Every so often, an unsuspecting veggie gets inevitably thrust forward as the second coming of kale. Brussels sprouts. Kale sprouts. Cauliflower. Collard greens. And while each has had a good long run as the du jour brassica at health food stores and on restaurant menus, another form of non-cruciferous greenery seems poised to overtake them all.
That superfood is seaweed — the slippery algae that, up until recently, has been most commonly seen wrapped around sushi rolls or steamed into side salads. But as fish and shellfish becomes less and less sustainable, all eyes are on the plentiful, quickly-proliferating crop, which, in addition to having a negative footprint, is highly nutritious — rich in protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also unequivocally delicious, from chewy wakame to earthy kombu and downright meaty dulse.
Which is why you’ll see seaweed moving beyond the confines of Japanese eateries, showing up in globally influenced dishes at restaurants throughout the city. At Harry & Ida’s for instance (everyone’s favorite modern Jewish deli), kelp is combined with mint to make an umami bomb of a pesto, smeared on an oyster and shitake mushroom sandwich, and topped with capers and watercress. Seaweed is used as a condiment at the ever-inventive Wildair as well, whipped into butter, and paired with crunchy rosebuds of breakfast radish.
Since working with foraged, eco-conscious ingredients is the cornerstone of new Nordic cuisine, it’s unsurprising to discover seaweed on the menu at Mads Refslund’s Acme, where Maine dulse and lemon form a lively vinaigrette for a pretty salad of beets and plums. Kelp even joins the fine dining realm at Del Posto, used as a means for curing cod, in a Livornese stew served with garlic bread crostini.
Kelp is always on the menu at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster in Brooklyn, fashioned into noodles for an inspired (not to mention vegan, raw and gluten-free) take on Pad Thai. And at Dimes, even the most entry level seaweed, nori, is treated in an unexpected way; wrapped, tortilla-style, around sandwiches of radish, avocado, cucumber, pea shoots and ginger-turmeric tahini, as opposed to tidy packages of rice and fish.
So while kale chips and salads will likely remain around for the long haul, get ready for a serious influx of seaweed, which, as the above-mentioned restaurants have duly proved, isn’t just for sushi anymore.
Harry & Ida’s
189 Ave A, btwn. 11th & 12th Sts.
142 Orchard St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts.
9 Great Jones St., btwn. Shinbone Alley & Lafayette St.
85 10th Ave., btwn. 15th & 16th Sts.
Greenpoint Fish & Lobster
114 Nassau Ave., btwn. Eckford & Leonard Sts.
49 Canal St., Ludlow & Orchard Sts.