August 11, 2008 | Insatiable Critic

Nouvelle Delicatessen

 21st Century deli does pastrami chunks in a rye roll. Photo: Steven Richter
21st Century deli does pastrami chunks in a rye roll. Photo: Steven Richter

       The crowd skews young and pretty at Delicatessen in SoHo, a lively new comfort food initiative from the folks at Cafeteria. And what a surprise, this grub is good. Amazingly, we don’t feel fatally redundant. We’re actually welcomed as if we might be Miley Cyrus’s grandparents.

 
Delicatessen claims this corner of Prince at Lafayette. Photo: Steven Richter

        The place is seriously dim, like a lounge, and packed, tables wedged close. And the retractable “garage door” walls roll up to air condition Prince Street. Not politically correct but refreshing. Deli classics like matzoh ball soup and chopped liver compete with such sacrilege as pork schnitzel and halibut tacos. Reuben fritters? Wonderful cheesy little croquettes with sauerkraut to dip into Thousand Island dressing. Cheeseburger spring rolls are fun too.


Chicken in a bucket is great. I hope it will be great next week too.  Photo: Steven Richter

        I’m fussy about my favorite Cobb salad – it must be served with ingredients lined up in rows, it must be tossed at the table, as they did at The Brown Derby in L.A., and do at Red Eye Grill here in town. But this free form pre-tossed one is quite satisfying (except for the unripe avocado they didn’t bother to chop), and the “BBQ meatloaf” is full of flavor under its smother of gravy. Our table is soon full of tiny tin buckets, big and small - toting paprika onions (not bad if you like Michelin tire-type onion rings), first-rate fries and a generous portion of marvelous fried chicken with spicy cole slaw, although the jalapeño biscuits are a tad tough.

Reuben fritters are a must; cheeseburger spring rolls, just fun. Photo: Steven Richter

        A 2lst century pastrami on rye -- chunks of meat stuffed into a sensational rye roll -- doesn’t really improve on the classic sliced version. Not that I don’t love that roll. It’s a nice try. If you didn’t grow up with pastrami when the Carnegie Deli was at its greatest, you might not mind at all. The only real flub: tiny mussels not worth serving.

        As often happens when I’m reviewing, we’ve eaten much too much and I’m feeling too fragile to handle dessert.  But it’s impossible to resist our waitress’s enthusiasm for the night’s special black and white sundae. Chocolate and vanilla ice cream with chocolate and white cookies, fudgey sauce and pieces of ice cream cone dipped into white chocolate. Sweet, sweet, sweet.
 
        It starts to rain and the hostess walks around lowering the retractable doors. The sardine-packed room grows small. What’s good for the ecology is bad for Miley’s grandma’s claustrophobia.

 54 Prince Street at Lafayette Street 212 226 0211

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