Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fast Food- B&H (of the dairy persuasion)

H must be a lucky initial here in this city that I love so. After all, how else could you explain the success of B&H cameras? Or H&H bagels? Or the ubiquity of H&M? (I know it's an import, but still...)

Another H-staple of this city is B&H Dairy Restaurant on 2nd Avenue. I'd been once many years ago, but in spite of his proximity the year he lived on 12th street, Daniel had never partaken, so on the insistence of our friends Ben and Dorit, we made the trek, right before closing, to sample a little good old fashioned comfort food, Lower East Side style.

Sitting at the counter, watching all the food go by

The menu at B&H is a like a siren's song of carby Old Country temptation, with matzoh brie, challah French toast, and blintzes all competing for your attention. Because it's a meat-free zone, the savory options run the gamut from the traditional fish salads, vegetable based soups, and potato knishes to something that sounded surprisingly enticing - veggie balls and spaghetti.

Having been told it was some of the best in the city, Daniel went the white fish salad sandwich route, served with a bowl of matzoh ball soup.

The soup was very good, with big chunk of carrots and the disconcerting but very welcome presence of noodles.

New York delis are famous for their overstuffed Pastrami sandwiches, but this overstuffed white fish, put all of those to shame. It was enormous -

This picture really doesn't do it justice. It was so big that our man Daniel had to go open-face on a few bites, splitting each half of the sandwich an additional time because he couldn't manage its girth. The sandwich was served on B&H's famous, non-braided challah, which has a texture quite unlike any challah I've had. It was light and airy, reminding me almost of angel food cake in its ethereal delicacy. The white fish salad itself was also unique, less of the kind that you get at an appetizing store like Russ and Daughters, but rather more akin to something like a lunchtime tuna salad, with pieces of celery interspersed throughout. It was very good, and our white fish salad lover was pleased, but it did not sate our need for the kind of white fishy goodness to which we are more accustomed.

Whenever I see kasha varnishkas on a menu, I am hard pressed to order anything else. When said kasha varnishkas can be ordered with steamed vegetables, I am in heaven, especially when I can drench both in a side of mushroom gravy.

While the varnishkas were a bit overcooked and gummy for my taste, for me there is little more comforting than pasta with my beloved nutty, hearty buckwheat groats, and so I was perfectly pleased. Plus, Daniel had a few cast off pieces of challah from his behemoth, so I dipped those in some of my thick brown gravy. And in that moment, with the sweetness of the light bread intermingling with the viscous, savory sauce, I realized what is perhaps the meaning of the H in B&H - heaven!

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