The new smoked fish shop Shelsky's is making Carroll Gardens feel a little more Lower East Side-y. "No more schlepping," says their website. Owner Peter Shelsky, an Eleven Madison Park alum, is saving the neighborhood a trip over the bridge to Russ and Daughters for their dose of smoked, cured, and pickled fishies.
Walk inside and you'll note some NYC deli trademarks: the row of Dr. Brown's sodas in the fridge, pickles and sour tomatoes (from Guss's), bagels and bialys (delivered daily from Kossar's), and glass jars of jelly chocolate rings near the register.
Shelsky's feels somewhere between Old World deli culture and the young Brooklyn CIY (cure it yourself) scene. The fish comes from Acme, Samaki, and the Smokehouse, but they're also taking on what they can in-house. The herring is pickled there, and the first batch of gravlax should be ready as soon as this morning. Stay tuned for jerk-cured salmon and clementine and ginger-cured salmon, too. "We just want to have fun with it," said Shelsky.
Behind the counter, Sheslky himself and his team are ready to delicately slice your smoked fish to order. And we mean delicately. "Wow, that's some real TLC," said the guy behind me, watching them slice my pastrami-cured salmon slowly, gently with a big, shiny knife. That was the last of the pastrami-cured salmon for the day (apologies to the guy behind me for 86-ing that one!) but they have more in this week, in from David Burke. It's exactly what it sounds like—peppery pastrami edges around an unctuous slice of salmon. So, all the glory of pastrami and smoked salmon at the same time. Yes.
Our eyes immediately targeted that one, but they have plenty of other salmon varieties: Irish double-cured, Western Nova, Eastern Gaspe, and a fatty hot-smoked salmon that's cured then smoked; "Luscious," described Shelsky. There's also whitefish, bluefish (sometimes the menu reads like a Dr. Seuss book), sable, and Fancy Lake sturgeon.
For now, they're just doing a limited sandwich menu, but in a few weeks you can look forward to the "Dr. Goldstein," two shmaltz-fried latkes with chopped liver and horseradish (the Jewish deli answer to the Double Down?) and the "Brooklyn Transplant" with fatty kippered salmon, apple horseradish, cream cheese, and pickled herring salad on Pumpernickel Rye. We made our own sandwich with some pastrami salmon and scallion cream cheese on a garlic bialy.
And for dessert? Pickled herring. When they ask if you want cream sauce and onions on top, the answer is yes. It's thick and a touch sweeter than sour cream; dab the tender, tangy fish chunks in it between bites.
251 Smith Street, New York NY 11231 (map)