The Glorious Fish and Chips at Dame

I had a hunch, the second I noticed the wonderful fish and chips at Dame, a pop-up within the West Village, that they have been going to be the most effective I’d ever had. In a number of bites, my suspicion was confirmed: deep inside a surreally puffy, crunchy, craggy golden shell of batter—adorned with coarse, twinkling crystals of sea salt—I discovered satiny, briny flakes of hake. Each of the thick-cut chips bore the unmistakably bronzed, bubbled floor and creamy inside of a mild boil adopted by a number of rounds within the deep fryer. Tucked beside them, of their charming paper boat, was a wedge of lemon; the faint fragrance of malt vinegar hovered within the air.

Each order is completed with a spritz of malt vinegar and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and served with a lemon wedge. The English-leaning cocktail menu features a gin-and-tonic.Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

By telephone the opposite day, the chef Ed Szymanski, who began Dame, final March, with Patricia Howard, his companion in each life and enterprise, was greater than recreation to light up his approach. Though I didn’t anticipate it to be easy, the method he described was so intricate it made me chortle out loud. I felt a wash of awe, then gratitude, for the lengths he’d taken to make one thing so spectacularly scrumptious.

To excellent his recipe, Szymanski drew on his years of expertise cooking in his native England and in New York, at Brooklyn’s Cherry Point, a number of April Bloomfield eating places, and the Beatrice Inn (the place he and Howard met). He studied books by Josh Niland, an Australian chef identified for his improvements in fish butchery, and the British chef Heston Blumenthal, thought of a father of molecular gastronomy. To obtain a crust that’s sturdy sufficient to do justice to probably the most conventional iterations of the English dish however “light enough that it makes you think of tempura,” he instructed me, he combines all-purpose flour with rice flour, including baking powder for a ballooning impact and honey for shade.

Deli choices embody a wide range of breads from close by bakeries, smoked-whitefish salad, saffron potted shrimp, and sardines in curry oil.Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

In a key transfer, he cuts the beer in his batter with vodka, which has a decrease evaporating level, “so when the batter hits the frying oil, it forms a crust much quicker, which stops the fish itself from frying.” The hake successfully steams however by no means will get soggy; earlier than cooking, he cures it (per Niland) for half a day over a mixture of salt, sugar, and lemon zest. As for the chips, after they’re boiled and earlier than their first dip within the fryer, they’re dried completely with an electrical fan, then frozen. And, for his ultimate moisture-reducing trick (à la Blumenthal), Szymanski sprays, relatively than dribbles, each fish and chips in a wonderful mist of malt vinegar, utilizing an atomizer.

In Szymanski and Howard’s unique imaginative and prescient for Dame, the emphasis was on the English custom of wood-fired meats. This proved tough for a pop-up format even pre-pandemic, and by summer time that they had pivoted. That they didn’t appear to have a lot competitors when it got here to fish and chips led Szymanski to surprise if New Yorkers can be disinterested, however it turned out that the market was merely theirs to nook. In the course of 5 months, Dame Summer Club, as they first known as it (the menu additionally featured tomato sandwiches, Eton mess, and cocktails together with a Pimm’s cup), made twenty thousand {dollars} in income, all of which they donated to organizations related to Black Lives Matter.

White-bean-and-anchovy soup with sourdough from Mel Bakery.Photograph by William Mebane for The New Yorker

Last fall, they started to promote provisions as Dame Deli & Bottle Shop. Fish and chips are nonetheless accessible on Fridays and Saturdays; expanded choices embody wine and domestically made spirits, recent produce (chicories, citrus), and bread and pastries from close by bakeries. A small fridge is stacked with half-pints of phenomenal ready seafood dishes, from saffron potted shrimp to smoked-whitefish chowder and squid in tomato oil, an array of which, with a baguette and a bath of roasted-garlic aioli, makes for the dreamiest of suppers. It’s an thrilling preview of way more to return. In May, the pair will open a full-service seafood-themed institution subsequent door (with outside seating, at least), serving Szymanski’s playful interpretations of classics comparable to kedgeree, grilled oysters with hollandaise, and sashimi—seasoned with “English soy sauce,” a discount of bread inventory (constructed from sourdough simmered in water), Worcestershire, and Marmite. (Fish and chips $20, ready meals $5-$10.) ♦


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