Few foods are as polarizing as gefilte fish, the Jewish ground fish balls that round out a proper Passover meal. Traditionally made of whitefish, pike or carp ground with onions and matzoh meal, then formed into patties or balls and poached, gefilte fish is loved by some and repulses others. Seasoned properly and served alongside a bracing beet horseradish, the fish can be quite delicious; however, casual gefilte observers are probably most familiar with the shelf-stable jarred version, with pale orbs suspended in a mucousy goo. Fortunately for Jews and Gentiles alike, a handful of new outfits are revamping the dish, using high-quality ingredients and unexpected technique to create a gefilte that's worth eating year-round.
Gefilteria: A new Brooklyn-based startup that puts an artisanal spin on Jewish heritage foods, Gefilteria's signature product is made of sustainably sourced whitefish and pike, plus an eye-catching ribbon of Pacific salmon in the middle of the baked loaf. Texture-wise, it's dense and finely ground, more akin to a pate than the airy pockmarked blobs from the jars; served with fresh horseradishes, one made sweet with beets and the other spicy with carrots. Their limited Passover run is sold out (sign up for the waiting list here), though co-founder Jeffrey Yoskowitz says they'll be planning various pop-ups and appearances at Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Flea and the Hester Street fair soon, and tickets are still available for their multi-course meal at the Invisible Dog Art Gallery in Boerum Hill next Friday.
Kutsher's Tribeca: Last year, owner Zach Kutsher told us he wanted to make gefilte fish sexy. By and large, the Tribeca outpost of the classic Catskills resort has succeeded, crafting a goo-free wild halibut gefilte that's meaty and firm. Presented in a neat log, it's topped with a finely minced beet and horseradish tartare, carefully placed sprigs of micro arugula and parsley oil vinaigrette. It's available year-round as an appetizer ($12), though the restaurant is accepting reservations for a special Passover Seder dinner this weekend, right this way.
186 Franklin Street // (212) 431-0606 // online
Jack's Wife Freda: The menu at this boho-cute new Soho cafe blends flavors from its husband-and-wife owner's childhoods (he's from South Africa, she's from Israel), resulting in a distinctly multicultural mashup. Their take on the Jewish classic goes by the name Freda's fried fish balls, and they're all but guaranteed to covert even the most avowed gefilte-hater. Smoked whitefish and hake are ground into a mousse with carrots, parsley and shallots, then double-breaded in oversized panko crumbs and lightly fried to crispy perfection, served with a creamy horseradish aioli dip. Owner Maya Jankelowitz calls them "inspired" by gefilte fish, and an inspired version indeed they are. Available year-round as a dinner appetizer ($10).
224 Lafayette Street // (212) 510-8550 // online