Whenever people talk about cuisines that are missing from the Albuquerque food scene, a good, traditional NY-style deli is always near the top of the list (on my personal list, it probably comes right below Ethiopian, especially now that you can get Peruvian food here). But as much as folks bemoan the lack of a good pastrami-on-rye, I think most of us assume Albuquerque's not really a NYC deli town.
So imagine my surprise when a Facebook friend posted this! At a glance, the menu looks very, very authentic and not something I'd really have expected to see in Nob Hill. I peeked in the window tonight on my way from La Montanita Co-op...they're located in the Nob Hill Shopping Center at Amherst and Silver. They didn't quite look open yet, but does anyone know more? A legit bagel & lox alone would make it worth a visit...
It sounds like it's a question of not necessarily having the right equipment in-store...of course, we still really don't know what their pastrami is like given the corned-beef mix-up.
Joe, you certainly have a point to some degree, but I also think this attitude toward what's "authentic" reeks of a kind of ethnic essentialism that is frequently dead wrong. For instance, some of the best Thai places in ABQ are owned and operated by Laotians (a closely related ethnic and linguistic group, true) who have taken the time to really study and understand Thai cooking. There's a great (and very authentic) blog I read by a Thai woman and (excellent) cook who regularly writes about some of the mistakes and incorrect assumptions many native Thai cooks make when they cook for an American audience...the upshot is that many Thai places run by native Thais are dumbing down their food and its flavors and complexities because that's what they assume an American audience wants. The same could certainly be said about the vast majority of American Chinese and Indian places (run by Chinese or Indians) and probably most Japanese-operated sushi places as well. Chopsticks are a case in point: Thais don't use them, and with the exception of restaurants serving Chinese dishes you'll almost never see a pair of chopsticks anywhere in Thailand. But Thai-owned Thai restaurants in the US offer them as a routine because they know (or think they know) that's what their American customers expect from "Asian" food. (Don't even get me started on fortune cookies).
On the other hand, someone from outside an ethnic group who learns to cook a particular cuisine because they love it and are willing to really study and explore it may be less likely to make these changes...since they learned to cook something because they loved to cook it, they may be more willing to simply present a dish or cuisine at its most "authentic" and just let their audience take it or leave it. Certainly someone like Diane Kennedy is offering a presentation of true rural Mexican cuisine that's vastly more authentic than what you're going to get at the 24-hour (Mexican-owned) burrito place that is catering to people looking for a quick, cheap meal.
O.k., went back today because we were in the vicinity.
Still no AC -- what seems to be occurring is that they have standard vents off the building's central swamp cooler which can't possibly (ever) cut it for a commercial kitchen/restaurant. They're working on it.
And they're the ones suffering there all day, so I'm not complaining about that. Merely reporting.
I ordered pastrami again (as did my wife), making clear that I wanted pastrami -- not corned beef. But ... once again was certain I was eating corned beef. (My wife wholly agreed.)
Other patrons overheard my discussion with the owner and said they had the very same impression, along with thinking the fat should have been trimmed off.
It's a family recipe and home-made, of course, so it varies from standard pastrami quite a bit. The quality of the meat is wonderful -- one simply has to adjust to one's own definition of pastrami.
I asked for a sample of corned, just to compare, but they were out of that.
The house-baked rye bread is very good - though it ought to be sliced thicker to support a deli sandwich.
I had cole slaw today instead of potato salad and it was very good. My wife had the potato salad and said the potatoes were under-cooked.
I very much (desperately) want these folks to survive and thrive. I very much want them to get past opening problems, AC issues and other adjustments. I'll even adjust my palate to their version of pastrami just to have a real deli in town.
Good luck, Nosh. Hang in there.
"Second, several women greeted me in the friendliest way ... this was disconcerting since deli staff is traditionally curt, dismissive or downright rude. I didn't know what to say."
:D Yeah, I went into my deli back home (Boston area) for the first time. The owner pursed his lips and told me I didn't look Jewish. He agreed I could be their token shiksa. But eventually I could call when I had a cold and he's have my chicken soup ready when I got there. I might find a friendly deli owner disconcerting too.
Thanks for the warning. I was very excited at the thought of a real deli in ABQ, but I'll give them some time to work out the kinks too.
Well, apparently it wasn't at all clear that I was doing my best to be humorous, in a Woody Allen sort of way ...
Posting comments and assuming people will "get it" is obviously just as dangerous as sending e-mails that are tongue-in-cheek and are entirely mis-read by the recipient ...
As I mentioned in this thread, I grew up in L.A. and Canter's had some of the most surly servers anywhere. It was all part of the experience back then.
I stopped in for a bagel and lox this morning so can finally weigh in. The bagel was, as promised, an entirely different animal than the fluffy donut-shaped rolls typically served up around town: dense, toothy and tasty. I am no expert, but I would guess the water-bagel rumors are true. The lox was tasty and tender, nicely presented with lots of red onions and capers. The cream cheese was nothing to write home about, but that's hardly why one orders lox, is it? So for this first foray, at least, the food gets two thumbs up from me.
I also didn't find much to object to about the space...it was too early for the AC issue to manifest itself, but everything is tidy and well-decorated and shiny. Lots of attention has been paid to the interior and it shows. Sometimes you visit a new restaurant and get a clear sense that the idea behind the place was only half-formed or has been only half-executed. That doesn't really seem to be the case here. I'll need to try a wider range of dishes and see how they handle more complicated offerings but I was pleasantly surprised...hope that bodes well for the future.