On weekends and holidays, the lines at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side snake out the door. That’s how good they are at “appetizing,” their focus since they opened in 1914. Appetizing, in this case, is a noun, and refers to all the smoked and pickled fish, sliced or saladed, that might make its way onto a bagel. That may not sound like the most likely basis for a restaurant, but fourth-generation store owners Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper have pulled it off. Go for the knishes, light, fluffy and seasoned with caramelized onions; order the sumptuous smoked whitefish chowder, with a side of butter-gilded matzo. And be sure to order a drink. Yana Volfson, former drink guru for Peels and Freeman’s, found that the best matches for the smoked fish tend to have high acidity but significant body as well; here, that means Királyudvar sparkling Tokaji or Granbazán Albariño; Raffault Chinon Rosé or Pignier Poulsard. The exception might be the egg dishes, but only because the Bloody Marys are so compelling, with their exotic vodka infusions. And, Volfson admits, pickled herring is a challenge. For that, only vodka will do.
127 Orchard St., (btw. Rivington & Delancey), New York, NY
This story appears in the print issue of April 2015.
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