I don’t know a single Jewish family from the east coast that hasn’t at least heard of Kutsher’s, a “summer camp” for adults located in the Catskills (think “Dirty Dancing”). It used to be the place to go, but it has long lost its luster, though not its notoriety. So when the Kutsher family decided to open up a restaurant in TriBeCa, with the promise to make family-style Jewish food more sophisticated, I was curious (if not excited). It opened just a few weeks ago, but we made our reservation for the week between Christmas and New Years with one of our favorite couple friends, E and K.
We decided to split the “crispy potato latkes” with “local apple compote” and sour cream. It was listed on the menu as “For the Table,” so I was quite underwhelmed when 3 very, very tiny latkes came out… for four of us. Of all the things to skimp on, fried potatoes are a strange choice. But they were good… not great… but good. The apple compote tasted quite fresh.
We also decided to split the Jerusalem artichokes, which came with lemon, garlic, parsley, greens and shaved parmesan. The parsley was crisped and this whole dish was delicious. I could have eaten every bite myself.
E & K both ordered the wild mushroom and fresh ricotta kreplach which came with walnut pesto, olive oil schmaltz and fresh black pepper sheep’s milk cheese. Kreplach is basically the Jewish version of a dumpling. They both enjoyed it.
Mike chose the grilled Romanian steak which was a prime skirt steak with caramelized onions and a roasted garlic & wild mushroom knish. The steak was perfectly steaky. Could rival a steak house in NY.
I went with the red wine braised flanken style short ribs. These came with schmaltz mashed potatoes and glazed root vegetables. Schmaltz is rendered fat, and basically just makes everything taste better. These melted in my mouth. Amazing flavor, cooked to perfection, and just overall fantastic.
For sides, we got the schmaltz fries (these were just okay).
The pan roasted brussels sprouts with rosemary. (Delish)
And the quinoa varnishkas with torn pasta and wild mushrooms. Usually this would be kasha varnishkas… which is a type of buckwheat with bowtie pasta. Kasha is something that is pretty bland, but I really enjoy it. The quinoa actually made it more bland, so we didn’t particularly love this, but it was good.
Most of the food was far above par. The service, however, was pretty bad. Our waiter rushed us through the entire meal. He came back every 2-3 minutes for our order, even when we were clearly looking at the menu. Our apps were barely cleared when the entrees came. Then when it came to paying the bill, he must have stopped by at least half a dozen times in less than 10 minutes. It was downright uncomfortable. We were in and out in less than an hour… it was a sour spot on an otherwise great meal.
I would probably give it a few months to even things out and this seems to be the place where it helps to know what to order. Here is my advice: Artichokes app, steak, short ribs, and brussels sprouts. And next time I want to have room for dessert!
Overall, most of the food was very good. I look forward to going back once they have their sea legs.
Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10