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Kutsher's "upscale jewish food" in Tribeca

foodwhisperer Dec 12, 2011 10:32 PM

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

  1. m
    michelleats Dec 12, 2011 11:04 PM

    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. ellenost Dec 13, 2011 03:52 AM

      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. PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 05:10 AM

        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: PesachBenSchlomo
          kathryn Dec 13, 2011 08:19 AM

          There are some reports here as well:

          1. re: kathryn
            PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 08:34 AM

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

          2. re: PesachBenSchlomo
            Sneakeater Dec 13, 2011 08:51 AM

            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
              PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 09:09 AM

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

              1. re: PesachBenSchlomo
                RGR Dec 13, 2011 09:12 AM

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


          3. s
            small h Dec 13, 2011 06:32 AM

            <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
              gutsofsteel Dec 13, 2011 08:42 AM

              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
                PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 08:50 AM

                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
                  small h Dec 13, 2011 08:53 AM

                  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: small h
                    PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 09:10 AM

                    Italians are Jews, too.

                    1. re: PesachBenSchlomo
                      small h Dec 13, 2011 09:25 AM

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

                      1. re: small h
                        PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 09:33 AM

                        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
                          small h Dec 13, 2011 11:27 AM

                          Oh, ok. I thought you were schooling me.

                          1. re: small h
                            Bob W Dec 13, 2011 02:04 PM

                            "“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
                              small h Dec 14, 2011 04:59 AM

                              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
                                Bob W Dec 14, 2011 06:35 AM

                                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
                      Bob W Dec 13, 2011 02:13 PM

                      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
                        PesachBenSchlomo Dec 13, 2011 03:21 PM

                        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
                          MiriamWoodstock Dec 23, 2011 06:26 AM

                          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
                            PesachBenSchlomo Dec 23, 2011 08:47 AM

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

                            1. re: PesachBenSchlomo
                              MiriamWoodstock Dec 23, 2011 11:38 AM

                              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
                      foodwhisperer Dec 14, 2011 08:42 PM

                      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.

                  2. sgordon Dec 13, 2011 09:33 AM

                    > 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
                      Sneakeater Dec 13, 2011 09:42 AM

                      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
                        sugartoof Dec 13, 2011 10:58 AM

                        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 me...it'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
                          Sneakeater Dec 13, 2011 11:37 AM

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

                          1. re: Sneakeater
                            sugartoof Dec 13, 2011 11:43 AM

                            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.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              Sneakeater Dec 13, 2011 12:08 PM

                              Yes. EXACTLY.

                        2. re: sgordon
                          foodwhisperer Dec 14, 2011 08:45 PM

                          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
                            sgordon Dec 14, 2011 09:15 PM

                            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
                              foodwhisperer Dec 14, 2011 09:26 PM

                              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
                                sgordon Dec 15, 2011 05:51 AM

                                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
                                  RGR Dec 15, 2011 09:04 AM

                                  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
                            uwsister Dec 14, 2011 10:14 PM

                            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
                              sugartoof Dec 14, 2011 10:53 PM

                              Ukranian National Home makes excellent latkes this time of year.

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

                              1. re: sugartoof
                                uwsister Dec 15, 2011 12:29 AM

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

                                1. re: uwsister
                                  sgordon Dec 15, 2011 05:54 AM

                                  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
                                    RGR Dec 15, 2011 08:36 AM

                                    "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
                                      sgordon Dec 15, 2011 09:04 AM

                                      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
                                      PesachBenSchlomo Dec 15, 2011 09:20 AM

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

                                      1. re: PesachBenSchlomo
                                        sgordon Dec 15, 2011 09:44 AM

                                        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
                                        sugartoof Dec 15, 2011 10:21 AM

                                        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
                                          uwsister Dec 15, 2011 06:20 PM

                                          >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
                                            foodwhisperer Dec 22, 2011 07:07 PM

                                            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
                                              PesachBenSchlomo Dec 22, 2011 07:16 PM

                                              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.

                                2. s
                                  sambolef Dec 13, 2011 04:58 PM

                                  re: foodwhisperer comments
                                  1-chicken need not be in matzo ball soup-that's called chicken matzo ball soup. ratners served matzo ballsoup for close to 100 years without a chicken in sight.
                                  2-mashed potatoes were cold--send them back!
                                  3-gefilte fish-ur right--the big 3 are carp, pike & whitefish-add sufficeient salt, pepper & onions-serve with chrain--nothing else matters--* add carrot slice to garnish.
                                  4-latkes that are described as not bad--are not good.
                                  5-caviar & sour cream with fried potatoes--sounds great. apple sauce with latkes-FEH!
                                  6-falafel crusted salmon--falafel should stay in the pita bread--if it's a chic pea crust-fine--but it has nothing to do with kutshers-which was eastern european style.
                                  just sayin--
                                  *what would milton kutsher say?! he would say "upscale prices--what do u want a -maybe a room & free breakfast?"

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: sambolef
                                    ChiefHDB Dec 13, 2011 07:13 PM

                                    Is caviar and sour cream that crazy of an ingredient on latkes? I've been eating it like that for years. It's awesome.

                                    This thread (and Sneakeater in particular) has convinced me to finally go to Mile End for dinner (after eating there approximately 1000 times for lunch). Either way, I'll go there before I ever set food in Kutscher's.

                                    Also, I can make my grandmother's gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup recipes at home, so why bother?

                                    1. re: ChiefHDB
                                      tex.s.toast Dec 14, 2011 05:19 AM

                                      to continue the sideways slip of this thread towards a discussion of mile end, you MUST get the lamb sausage with eggplant and harissa, even if you are there for more traditionally jewish food, its so incredibly good.

                                    2. re: sambolef
                                      foodwhisperer Dec 14, 2011 08:50 PM

                                      Thanks for giving me #3 right samblef. haha. Wow Ratners! they were a vegetarian restaurant , maybe dairy. But no meat served there, so of course no chicken in the soup. Grandma put chicken in the matzoh ball soup. Even "unborn eggs". The broth was good though at Kutsher's and the owner is the son of the famous Catskill hotel Kutsher family. Apple sauce goes with potato latkes, no Feh! caviar is not the right taste with latkes, unless your pregnant. Good ending with the accent about the room and breakfast

                                      1. re: foodwhisperer
                                        erica Dec 23, 2011 01:55 PM

                                        Please tell me where I can find unborn eggs, one of the most delicious foods known to man, or woman.....

                                        We never had them in soup because we would peel the "skin" off and dip them in salt and gobble them up long before dinner.

                                        1. re: erica
                                          foodwhisperer May 21, 2012 06:46 PM

                                          I have been wanting unborn eggs for years. Maybe we can get lucky and find out who might have them. I think the way they raise chickens these days, the unborn eggs aren't possible. I hope they are available somewhere.
                                          On another note, I had Kutscher's fries made with duck fat schmaltz the horseradish sauce that came with it was very good, the fries were good, but a little greasy. The matzoh ball soup is very good. Better than the first time I had it, when they first opened.

                                          1. re: foodwhisperer
                                            sgordon May 21, 2012 08:22 PM

                                            I've seen them in Chinatown frequently, still attached to the Fallopian tubes. Don't know how fresh they are...

                                            1. re: sgordon
                                              foodwhisperer May 21, 2012 09:35 PM

                                              I tried a live chicken market in Bklyn , but no luck. I'll look in Chinatown. My grandmother used to make them in the chicken soup, along with the feet

                                              1. re: foodwhisperer
                                                sgordon May 22, 2012 08:37 AM

                                                I want to say I last saw them on Grand - either by Chrystie, or a little further East - maybe the place on Grand & Eldridge. I'm sure they're around at a few different markets, though. Deluxe Food Market on Elizabeth has tons of stuff, they're probably worth a look.

                                                And if you've no luck... I'm pretty sure Sammy's Roumanian still has the broiled liver & unborn eggs app on the menu. You could always get a fix, at least.

                                                1. re: sgordon
                                                  foodwhisperer May 22, 2012 07:11 PM

                                                  Thanks, I never saw that appetizer at Sammy's. I would try it. I am no fan of anything that Sammy's has, except the vodka. But That sounds interesting. I will also check out Deluxe etc

                                                  1. re: foodwhisperer
                                                    erica May 24, 2012 04:23 AM

                                                    Yes, please report back!

                                            2. re: foodwhisperer
                                              keith May 24, 2012 09:06 AM

                                              Doesn't help in finding them, but NY Times had an article on them 5+ years ago that was interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/07/din...

                                              I'd imagine you can get them at some live killed poultry places if you get an older hen and specifically request that they keep the egg sac and eggs for you.

                                              1. re: keith
                                                sugartoof May 24, 2012 12:17 PM

                                                Stone Barns has been at the New Amsterdam Market. It may be possible to special order them.

                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                  sgordon May 24, 2012 12:33 PM

                                                  It's only a matter of time before Dean & Deluca starts selling them as "Hen Caviar" at $20 a pop.

                                                  1. re: sgordon
                                                    sugartoof May 24, 2012 04:10 PM

                                                    Hen Cavier is brilliant. I could see that taking off.

                                                    It wouldn't be the first time Chowhound posts about the absence of a food craving were found on the Dean & Deluca shelves. Apple fritters, and Princess Cakes being two examples that warmed my heart.

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