For years, salmon got a bad rap as being, well, boring and mostly farm-raised. But with the rise of wild salmon and recent popularity of Jewish-American deli cuisine, we’ve noticed that salmon has come into fashion. Especially cured and smoked salmon, and not just at Russ & Daughters or just Jewish delis. There’s a killer salmon trio at Kutsher’s, standout Danish gravlax smørrebrød at Vandaag, smoked salmon sashimi at Alta and even vodka-cured salmon at Cafe Boulud. And there’s plenty more where that came from. Here’s a few of our favorites…
Address: 9 Great Jones St., near Lafayette St.
Phone: (212) 203-2121
Nordic food is having its moment in New York right now and it’s about time. Perhaps the most exciting spot to sample it right now is Acme, where Noma’s co-founder Mads Refslund fortuitously turned up in the kitchen this winter. Refslund applies his Nordic cooking philosophy to local ingredients, which means simple, fresh dishes where the superior ingredients shine. Take the salmon, for instance. It’s cured in house and served with winter cabbage and a buttermilk horseradish dressing. (It’s outstanding.) Follow that up with the pork chop with parsnips, pears and cranberries, and don’t miss the beer & bread pudding for dessert.
Address: 186 Franklin St., btwn Greenwich St. & Hudson Sts.
Phone: (212) 431-0606
An homage to the famous and now defunct Jewish resort in the Catskills, Kutscher’s Tribeca
puts a decidedly modern and upmarket spin on Jewish American food, adding caviar to their latkes and wild halibut to gefilte fish. But our favorite appetizer on the menu is the cured salmon trio, a platter of nova, gravlax and a killer pastrami salmon. They get it all from Samaki Smoke House, who are experts in all species of smoked fish. And you can’t get this pastrami salmon anywhere else because Samaki uses Kutsher’s own secret blend of pastrami spices. Add some sliced pumpernickel from Amy’s Bread and homemade cream cheese infused with pureed chives and dinner is off to a great start.
Address: 20 East 76th St., near Madison Ave.
Phone: (212) 772-2600
How about a little vodka with your salmon? Sounds good to me. Gavin Kaysen got his inspiration for the vodka-cured salmon at Cafe Boulud from his wife’s Swedish heritage. In Sweden, foods like salmon were originally cured in spirits to preserve them through the frigid months, and it’s still just as popular there today. Kaysen takes it up a notch, curing his salmon for 24 hours in a blend of salt, sugar, vodka, fennel seeds, pink peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Then, it’s rubbed with Dijon mustard and dill before being sliced and served with beets.
Address: 65 East 55th St., near Park Ave.
Phone: (212) 307-7311
We can’t possibly talk about cured salmon without nodding to Scandinavian cuisine. Gravlax, salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill, is a classic Nordic dish, and one of our favorite versions is chef Marcus Jernmark’s Gravlax 37°C at Aquavit. He cures Scottish salmon with water, salt, and sugar, then rolls it with dill, wraps it and poaches it at 37°C (98.6°F). The result is melt in your mouth salmon alongside blood orange, baked potato chips, spinach, pickled mustard seeds and Hovmastar sauce. It’s one of our top picks on Aquavit’s prix fixe four-course dinner menu. Don’t feel like springing for the prix fixe? Then you might consider visiting Aquavit’sat lunch where you can order gravlax a la carte.
Russ & Daughters
Address: 179 East Houston St., btwn Allen St. & Orchard Sts.
Phone: (212) 475-4880
This Lower East Side institution is one of the city’s oldest “appetizing” shops, a place to get smoked fish, salads, and cream cheese, otherwise known as the foods you eat with bagels. Russ & Daughters has been in business since 1914 and it’s still going strong because of the superiority of all of their smoked fish. We like to keep it old school here with a bagel, cream cheese and a salmon of your choosing (there’s almost too many options) — nova, gravlax, Scottish smoked salmon, pickled lox, and kippered (hot-smoked) salmon, all sliced to order, which is key. We’re partial to the Western nova smoked salmon, made with wild Pacific king and a scallion cream cheese-smeared bagel.
Address: 103 2nd Ave., near East 7th St.
Phone: (212) 253-0470
Taking its inspiration from Dutch and Danish cuisine, Vandaag uses local ingredients to bring the flavors of Northern Europe to the East Village. The result is an innovative menu in a fuss-free, spacious setting. Lunch is a great time to stop in and sample the “bitterballen,” crispy braised oxtail croquettes served with a mustard relish. But keep your eye on the ball: The real find is the gravlax Smørrebrød, a Danish open-faced sandwich with cucumber, saffron-smoked buttermilk cream, and sliced egg on rugbrød toast. And the drinks deserve just as much attention as the food, with a cocktail list that includes plenty of Akvavit and Genever (a Dutch gin). Try the Salt-N-Pepa with your gravlax — an ingenious blend of chile pepper-infused Akvavit, blanco tequila, lime, agave nectar with a fennel pollen salt rim.
Address: 97a Hoyt St., Brooklyn
Phone: (718) 852-7510
Mile End has built up quite a following since it first opened in 2010, bringing New Yorkers Montreal’s take on Jewish cooking. Best known for its smoked meat, Montreal’s answer to pastrami, Mile End’s salami is smoked and cured in-house, but we can think of a few other reasons to detour to Brooklyn. Case in point: Mile End uses king salmon to make their lox (not too shabby), serving it on a bagel imported from Montreal, smaller and sweeter than its New York counterpart, along with cream cheese, onion, tomato and capers. Or you can try the lox in a mish-mash, an egg scramble with onions and greens.
Address: 45 West 81st St., btwn CPW & Columbus Ave.
Phone: (212) 873-5025
You might not think of Latin cuisine when you’re in the mood for salmon, but we think Calle Ocho’s salmon ceviche will change that. House-cured salmon is a perfect match for this sweet, sour and spicy mix of sour orange, pineapple, and aji amarillo dressing (yellow chile pepper). Try the ceviche sampler with a little of everything, including diver scallops with lemon confit and avocado relish, and red snapper with mango, papaya, and lime.
Address: 64 West 10th St., btwn 5th and 6th Ave.
Phone: (212) 505-7777
This isn’t your typical Spanish tapas joint. Alta serves small plates, but the dishes take their cues from around the world. Think lamb meatballs with spiced butternut squash foam, spinach and mascarpone-topped bruschetta, and smoked foie gras mousse. One of the best tapas here is the smoked salmon, only it’s not what you think. Alta ‘s smoked salmon is served sashimi-style with a preserved lemon puree, marinated fennel, and pickled mustard seed. There’s an extensive wine list to go with the globally-inspired tapas, with a huge list of Spanish, French and Italian wines.