Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Mendy's
Park Avenue & 34th St., New York, NY
212-576-1010

Review by Diana DeRiggs

There might be some people in this modern era who don't remember Seinfeld; we're not saying you should necessarily have liked it, but you can't deny it's popularity. They hung out at Tom's Restaurant (a real diner, located in the upper west side) and ate at Mendy's, a glatt kosher Jewish (duh!) deli. It backs onto the 10 Park Avenue apartment building, so that if you live there, there'd be no need to cook -- you can even come down in your slippers and bathrobe for Sunday brunch, theoretically, never having to go outside.

But tonight was simply cold, and we wanted matzoah ball soup, which is a huge round dumpling made from unleavened cracker meal, served in a golden brown chicken broth with thin, short noodles. The matzoah ball should be not heavy (ever hear this one? Apocryphally, Marilyn Monroe was told by Arthur Miller's family that this was called "matzoah ball soup" and she exclaimed, "How charming! What other parts of the matzoah do you use?").

Jewish delis are nothing like places that sell cold cuts, nor are they like Italian style delis, that also sell pizza, hot casseroles, sausage sandwiches, etc. A Jewish deli is a restaurant and bar, as well as a purveyor of take-out sandwiches. They serve sandwiches so huge your mouth won't be able to open wide enough for a full bite. The meats are not tender, but are corned/pickled, steamed, braised, slow-cooked to force them full of flavor, and sliced across the grain to make them nicely tender to chew. They aren't afraid of onions, potatoes, horseradish or fat. ("If God had meant pastrami to be lean, the cows would have been skinny!") They do "appetizing" -- a category of foods that include liver pastes, dried/cured fish, breads, sausages, etc. -- and desserts tend to be austere AND rich at the same time. Is there anything more perfect than a New York style cheesecake??

Actually, that rather describes Jewish cuisine in New York: austere yet rich. Flavorful, and full of rich fat, or none at all. We sat down and got a plate of two kinds of pickles (heavy brine and light brine), fresh-fresh-fresh and very lightly sauced coleslaw, and a basket of fresh rolls: sesame, tender knots and rye flecked with raisins. We ordered matzoah ball soup, and overstuffed sandwich (two meats, we chose pastrami and corned beef), fried chicken with beautifully fried hand-cut fries, and a "pot of boiled chicken" which included matzoah balls, noodles, cauliflower, carrots, half a tender simmered chicken and kreplach (wrapped dumplings). It was all wonderful, and all up was about $60, with leftovers for someone's lunch tomorrow.

There's dark wood on the walls, framed paintings and prints of the immigrant Jewish experience, white cloths on the tables and the silverware matches. They even have sushi (on the back page), which seemed kind of non-kosher ... There's plenty more on the menu we'd love to eat, but the portions are large and very filling. There's only so much one can do in one sitting!

Even better, it's right next to the bus stop for the commute home, so not long to waddle! Very New York experience, it's across the street from the Yeshiva University dorms and down the street from Macy's. A great ending to a long day, and very satisfying!


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