Pastrami Evolution: Tacos, Ramen, Kung Pao
Rao Deli ramen at Dassara
I have a real soft spot for the oddities of modern fusion, or whatever you want to call it. For those hybrids built in the name of deliciousness. Maybe it has something to do with being a cultural hybrid myself, but I take kindly to the words "pastrami taco." Right away I imagine how great hot pastrami and pickled cabbage might be in a fresh tortilla. But what a disappointment.
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Super Linda is a big, pan-Latin spot that opened in Tribeca this past February. I had never ventured in for dinner, but when their takeout counter opened last week, I gave the pastrami taco a go: The meat had been cut carelessly with the grain, instead of against it. Maybe at some point it held the complex sweetness, spice, and smoke of great pastrami, but by the time it came out, it was bland and tough.
But it's not the only pastrami riff in town. Here are two I've eaten recently that make a solid case for cheering (not sneering) alternative applications:
Danny Bowien swaps out the chicken in Kung Pao for wok-tossed, house-made pastrami ($11) at Mission Chinese Food in the Lower East Side. The rest of the dish is pretty familiar, but the intense layers of smoke and chile make a hot, shouty case for experimenting.
Dassara, a new ramen shop in Brooklyn, puts Montreal-style smoked meat in their deli ramen, pictured above ($15). The thin, pastrami-esque slices make sense in a cloudy chicken broth with frizzy noodles, a jiggly egg, and teeny matzo balls. Though I'd prefer a fattier cut, this ramen eats like a thoughtful composition, not a stunt.