Image courtesy of G. Paul Burnett/ New York Times.
It was bound to happen.
They waited for the rush of opening and of Christmas to die down, for the computer system and kitchen to work out the kinks, for Jeremy Lebewohl to get a sense of his new life. But in New York, every deli gets their day, and today, the New York Times came calling to the 2nd Ave Deli. Frank Bruni, the paper’s head reviewer, who is known to be a deli fan, has rolled out a positive (though critical) review of the reopened, and relocated legend.
“IN time, we’d get to the pastrami sandwich, and we’d quibble over its height and quarrel about condiments. Condiments are personal.
The new Second Avenue Deli still has matzo ball soup and pastrami.
But first came the matzo ball soup and the chopped liver.
Already, consensus eluded us.
Ed deemed the entire soup good, while Nora reserved her praise for the perfectly round, snowy matzo ball itself.”
Bruni is referring to Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, and a lifelong deli fanatic (look for him in my book). Nora is Nora Ephron, the comedic writer who is also a true deli maven, and whose article on Langer’s pastrami is one of the finest odes to deli I’ve read. Bruni brought them, along with food writer Laura Shapiro, to the deli at 33rd and 3rd for a taste of chopped liver, matzo ball soup, pastrami, latkes and rugelach. Like Bruni’s review of Katz’s, it was less a direct read and more of a critical love letter, which split the opinions of the panel depending on their preferences. Such is the problem with reviewing a well known deli in New York: everyone is an expert, and no two mouths can agree.
Meanwhile, it’s earned a full star, which is a fine achievement for a deli.
But wait…that’s not all.
A deli of this magnitude draws the finest food critics in the land…and in the land of New York, they tend to be Jewish and deli lovers. So over at GQ.com, we see Alan Richman weighing in on the reincarnated 2nd Ave Deli as well. His article is dead on.
“Real delicatessens, and 2nd Avenue Deli is one of them, sell homemade meat products with an Eastern European accent. The new 2nd Avenue Deli (it’s on East 33rd Street in Manhattan) fulfills that mandate exquisitely, and, unlike the old place, has added smoked fish. Traditionally, delicatessens never sold fish, but this is a modern delicatessen where the meats sleep with the fishes.”
“The pastrami at the new place is terrific: fattier, spicier, more tender and more beautiful than before. It isn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it’s close. In case you like tongue (and who doesn’t?), the tongue might be the best I’ve ever had. In rounding out the sandwich experience, let me add this: The rye bread isn’t good. You can barely taste the rye flour—pretty much a universal problem today. Everybody wants delicatessen sandwiches on rye bread as long as it bread doesn’t actually taste like rye. The mustard is superb. The sour pickles are very good, the half-sours less so. Skip the corned beef and the brisket sandwiches: boring.”