Mishkin’s – Twice

29 Jan

I like to talk about how I am Jewish even though I am not (apparently half Jewish doesn’t count). I spent almost every Sunday of my childhood in Golders Green eating potato latkes, salt beef sandwiches, kosher sausages, cheesecake etc which does help with my pretence. I can at least claim that I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish cuisine to people who do not know any better.

I don’t go to Golders Green much anymore and since Bloom’s deli has closed I am not really sure where the good places are to eat. This has meant I haven’t had a potato latke in years, probably one of my most favourite foods in the world. I was pleased therefore when Mishkin’s opened in Covent Garden. They describe it as ‘a kind of Jewish deli with cocktails’ and as I am ‘a kind of Jew’ I figured that would be good enough for me. Also, from the collection of restaurants Spuntino, Polpo, Da Polpo, Polpetto, Da Polpettopinopolpetti (one of these may not exist) I was more or less guaranteed a good time.

On a chilly day in December I crossed the river after work and hungrily hurried into the warmth of Mishkin’s. Tucked away into a corner sat Mark and his mother, Sheila, and I went to join them. I like the aesthetic of Mishkin’s, much like the others it has cool, rustic charm and yellow tinted lighting. I looked at the menu and said things like ‘ah yes, glad to see a potato latke here’ and ‘it will be interesting to see how their Reuben compares to my authentic memories of the sandwich’. In the end I ordered neither and opted for the Duck Hash, Fried Egg and Liquor because as the regular readers will have noticed I cannot resist an egg.

Just look at that plump, round, glowing yolk. Look at how it is just ready to burst with yellow creamy liquid. As already established I love egg, I also love fried potatoes and duck so you can imagine what I thought of the dish as a whole. It was comfort food in its most pure and perfect form. The liquor that I poured on top was essentially a rich and silky gravy, elevating it to something quite special. Thinking about this has tempted me to buy a whole duck so that I can recreate a really big portion of it. My belly knows no limits. We all dipped into each others dishes, but I am ashamed to say that I was incredibly greedy and was less inclined to share mine. Naomi did very well, Mark and Sheila had a comparatively poor deal.

Mark ordered Meat Loaf, partly in preparation for the meat loaf we were planning to cook the following week. I’ve always been wary of the appeal of said lump of compressed meat as I am not sure what can make essentially a loaf of minced beef taste that good. As we waited for our meal we were informed that Mark’s dish would arrive a bit late as the soft-boiled egg in the middle of his meat loaf had burst so the whole thing needed to be made again. My ears pricked up. It now had the makings of a promising dish. It was presented in a mini loaf tin and was glistening with meaty flavour. And eating it… lets just say trying this was confirmation that cooking our own would be a great idea. Unfortunately, my attempt at a soft-boiled egg in the centre was not as successful.

Sheila went for Oxtail Cholent with Barley, Beer and Beans. It didn’t look or taste quite as I had imagined it, being pale in colour and more creamy than meaty in taste. I thought it was delicious and much like the steak and eggs at Spuntino, this will be the one plate of food that I will order time and time again in the future. I’m having a bit of a love affair with barley and its many forms at the moment – if deep, warm, pure love were a texture, that would be it.

I had rice pudding for dessert and as there is no such thing as bad rice pudding it was good. Not the best I have ever had, but better than Ambrosia, and I do really like Ambrosia. Mark had Bananas Foster because I made him have it, which is unkind of me as I don’t think Mark really likes bananas. Cover a banana in caramel though and not even he could complain.

As it was approaching Christmas I treated myself to a mulled gin because lama lo? as my grandmother would say (it is Hebrew for ‘why not?’ – yeah, that’s right). I say I treated myself but it was actually Sheila who paid for it all and I am eternally grateful. I do like Sheila (not just because she bought me lunch).

So hoorah and l’chaim etc. I had a fantastic time. But I am not done, oh no. This post is titled ‘Mishkin’s – Twice’ for a reason and I think you can guess why. I went back a few days later, mainly because I had not tried the famous Reuben that everyone seemed to wax lyrical about even before they had tried it. I had bumped into a friend on my first visit and she confirmed that yes, I should try it and that was about all the encouragement I needed. Another stroll across the river after work led me back to Covvy G and into the embrace of Mishkin’s. This time round I was not given much of an opportunity to consider anything else on the menu as I was told I had about 10 minutes to order before the kitchen closed. Luckily I already knew what I wanted, but it did mean I forgot about the opportunity of bringing my lips to a potato latke once more which has made me sad.

I ordered Chicken Matzo Ball Soup to start as people seem to love this to infinity as well. Understandable as there are few things more comforting than chicken broth with dumplings – it is the perfect thing to eat when ill. I was a little underwhelmed by the soup as I found it rather bland. The matzo balls were boom and warm all the way through which was particularly nice as anytime I have it at home the centre tends to be cold. I know the flavour of the broth is meant to be subtle but a couple of shakes of salt wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Nevermind, I had the Reuben on Rye with Pastrami, Sauerkraut, Russian Dressing and Swiss Cheese to contend with next. Cripes it was mighty. I realised my first course was entirely unnecessary in my attempt to get full. From pictures I assumed that the bread to filling ratio was slightly off in the same way that an average sandwich shop panini always appears to be 97% ciabatta and 3% filling. I assumed wrongly, there was plenty of everything between the rye. I was pretty sure I had tried a Reuben before but after my first bite I knew I was mistaken – it didn’t taste anything like I imagined it was. I am afraid to say I was not that keen. It was very creamy from the dressing and cheese and a bit sweet from the pastrami. The sauerkraut wasn’t strong enough to cut through the richness of it which meant that the whole sandwich felt a bit one-dimensional. This made me sad, especially when it defeated me half way through and I had to give up. Not before I did that revolting thing of dismantling the sandwich and messily scooping out the filling I wanted – namely the sauerkraut.

It is partially my fault as I always seem to forget that I don’t like pastrami. Why have it when you can have salt beef? But I do miss that aniseedy rye I used to devour so greedily all those years ago in Golders Green. Will I ever taste it again? Oh Bloom’s, how you have left a loaf shaped hole in my heart. As my favourite Jewish saying goes, when one door closes another door closes. I left Mishkin’s the second time round a little disheartened. Isn’t it terrible how choosing the wrong thing on the menu will ruin a potentially good time?

I’ll be honest, I am not as discouraged as all that, I do plan to go back. Memories of the potato latkes of my childhood keep flooding back and a craving is developing that just won’t go away until it is satisfied. I often find myself distracted thinking of soft and crispy shredded potato and the smell which is like no other. Though Bloom’s may have let me down, I think Mishkin’s will be a very good place to start.



4 Responses to “Mishkin’s – Twice”

  1. Jyotsna January 29, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Superlative post! I’m sorry about your Reuben experience but I’m still excited about trying it, I love pastrami.

    • girlinpearls January 29, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks man!

      I think you’ll probably like it if you love pastrami. I say go for it but maybe have a side order of pickles to accompany it.

  2. Sally January 30, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Lama lo? Great entry Naomi, really want to go there. Sx

    • girlinpearls January 30, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      You’d love it there, Sally!

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