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Mark Alyn

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As a host, reporter and writer Mark has talked about and scribbled about food, wine and travel. ...Read More

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Food Memories
By: Mark Alyn   |    September 10, 2012   |   0 Comments (0) (0)

Sammyís Romanian Steakhouse

This is one of the most fun places with outstanding food you can ever go to. Itís not formal, so dress comfortably. Prepare to eat yourself into a stupor with some of the best steak ever, along with some amazing side dishes. Sammyís is an on going Bar Mitzvah that started in 1929! New ownership took over in the 70s, according to rumor in a winning hand of poker!

Let me set the record straight. While informal and lacking in an upscale atmosphere, Sammyís is not cheap. The cost per person can be well over a hundred bucks a person. Itís well worth it!

Let me set the record straight. I love eating. I love trying new things, new ideas and new anything. I eat because something tastes great. I dine at amazing restaurants like Per Se, Le Bernadine, Mastroís and Cut on a regular basis; yet Sammyís is still one of my all time favorite places to eat.

Sammyís features what I call haute Jewish cuisine. While your Bubby (grandmother) didnít serve prime meat, Sammyís does. The tenderloinís or skirt steaks are the most popular and easy to share. Before the steak you must try the chopped chicken liver. Iíll tell you more about this amazing Jewish pateī in a moment.

On my first visit to Sammyís, about 20 years ago, my dining companion asked about the bottle of liquid butter on the table. How did they keep it liquid even at room temperature? I explained to my dining friend, that this was the Jewish version of ďI canít Believe Itís Not Butter.Ē Itís not butter, but you use it like butter. Smear it on a piece of rye bread and wow. This elixir is actually schmaltz or rendered chicken fat. My grandmother used it in her chopped liver and it really is the secret ingredient.

The chopped liver is prepared tableside. The waiter smashes the livers with a fork, mixes in the gribenes and radish and your experience begins. At Sammyís they mix in a bit of radish, along with fried chicken skin and chicken fat. The skin and fat is actually fried in the schmaltz along with some onion. The technical term for this isgribenesand it reminds me of my grandmother. Yes, this will spike your cholesterol, but it is yummy. Really.

A dish of old and new pickles is brought to the table along with sweet roasted Hungarian bell peppers (I canít find these in any local market) and fresh rye bread.

About now the entertainment starts. A guy plays a variety of music, from ethnic to rock, Broadway to parody. He plays on an electric keyboard and sings. He has a great time and so do diners. Okay, heís a bit off key but his enthusiasm makes up for that.

My wife loves the veal cutlet and orders it every time. Itís lightly breaded and fried. Itís enough to feed three people! Itís huge. Itís good, tender and juicy, but I love the Tenderloin (skirt) steak. Even the small steak hangs over the side of the plate. Sharing a medium cut, along with the chopped liver, we still had enough for a snack the next day.

The steak is cooked to order (rare for me) and is perfect. The juices run clear, the rye bread available to soak up each drop. The steak is marinated in garlic and itís one of the best. I really like skirt steak; itís one of my preferred cuts of meat. I like the texture and flavor. I make this steak at home when Iím feeling like beef.

Sammyís serves some additional interesting fare including unborn chicken eggs,Karnatzlack (Romanian sausage) and kishka (intestine stuffed with finely chopped meat and grain). For those who want to drink like the Russian Revolution, you can have a shot from a bottle of vodka frozen in a block of ice. Each table comes with an old-fashioned seltzer bottle, the kind you can actually squirt at someone.

Between the singing, jokes, eating and stuffing yourself like you are a kishka, there comes the time at the end of the meal for an egg cream. First, an egg cream contains no eggs. A shot of whole milk is infused with Foxes U-Bet chocolate syrup. A real honest to goodness Egg Cream is made with Foxes, not Herseyís, or another brand. Not only do other syrups taste different, itís tradition with U-Bet. Then you finish the glass up to the top with seltzer, mixing the milk, chocolate syrup and soda. This is heaven in a glass.

As a kid, my dad (who came from New York) use to make this dessert drink for us on special occasions. Being at Sammyís reminds me of my dad and grandmother (on my momís side). Wonderful life memories served up by wonderful food.

Sammyís is a culinary adventure unlike other dining places. Sammyís offers up dishes rich in history.††

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