It’s brine dining.
Pastrami has returned to the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and West 57th Street after 28 years — thanks, surprisingly, to a colorful, upscale Middle Eastern restaurant.
In December, Acadia opened at 101 W. 57th St., an address that belonged to the iconic Wolf’s deli for decades before it closed in 1996.
As an homage, Acadia has a pastrami-on-rye sandwich on the menu — and to my taste, it’s a lot better than any I recall at Wolf’s.
But the majority of Acadia’s menu is devoted to Mediterranean dishes inspired by the cuisines of Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Tunisia and Morocco. Executive chef Ari Bokovza shuttles between and Acadia and Dagon, the celebrated modern-Israeli bistro on the Upper West Side.
Even before Acadia opened, customers told Bokovza and managing partner Simon Oren they couldn’t get Wolf’s out of their heads. After it shuttered, the corner was home to a half-dozen flop restaurants, most recently The Wayfarer.
“But everybody says they only remember Wolf’s,” Oren told The Post with a chuckle.
So they added an “Homage to Wolf’s” category to Acadia’s lunch menu just for fun. The response has been so strong that they decided to keep it on the menu permanently.
The most popular choice is the $24 pastrami-on-rye sandwich served with coleslaw, pickles and crisp, house-made chips. It’s a masterpiece of proper pastrami-making — something of a lost art in New York City, which made the Romania-derived specialty a classic dish. The health-aware demand for leaner cuts discourages most chefs from allowing much fat, which is essential to flavor. Worse, many cut corners on time-consuming marination, which is as necessary for pastrami as boiling is for bagel-making.
To my taste, Acadia’s product is as good as the fabled one at Katz’s downtown. It’s rich with mineral essences and earthen notes of brined and smoked beef brisket and spices. Served warm, it has a melt-in-your mouth texture. Try eating it with your hands and the meat will escape the bread and dribble onto the plate.
But, “as much as I’d love to take credit for it, our pastrami is from Liebman’s, the last Kosher deli in the Bronx,” Bokovza said. “They brine it, smoke it and steam it and then send it over to us.” Acadia presents it perfectly — and with top-notch accompaniments.
Customers and neighborhood folk are loving it.
“A lady came in the other day who wasn’t even eating with us and asked, ‘Didn’t this used to be Wolf’s?’ ” manager Alon Moskovitch said.
I hope she comes back for the pastrami. It easily bests other options in the neighborhood. Have a look.
BROOKLYN DINER USA
Shelly Fireman’s restaurants nearly always deliver the goods — like the Brooklyn’s crunchy, juicy, spicy fried chicken sandwich. But the pastrami was a stunning letdown. The menu claims it’s served hot and “cured for seven days and smoked with white hickory for four hours.” It was indeed hot, but tasted little of spice, smoke or wood. Thick, rectangular strips of meat were shoe-leather tough. 212 W. 57th St.
CARNEGIE DINER & CAFE
This cheerful noshing ground on a busy corner across from Carnegie Hall boasts that its pastrami-on- rye uses navel wagyu beef. Whatever its origins, it was served at barely room temperature and tasted neither of beef nor brining. Gulden’s Spicy Brown mustard could only help so much. 205 W. 57th St.
Like Carnegie’s, this one’s a PINO — pastrami in name only. The generic-tasting entry at this bustling corner spot had even less flavor than Carnegie’s — despite a hint of moisture and a modicum of marbling. It came to the table nearly ice cold and without a whiff of seasoning or even of salt. 1331 Sixth Ave. (at West 55th Street)