Saturday, May 24, 2014

Goodbye Kashkaval

It's hard to say goodbye to a restaurant that is a neighborhood institution which serves terrific food. It's especially hard to stomach (no pun intended) when the restaurant is being forced out for no good reason.

Today is Kashkaval's last day of service. They've been in Hell's Kitchen since the 90s, they're always busy, they were willing to work with the landlord to pay market rent, but they're still being kicked out. It makes no sense and it completely sucks for everyone who worked there and everyone who loved the place. 

Kashkaval is a unique place. The front of the establishment houses a take-out section, where you can buy, among other things, cheese, meat, and various Mediterranean tapas. In the back, there's a wine bar and restaurant, where you can get cheese plates, charcuterie, various tapas and dips and other appetizers, sandwiches, fondue, and other great Mediterranean dishes.

We didn't go to Kashkaval for many years after we moved in to the neighborhood, since it was always crowded (we hate waiting in line) and we figured it had been around forever and wasn't going anywhere. Now we wish we had gone much more regularly! The same thing happened with Le Madeleine, the beloved neighborhood French restaurant that was also forced out for no good reason. We're still a bit sad over that one too.

We've somehow (we're so behind in posting, so probably not that surprising) never written about Kashkaval here, so to say goodbye, here's a look at some dishes we've really loved.

You can get sampler plates of chilled Mediterranean tapas, and that's probably one of our favorite things to do. They're the same tapas that you can get to go from the front section, and they're so healthy and tasty.

The plate above has eggplant caponata (baked eggplants, garlic, tomatoes), spinach and feta (Bulgarian feta, onions, garlic, olive oil), roasted brussels sprouts (vinegar, garlic, olive oil, herbs), and artichoke dip (artichokes, olive oil, lemon, herbs). (The parenthetical descriptions don't list everything, but it's what's on the menu.) The one below has tzatziki (cucumbers, yogurt labne, garlic, dill, mint), piyaz (white beans, scallions, parsley, dill, olive oil), roasted brussels sprouts (clearly we like brussels sprouts), eggplant tapenade (roasted eggplants, garlic, olive oil, spices), lentil salad (green lentils, parsley, onions, fresh herbs), and baked beets (fresh beets, garlic, dill vinaigrette).

The tapas come with a basket of whole wheat pita bread wedges for dipping. Considering the variety you can get with these plates, they could be a perfect appetizer to share or even a meal of their own. The pricing isn't too bad either: 4 items for $13, 5 for $16, and 6 for $19. Sure, you could probably make some of these for cheaper at home, but for this quality and variety, it's worth it.

We've also tried over half the sandwiches on Kashkaval's menu. The sandwiches come on ciabatta bread with a choice of side dish - taboule, Greek salad, or Russian potato salad. We've tried all the sides. M's favorite is the Greek salad and A's is the Russian potato salad. All 3 are really good though, and perfect sides for sandwiches.

The sandwich M has ordered every single time she gets a sandwich is the chacarero.

Although they bear the same name, the Kashkaval chacarero is an entirely different sandwich from the Chilean chacarero.  The Kashkaval version contains turkey meatballs and Fontina cheese with tomato, avocado, and red onion. Although the toppings are good, the reason why this sandwich is so good is the turkey meatballs, which are so well-seasoned and full of vegetables (more on those later).

A's also gotten the mustard chicken and gruyere sandwich, which comes with basil infused oil, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. The spiciness from the mustard and mild vinegar of the artichoke pairs nicely with the mild sweetness or the tomatoes and saltiness of the gruyere to create a wonderfully balanced flavor to the sandwich.

A has also ordered the soujouk and jalapeño jack sandwich, which has dill pickles, red onions, and fresh tomatoes. Soujouk is a dried sausage that can either be eaten raw or "fried" with its own fat. It is often heavily spiced with cumin, sumac, garlic, salt, and red pepper and can be made with either beef or pork. (The Kashkaval version is beef.) This sandwich used the natural saltiness of the soujouk and cut that with the sourness from dill pickles, sharpness from red onions, and sweetness from the tomatoes to blend a sandwich that was not only intensely flavorful but full of varying textures with all of the components.


Most of our Kashkaval eating has centered around the sandwiches and tapas, but on our last visit, we finally investigated the entrees. Many of them sounded good, but M knew she had to get the turkey meatballs. They're the same meatballs that are in the chacarero, but the entree comes with 3 meatballs, and sides of tzatziki, Greek salad (or taboule), and mushroom bulgur (or orzo).

This was so good that M was kicking herself for never ordering it earlier. Dunking the meatballs in the tzatziki was even more delicious than eating them in sandwich form. Combine that with the refreshing and light Greek salad and some healthy yet rich mushroom bulgur, and it's really such a great combination. M's inspired to make something like this someday.

We went back to Kashkaval during their final week of service to say goodbye. We were surrounded by a bunch of really loud people (won't miss the high crowd volume), but the food was well worth putting up with that. We're just sad we'll never be able to go back there again. Kashkaval did open a sister restaurant last year down the block called Kashkaval Garden. We'll definitely visit there, and we know we can get some similar types of things there, but it just won't be the same.

Thanks Kashkaval for all the great food and for being such a great part of the neighborhood!

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