Russ & Daughters Cafe: Stellar Smoked Fish and a Place to Sit

It took just 100 years, as one Chowhound observes, but the venerable Jewish-appetizing shop Russ & Daughters has finally given lovers of its splendid smoked fish a place to sit down and enjoy it. It's about time, says a delighted howdini, who finds the sable at two-week-old Russ & Daughters Café "sublime, absolutely melting in the mouth." It comes on a platter called the Shtetl (pictured) with goat cream cheese, a Kossar's bialy, capers, onion, and tomato—a deconstructed version of a takeout sandwich with the same name that's sold at the original store three blocks away.

Other early hits include a herring sampler (regular, matjes, schmaltz, rollmops); pastrami-style cured salmon with Muenster on a pretzel roll; and excellent latkes with salmon roe and crème fraîche. A new lineup of egg dishes, served all day, includes Nova with eggs and onions ("flawless," foodiebuddha raves) and poached Eggs Benny with Scottish smoked salmon, spinach, and hollandaise.

While no one's faulting the food, some have carped about the prices, notably for caviar. And that Eggs Benny, though delicious, "felt a little light" at $18, says one 'hound, sgordon. At that price, he suggests, "put some potatoes on the plate or a little side salad. Preferably both. ... No one likes to leave a place feeling like they got a bad deal."

As fourth-generation co-owner Niki Russ Federman sees it, the deal is this: Times have changed, and today's customers no longer take most of their meals in their apartments. For them, a takeout-only shop is an inconvenience. "Back in the day you would go to the store, you would pick up the food, and you would have it at home with friends and family. A lot of people don’t have space to do that now," she told The Daily Meal. "We’re really trying to take Russ & Daughters and put it in plated form. You’re not just taking a sandwich to go, but you're having a nice beautiful smoked-fish plate, or a herring smorgasbord, or a caviar sampling." Works for howdini, who writes, "Something tells me they've just hit it out of the park. More power to 'em, and more smoked and brined delights for me!"

Russ & Daughters Café [Lower East Side]
127 Orchard Street (near Delancey Street), Manhattan
212-475-4881

Photo by howdini