The chef Ed Szymanski, who opened Dame, in the West Village, with his partner, Patricia Howard, applies intricate techniques to the English classic, involving vodka and a malt-vinegar atomizer. There are sections for various topics including science and tech, business, entertainment, health and sport. You’ll be able to select which stories, topics and publishers you want to see in the tab and hide ones that you don’t. Your News Feed will still include articles shared by people and pages you follow. The company is […]
I had a hunch, the moment I saw the glorious fish and chips at Dame, a pop-up in the West Village, that they were going to be the best I’d ever had. In a few bites, my suspicion was confirmed: deep within a surreally puffy, crunchy, craggy golden shell of batter—adorned with coarse, twinkling crystals of sea salt—I found satiny, briny flakes of hake. Each of the thick-cut chips bore the unmistakably bronzed, bubbled surface and creamy interior of a gentle boil followed by multiple rounds in the deep fryer. Tucked beside them, in their charming paper boat, was a wedge of lemon; the faint perfume of malt vinegar hovered in the air.
By phone the other day, the chef Ed Szymanski, who started Dame, last March, with Patricia Howard, his partner in both life and business, was more than game to illuminate his technique. Though I didn’t expect it to be simple, the process he described was so intricate it made me laugh out loud. I felt a wash of awe, then gratitude, for the lengths he’d taken to make something so spectacularly delicious.
To perfect his recipe, Szymanski drew on his years of experience cooking in his native England and in New York, at Brooklyn’s Cherry Point, several April Bloomfield restaurants, and the Beatrice Inn (where he and Howard met). He studied books by Josh Niland, an Australian chef known for his innovations in fish butchery, and the British chef Heston Blumenthal, considered a father of molecular gastronomy. To achieve a crust that is sturdy enough to do justice to the most traditional iterations of the English dish but “light enough that it makes you think of tempura,” he told me, he combines all-purpose flour with rice flour, adding baking powder for a ballooning effect and honey for color.
In a key move, he cuts the beer in his batter with vodka, which has a lower evaporating point, “so when the batter hits the frying oil, it forms a crust much quicker, which stops the fish itself from frying.” The hake effectively steams but never gets soggy; before cooking, he cures it (per Niland) for half a day over a mix of salt, sugar, and lemon zest. As for the chips, after they’re boiled and before their first dip in the fryer, they’re dried thoroughly with an electric fan, then frozen. And, for his final moisture-reducing trick (à la Blumenthal), Szymanski sprays, rather than dribbles, both fish and chips in a fine mist of malt vinegar, using an atomizer.
In Szymanski and Howard’s original vision for Dame, the emphasis was on the English tradition of wood-fired meats. This proved difficult for a pop-up format even pre-pandemic, and by summer they had pivoted. That they didn’t seem to have much competition when it came to fish and chips led Szymanski to wonder if New Yorkers would be disinterested, but it turned out that the market was simply theirs to corner. In the course of five months, Dame Summer Club, as they first called it (the menu also featured tomato sandwiches, Eton mess, and cocktails including a Pimm’s cup), made twenty thousand dollars in profits, all of which they donated to organizations associated with Black Lives Matter.
Last fall, they began to sell provisions as Dame Deli & Bottle Shop. Fish and chips are still available on Fridays and Saturdays; expanded offerings include wine and locally made spirits, fresh produce (chicories, citrus), and bread and pastries from nearby bakeries. A small fridge is stacked with half-pints of phenomenal prepared seafood dishes, from saffron potted shrimp to smoked-whitefish chowder and squid in tomato oil, an array of which, with a baguette and a tub of roasted-garlic aioli, makes for the dreamiest of suppers. It’s an exciting preview of much more to come. In May, the pair will open a full-service seafood-themed establishment next door (with outdoor seating, at least), serving Szymanski’s playful interpretations of classics such as kedgeree, grilled oysters with hollandaise, and sashimi—seasoned with “English soy sauce,” a reduction of bread stock (made from sourdough simmered in water), Worcestershire, and Marmite. (Fish and chips $20, prepared foods $5-$10.) ♦
Author: Hannah Goldfield
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