New Yorkers love their pastrami, as evidenced by the long lines at institutions like Katz’s and newcomers like Mile End Deli. But the restaurants featured below do something a little different with this cured meat: they take away the sandwich. By Jessica Allen.
Brooklyn Wok Shop regularly features several types of dumplings at its Smorgasburg outpost in DUMBO on Sundays, including duck confit and crab rangoon. Our favorite, however, are those stuffed with pastrami. Each bite conjures a taste of the Lower East Side, from the wonton wrapping to the sauerkraut slaw to the scallions to the whole grain mustard dijonaise to the salty shreds of meat. The brick-and-mortar restaurant in Williamsburg does “Chinese food 2.0,” reinventing classics using top-notch, often unusual ingredients and “an artisanal hand.”
The kung pao pastrami at Mission Chinese Food perfectly embodies the philosophy of Danny Bowien’s Lower East Side restaurant: take a staple of “American Oriental” cuisine, then turn it on its proverbial ear. This dish is a complete and utter reinvention of kung pao chicken, a sweet, salty, spicy surprise. It has celery, potatoes, and what the menu describes as “explosive chili.” From the plastic dragon twisted across the ceiling to the free keg beer provided to those waiting on line, the friendly kookiness here totally charms.
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At Super Linda, the pastrami taco comes with caraway seeds, diced pickles, and aji amarillo vigaron, a slaw made from chilies. Get a side of grilled corn on the cob and plantains con crema, with chocolate and churros for dessert, and you’ll be more than ready for a night of dancing / carousing / escapading. This bar and restaurant in Tribeca is run by the folks behind such hotspots as The Beatrice Inn and La Esquina, and the vibe at this place is as fiercely see-and-be-seen as at those spots.
Much has been made of Alder, the more casual sibling of wd-50, Wylie Dufresne’s temple to molecular gastronomy. In addition to well-crafted cocktails and a thoughtful selection of reasonably priced wines, the menu boasts all kinds of bar snacks, but these aren’t your run-of-the-mill nachos and fries. The fish and chips, for example, comes with vinegar powder and tartar sauce made from sweet peas and ramps, while the rye pasta includes pastrami shaved over pasta made from, not flavored with, rye. Have a bite, and you’ll see what we mean.
It’s not always on the menu, but the deli ramen at Dassara, in Boerum Hill, basically puts a sandwich into a bowl of broth. You’ll get huge slices of pastrami (from Mile End nearby), a soft-poached egg, bamboo shoots, and green onions—just about everything except the rye bread and mustard. The bacon and egg noodle ramen deconstructs another classic NYC sandwich: into a bacon broth go pecorino cheese, ramen noodles, and a soft-poached egg. You can even add matzo balls to any ramen dish for an extra $2.