Deli classics and bistro-style dishes are mostly very well-executed in Cameron Mitchell’s newest creation
Harvey & Ed's is described on its website as a “Modern American restaurant inspired by the classic Jewish delicatessens.” Note that the newest creation from the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants team doesn't call itself an actual deli.
A longer description for the establishment might read, “A handsome, upscale tavern with a serious kitchen, many deli-style dishes and the kind of gracious, knowledgeable service for which Cameron Mitchell's restaurants are known.” The lively operation also has great lighting, brick walls, butcher-block tables, a marble counter and bar, an excellent daily happy hour and enough allusions to old-school delis to hint at kitsch without wholly succumbing to it.
A solid wine list backs up a line of featured cocktails such as the summery Afternoon Schmooze ($10), with Watershed vodka and refreshingly tart-sweet strawberry and citrus flavors. Ed's Martini ($10), which is served with a bracing pickle-back shot, is a potent, lemon-kissed libation whose mild sweetness and ice-cold temperature make it dangerously easy to drink.
The large, colorful Grain Salad ($8) makes it wonderfully easy to eat something healthful here. Served in a properly chilled bowl, it's a texturally fun melange of wheat berries, quinoa, kale, fruit, nuts, feta and good greens tied together with a zippy, semi-sweet dressing.
Harvey & Ed's seems to be paying tribute to Rigsby's Kitchen — its predecessor at this location — by offering a bar snack similar to one Rigsby's once offered: the breadcrumb-coated Fried Stuffed Olives ($7). The newcomer ups the ante with ground lamb and a labneh-like dip.
Zayde's (Yiddish for “grandfather's”) Brisket Dinner ($25) is an especially good pick from selections outside the typical deli canon. Like a comforting-but-dressed-up pot roast meal, it features tender, long-cooked meat and roasted root veggies, plus a thick and sweet, demi-glace-like sauce. Pair this with the restaurant's dynamic treatment of Brussels sprouts ($8), and it can be a delicious dinner for two.
Moving to more traditional deli offerings, the soothing Bubbe's (Yiddish for “grandmother's”) Matzo Ball soup ($4) with soft matzo orbs, spot-on chicken broth and pulled chicken, is the real deal and highly recommended. Ditto for the stout and crisp, onion-scented potato pancakes (Latkes, $5), which are served with sour cream and tangy, thick, cinnamon-sprinkled, house-made applesauce so good it should be sold on its own.
Harvey & Ed's Knishes ($6) are better than the leaden street-cart knishes that are ubiquitous in New York City. Melted Gruyere provides the flaky pastry bundles with a distinct twist.
When it comes to the entree stars of Jewish delis — smoked salmon and hot pastrami sandwiches — the choice isn't even close: Go with the salmon. The lovely, house-cured fish is sliced much thicker than at “coastal elite” places such as Russ & Daughters or Wexler's Deli, but it bears a similar perfect smokiness, restrained salinity and delicate texture as those vaunted exemplars. Plus, it's prettily presented in coils decorated with fresh dill and capers, and is teamed with olives, pickles, frilly red onion loops, tomatoes, cucumbers, a high-quality Block's bagel and whipped cream cheese. Whether self-assembled into a superior sandwich or eaten free form, it's worth every penny of its $14 cost.
I can't say the same about the $16 pastrami sandwich. There's nothing wrong with it (and it comes with a side), but for that price, I'd hoped for something huge, memorable and made from scratch rather than a moderate-sized, perfectly fine sandwich made with meat trucked in from somewhere else (Sy Ginsberg's, a respected supplier).
To end on a sweet note, get the Black and White Cookie ($3; faithful to the New York classic) washed down with the Boozy Egg Cream, which improves on the New York classic by adding reposado tequila to the irresistible, fizzy, chocolate-milk drink.