P'tcha, photo credit Danielle Adams for BeccaPR.

This Chef Proves Even the Grossest Jewish Foods Can Be Delicious

Your grandmother's food gets a sexy makeover.

When you look at the menus of the new Jewish restaurants opening around the country, the dishes most often focus on smoked meat sandwiches, hand-rolled bagels topped with colorful vegetables and cured fish, and the uber-popular (and super Instagram-able) shakshuka.

Foods like tongue, herring, or borscht? Not so much.

Except at 2nd Avenue Deli’s newest endeavor, 2nd Floor, a bar situated on top of 2nd Ave Deli’s Upper East Side location, which features a menu and brand aimed at a younger, hipper, Jewish food-loving crowd. The menu deliberately features some pretty traditional dishes with a modern, updated twist: tongue sliders, herring three ways, and even p’tcha, a dish almost universally considered one of the grossest foods Jews have produced.

Shuba salad, also known as herring in an overcoat.

I was lucky enough to dine recently at 2nd Floor, where Chef David Teyf shared some of his favorite dishes from the menu and we chatted a bit about his own journey as a chef.

Teyf was born in Minsk, Ukraine, and many of the dishes of 2nd Floor were inspired by his own grandparents who were Holocaust survivors. But before Teyf arrived in America, he also spent time in Austria and Italy. He is a formally-trained chef, which shows in the execution and presentation of all the dishes and cocktails at 2nd Floor. Teyf also owns LOX at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, which features some of the same dishes as 2nd Floor.

This is not the gefilte fish, helzel, or kreplach of generations past: Teyf is having fun and modernizing the dishes of his family. The p’tcha, updated from an aspic into an incredibly rich soup, arrives accompanied by smoked rosemary; the shuba (herring in an overcoat) is a beautifully-plated layered salad topped with salmon roe; and the matzah kugel is made with onions cooked five different ways. The interior of 2nd Floor is also a far cry from the typical bright lights and Formica table tops of Jewish delis: Rustic wood beams grace the ceiling and the walls, the lighting is low and spotted with votive candles, and the super hip bathroom is complete with a long, trough-style sink.

Everything spice pigs in a blanket.

Will p’tcha become the latest foodie craze? Probably not. But thanks to 2nd Floor, it’s getting some much deserved love, along with some other beloved “disgusting” Jewish food.

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