Russ & Daughters has been hand-slicing fish on Manhattan’s Lower East side for more than twice as long as I’ve been alive—since 1914 to be specific. As a lover of smoked fish and caviar I’m ashamed to admit I’ve only been there twice. This is due to an incident that occurred about 10 years ago. On the advice of a Chowhound poster I ordered top-shelf smoked salmon with wasabi-flavored flying fish roe and cream cheese on an everything bagel. The counterman gave me much tsuris and proceeded to tell me that I was crazy for ruining the salmon’s delicate flavor with horseradish. About five years later I went to R&D for caviar and was glad to see a different person minding the store.
Last week I returned to the scene of my crime against the noble tradition of appetizing food and set things right by ordering R&D’s top of the line sandwich, the meshhugge. It consists of about a half a pound of fish with the cream cheese of your choice on the bagel of your choice. Of course they don’t slap just any old fish down on the bagel. They use the holy trinity of smoked fish: Scottish salmon, sable and sturgeon. There are a half-dozen varieties of cream cheese available to coat both sides of the bagel. For a brief moment I considered ordering the horseradish variety, but didn’t want to risk being banned for life from R&D. Instead I chose plain, which played well with the fish. I opted for an everything bagel, which for some odd reason had a light sprinkling of oats on top. As the guy behind the counter piled the fish high on the bagel a family of British tourists stared in wonder. Mum was quick to tell me how much better my bagel looked than the one she’d had for breakfast earlier that day. Indeed.
She wasn’t the only one coveting my sandwich. Check out the other dude behind the counter eyeballing it like a one-eyed cat peeking in a seafood store. At $19.45, the meshugge ain’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny. It’s got enough tasty smoked fish to satisfy even the biggest of fressers. Besides, $20 is a small price to pay to appease the appetizing gods for my prior sins.
Russ & Daughters
179. E. Houston Street, New York NY 10002 (map) 212-475-8880