Fine Fare.

                    1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                      I'm well aware of that. I've been to the synagogue & Jewish museum in Rome, even.

                      1. re: small h

                        I'm sorry. I was unclear. I meant as a joke that all Italians are Jews, and vice versa (at least in Manhattan.)

                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                          Oh, ok. I thought you were schooling me.

                          1. re: small h

                            "“If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York, you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.”

                            -- Lenny Bruce

                            1. re: Bob W

                              I *knew* there was a quote like that, and I was trying to find it. Except I thought it was Woody Allen. Which is why I failed.

                              1. re: small h

                                I must credit The Big Book of Jewish Humor, by William Novak and Moshe Waldoks. An amazing collection, informative and entertaining at the same time.

                    2. re: small h

                      PS IMHO your response to foodwhisperer was fine. Gefilte fish actually means stuffed fish, but no one bothers with the fish any more -- all we get is the stuffing.

                      BTW, does anyone else refer to bowties as bowknots? We always had "kasha and bowknots," and we had it a lot! I love that dish.

                      1. re: Bob W

                        My bubbeh used to take live fish home from the store, let them sit in the bathtub of her walk-up in the Bronx until she was ready, and then, after keeping a fish pelt (?) intact she would mix the whitefish and the pike and whatever, and actually serve a gefilteh fish. This must have been in 1954, and my memory is enhanced (or distorted) by photographs and having heard the story a thousand times.

                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                          Have you read the children's book The Carp in the Bathtub"? Reminded me of your bubbeh keeping the live fish in the tub. Amazing, amazing classic book. Might bring back great memories for you :)

                          1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                            How could I have missed that? I raised 4 kids! Thanks!

                            1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                              It might sound silly, but I'm so excited to turn a new reader onto this book. It is just so so good.

                    3. re: gutsofsteel

                      Kasha varnishkas are made with either bowtie eggnoodles or bowtie pasta egg noodles. Regardless of the derivation. My Ukrainian grandparents made it by tossing kasha and sauteed onions with the noodles, sometimes they added ground liver to it.
                      Just to clarify. This is not a deli , like Sarges, Stage, Katz's , 2nd ave, Carnegie. Nothing like that . This is a sit down restaurant. It's not a corn beef sandwich place. It's a glazed flanken place , so to speak. Although my review was not great. I will go back, I will try the salmon and a few other things. I think they have the kinks worked out. The place was packed tonite. I pass by there every day. I don't think they are open for lunch yet.

                  1. > Hopefully, they will do some traditional dishes and not try to get too "fancy".

                    I dunno. I figure we have enough traditional Jewish delis. It's interesting that someone is trying to do a semi-refined (but just semi - I mean, they're not trying to be Le Bernardinowitz or anything...) take on it, using quality ingredients. If anything, I was little disappointed at how straightforward the menu turned out to be - I think they should be pushing the envelope MUCH further. I can already get perfectly fine matzo ball soup and latkes.

                    That said - no excuse for cold mashed potatoes. They got some kinks to work out, obviously.

                    22 Replies
                    1. re: sgordon

                      I don't want to sound like a broken record, but Mile End in Brooklyn does exactly what you're looking for on their food menu.

                      I keep repeating this because the food menu has gotten almost no attention (as opposed to their famous sandwiches).

                      1. re: sgordon

                        I wouldn't mind reinvented dishes from someone who has mastered the real thing, but I don't think New York has enough traditional Jewish foods firstly...a lot of diaspora favorites aren't represented at all...and as for deli, it's a struggle to find a good knish or bagel, for goodness sakes....

                        That said, smashing a falafel on a piece of salmon sounds the opposite of refined to's also a bit like smashing a meatball, it's no longer a meatball once you do it.

                        So I would much rather they master the traditional and provide us with a Sammy's Roumanian that's upscale rather than give us desserts that look like a circus on a plate, that happen to incorporate Matzoh into a spun sugar tower or something laughable. I mean, does the world really need a deconstructed Tzimmis?

                        Sammy's Roumanian
                        157 Chrystie St, New York, NY 10002

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          I would like to emphasize that what you describe is NOT what Mile End does.

                          1. re: Sneakeater

                            I really like Mile End, and think they're at the top for Jewish deli right now (though limited in offerings).... I haven't tried their more inventive entrees, but my sense is they're more playful and updated than they are experimental, deconstructed, or any other tendencies to follow New American footsteps.

                        2. re: sgordon

                          Sgordon, you cant get good matzoh ball soup and latkes in Tribeca. So in that regard i'm happy i don't have to go to Gee Whiz Diner for that any more. The crazy part is the last restaurant i gave a critical review to. A filipino restaurant, turns out I'm a regular there now and love it. So maybe the same thing will happen here. I hope I love it next time

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            What're you, trapped in Tribeca? So take a subway, meshugganah.

                            I have issues with most restaurant matzo.balls to begin with. I'm quite firmly on the sinker side of the floater/sinker debate, and I find most restaurants lean the other way. So really, I'll make my own.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              Sgordon. Me meshugganah, hmmmm yeah probably. Anyway, I don't take the subway anymore. I can't deal with the fact that they don't have tokens anymore. I drive everywhere, and I prefer to stay below 23rd St. because the parking works better for me. I live in Tribeca, so if I can walk to a good place, it's better for me. So I like when Tribeca has "jewish style" restaurant. They do have Zucker's for lox and bagel's on Chambers St. However, they still don't have any Chinese restaurant, which is crazy. Lots of italian, maybe 10 of them. maybe 6 indian and pakistani. 2 vietnamese. 1/2 a thai restaurant, maybe 10 sushi places with 4 good ones. 1 spanish tapas, 2 korean (upscale), 2 steakhouses, no Polish, 1 Austrian, 3 Bistro french/belgique, 2 or 3 French(upscale), One fancy Greek fish restaurant, 1 turkish,.
                              The neighborhood lacked "jewish style" now it kind of has it, it still lacks Chinese, and needs a good Thai restaurant. Oh yeah, no Filipino here either

                              146 Chambers St, New York, NY 10013

                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                Yeah, I admit, Tribeca is kind of a dead zone outside the high-end places like Bouley, Corton, Forgione, etc. But can't you walk to Chinatown for Chinese? Heck, we walk to Tribeca from the LES.

                                And driving? In Manhattan? Talk about meshugganah...

                                1. re: sgordon

                                  To your "etc.," I must add Jung Sik. They are now offering a 3-course prix-fixe which has brought the price point down somewhat.

                                  Driving in Manhattan? Before we had our apartment, I used to do it all the time when we drove in from NJ. Mr. R. hates driving in the city, so he never did it, but I've never minded and have been doing it since I got my license a lo-o-ng time ago. However, when we drive in now, we come crosstown and then either park on the street or in our building's garage and during our stay either walk everywhere in good weather or take taxis or the subway. I don't mind not having tokens, but I do hate swipe system which is not, imo, user-friendly.

                                  We are very lucky to have lots of excellent dining options at every price point in our neighborhood and surrounding areas.


                          2. re: sgordon

                            sgordon, Where do you get perfectly fine latkes? I've been on a serious latke kick in past few weeks and found them to be constantly disappointing. Would love some recs.

                            1. re: uwsister

                              Ukranian National Home makes excellent latkes this time of year.

                              Ukrainian East Village Restaurant
                              140 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                Ah, passed by it on the way to Stage Restaurant. Should've stopped! Will try it, thanks.

                                1. re: uwsister

                                  What toof said.

                                  Also, there isn't much to a latke. I mean, it's just fried potatoes. Now a good Matzo Ball... That takes some finesse...

                                  1. re: sgordon

                                    "Also, there isn't much to a latke. I mean, it's just fried potatoes."

                                    I disagree. There are other ingredients, and the different ways of preparing the mix,ture, i.e., box grater vs. food processor, can yield an entirely different textural result.


                                    1. re: RGR

                                      True. I guess I meant, in the end, even second-rate fried potatoes are pretty delicious (as long as they're crisp...)

                                    2. re: sgordon

                                      Finesse, and some duck or goose fat instead of the chicken schmaltz. Oh, yum!

                                      1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                        Ah, and just in time I get an email about this:


                                        ...$30, not bad for an evening of fried taters from top toques.

                                      2. re: sgordon

                                        It can actually be tough to find a latke that isn't a hash brown in disguise. Though some people prefer the shredded potato stringed latkes, and associate the finer, gummier latkes with box mixes.

                                        Unless something has changed, Ukranian National makes a latke not a hash brown, but it's hearty enough with denser, crispy pockets, to please most tastes, I think.

                                        1. re: sgordon

                                          >Also, there isn't much to a latke. I mean, it's just fried potatoes.

                                          Like RGR, I very much disagree w/ the statement - that's like saying there isn't much to scrambled eggs or a steak. IMO it's very difficult to come across properly made latke at a restaurant.

                                          1. re: uwsister

                                            I concur with RGR, this is alot to alatka. ( hence the name). Anyway, sgordon, if you have ever actually prepared a latka yourself you will see there is alot of work involved, especially if you grate the potatoes and onion by hand. Also, the amount of skin and blood that goes into it can change the taste. ( almost just kidding). I have never had a really good latka in a restaurant. Latkas taste best when eaten right after they are cooked. Food Processor latkas are totally different from hand grated. The size or fine-ness of the grate effects the latka. How fluffy you want your latka. Big ones or little ones. Many factors, hash browns have little to do with latkas except they both have potatoes and onions. As far as matzoh balls, my mother's are the best and always will be.

                                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                                              I'm sure your mother would find this heretical, but one day you should try making her recipe, changing only one thing: use duck fat or goose fat instead of schmaltz. It's kind of an eye-opener.