About a week ago, we received an invitation to attend the official launch party for Manny’s Uptown Kitchen at the Gateway Shopping Center. Those of you familiar with the Northwest side of Austin may be wondering, as I did, if Manny’s Uptown is connected to the deli Manny Hattan’s. As it turns out, it is. In fact, Manny’s Uptown Kitchen used to be Manny Hattan’s. So why the re-launch and re-name?
We had a chance to speak with the owners and they said they were ready to try something new while still trying to retain their New York Jewish deli roots. They wanted something that would be fun and new, but familiar at the same time. What they have done is taken traditional deli fare, then added a unique (and we feel), very successful twist. So what have they done, exactly? Well for starters, there is now a much greater emphasis on fresh, handmade ingredients as well as a re-interpretation of some familiar deli classics. The result is a sort of deli-fusion cuisine. While this article is not a review per se, it will discuss many of the great things we found at Manny's during the event.
Take the deli sushi as one example of these deli-fusion dishes. In fact you will probably want to take several of these. A piece of smoked salmon has been wrapped around cream cheese, asparagus and red onion, and served with bagel chips. This may sound familiar; as it's usually known as lox and a bagel. This particular re-imagining is served with the salmon wrapped around the cream cheese and vegetables, giving it the look and feel of a sushi roll. This dish was absolutely delicious. The salmon was perfectly smoked and yet did not overpower the other ingredients, and it is a very beautiful dish visually speaking.
Another thing that stood out for me was how fresh everything tasted. A great example of this was the Kicked Up Potato Cakes. They're fried to order and come served three ways: loaded with bacon sour cream, cheese and green onion; with guacamole, pico de gallo and cotija cheese; and finally with chili con queso. We sampled the guacamole and loaded versions. Both were fantastic. The cake is nice and crunchy yet not very greasy. For me, the real stand out was the guacamole and pico de gallo. The guacamole tasted fresh, like the avocados had just been. This is a definite winner of an appetizer if ever there was one.
While we certainly enjoyed everything, one item that was an all-around favorite was the seared ahi tuna. Now, let’s make one thing very clear. I love me some seared tuna. In fact everyone at the table felt exactly as did Johnny when he said, “Seared tuna is my kryptonite.” It’s just hard to beat a nice piece of tuna cooked to a perfect rare standard. This piece of tuna is also lightly glazed and served with a fantastic pineapple salsa. The salsa is just right, not too sweet, not too spicy and just enough of it to add a little extra character to the dish without taking over. This one comes highly recommended.
Now I’ll admit when I found out that this was a reopening/re-imagining of Manny Hattan’s I was a little worried about the cheesecake. Cheesecake, you see, is one of my favorite desserts and Manny's always had one of the best. In fact, for years I have told people that they are one of the two best places for cheesecake in town. So you can imagine how pleased I was to see that they still get their cheesecake from the Carnegie Deli in New York. Only now, the cheese cake comes with more than just strawberries. The piece I had was served with caramel and pieces of cinnamon rugelach (a lovely Jewish pastry) and lived up to my fond memories.
Finally we have the overall atmosphere of the place. Manny’s was always a pleasant enough place as a deli. But it seems somehow just a little more now. They changed just enough without going totally crazy on the remodel. And of course there is the staff which is excellent, and the owners who stand out as a shining example to other restaurateurs. They were very personable and eager to explain their restaurant and revamped mission. While this little write up may not be a full review, you should certainly take it as a recommendation. Keep up the great work, and we look forward to doing a full review!