One Great Plate

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The folks behind Cafeteria, the ever-popular Chelsea restaurant responsible for bringing you Tyler Florence and those gaggles of Sex and the City brunchers, have finally found a space downtown to dole out 24-hour comfort food. While Cafeteria is dedicated to decidedly American feel-goods like chicken & waffles or macaroni & cheese, the more multi-culti focus of their new eatery deserves a more evocative name. And in NYC, what could conjure up ethnic comfort food better than Delicatessen?

Housed in a space that was home to Buffa’s Luncheonette, the menu gives nods to beloved Jewish deli dishes like matzo ball soup ($7), pastrami on rye ($11) and Reuben fritters ($9) that are already making blips on foodie blog radars.

But Chef Doron Wong, who started in the kitchens of Boston as a mere teenager before his career took him to such exotic locations as Hong Kong, Singapore and New Jersey, isn’t just sticking to deli-inspired food. Comfort foods from all over the map are featured here, from British bangers and mash ($16) to pork schnitzel ($18) to East-meets-South dishes like halibut tacos ($11), with taco shells fashioned out of wonton wrappers and flavored with guacamole and Asian ingredients like kimchee and yuzu.

While it’s understandable why gooey fried globs of batter filled with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut studded with corned beef would set the blogosphere’s virtual stomachs aflutter, my money is on the cheeseburger spring rolls ($10).

The dish couldn’t be simpler: ground beef and American cheese, wrapped and fried until golden. But often simplicity leads to brilliance, and these are definitely genius: instead of a huge slab of hamburger patty topped with a lone slice of cheese like a traditional burger, here every bit of the chopped-up ground beef gets smothered with melted cheese, and with no bun to get in the way, the greasy flavors get to shine through far more intensely.

Arriving in a bucket—who doesn’t want a bucket of spring rolls—and served with a zingy, homemade red pepper ketchup and cornichons (sadly, no onions though) these could be the perfect thing for party people to stop in and nosh on when they need something to soak up their liquor.

Chef Wong says he had these on the children’s menu at his New Jersey restaurants Ginger and Spice, and it’s a good bet that if 10-year olds liked them, chances are kids of all ages will as well.

So what does Chef Wong consider his ultimate comfort food?

“A big bowl of rice, with soy sauce and a fried egg,” he said, with the smile on his face that anyone gets when discussing their personal treat.

A few minutes later, a similar smile creeps onto my face while biting into my second spring roll. It isn’t my ultimate comfort food—without involving peanut butter and jelly, it couldn’t be—but it’s a damn tasty twist on an American classic.

Delicatessen, 54 Prince St. (at Lafayette), 212-226-0211, []

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