Sandwich of the Week: New Catch Herring at Russ & Daughters in New York City
As a boy I loved visiting the Central Park Zoo. My favorite animal? Not lions, tigers, or even the polar bears. I loved feeding time at the seal pool. Now here's the weird part — I was jealous of the seals. The zookeepers would gently toss glistening, fatty, oily herring, tail and all, to be swallowed whole by the happily barking sea lions. No matter how often I practiced my seal impression, perfecting my bark and flipper clapping, the zookeeper ignored me.
Flash forward to Russ & Daughters located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The fresh-caught herring, which unlike the brinier, salted, pickled herring that you see year-round, are mild, soft, and rosy-colored. The maatjes, as this variety of herring is called, are celebrated in the summer in Denmark and Norway as the immature fish are caught and cured for just a few days.
Russ & Daughters is offering this Dutch treat through the summer. They put the fillet on a brioche roll, which I prefer to think of as a challah hot dog bun, complemented by the perfect condiments of raw diced onions and sliced cornichons (that's little pickles to New Yawkers). The fish is absolutely buttery and the relish gives the sandwich crunch on the soft, sweet, egg-y bread.
In deference to the Central Park zoo seals, I request that the zookeepers at R & D leave the herring tail intact and poking out of the bun. I have been politely yet firmly asked to leave the store to eat my sandwich outside, as they tell me my joyful barking and clapping annoys the other customers.