(This venue closed in 2014 after 30 years.) When blueberries are in season, these nubbly half-moons ($7 per dozen) are wonderful with a little butter and sugar. To my taste, however, plum pierogi like the one shown here in cutaway view, from an autumn visit, are better with sour cream.
Sweet or sour? In truth, it's hard to go wrong either way.
First Avenue Pierogi & Deli 130 First Ave. (7th-8th Sts.), Manhattan 212-420-9690
Some like it runny: Though this pastry is named for a fish, inflected by parsley and capers, and accompanied by tabouli and a trio of sauces, the featured ingredient is egg. My Algerian-style tuna brick ($8) — often spelled brik, sometimes briq — was fresh from the fryer, and the folds of warqa, a stiff cousin to filo, were too hot to handle at first.
Eating brick with the fingers, and not with a knife and fork, is de rigueur, and by the time I managed a few bites, hélas, the egg had cooked through. A quicker-thinking fellow would have pushed aside the tabouli and cradled his brick in the lettuce leaf underneath.
Fiddleheads? Yes: What's a seasonal rarity in the Northeast is available year-round, though in fluctuating supply, in Hawai'i. In the seafood salad at hand, the cubes of yellowfin tuna in this spicy ahi poke (poh-Kay) were garnished with a hard-to-procure seaweed from the islands; these particular fiddleheads, however, were obtained from a mainland source. (Postcolonial or no, some Hawai'ian produce just isn't within the budget of a university-funded garde manger.)
Also shown: fried panko-coated taro accompanied by pineapple relish and (non-Hawai'ian) sea beans; sakura arare, blossom-shaped rice crackers, representing a diverse category of nibbles known as "crack seed";
sweet potato and coconut on a bed of cooked taro leaves.
All sort of meats can be found on the regular menu, not just ribs and wings but also pig ears and goat necks. Brisket, too, in jerky, in hash, even in ya ka mein. But for a nice pastrami sandwich, take your opportunities when and where you find them. This one and its fellows ($8 each), plumped with fermented buttermilk slaw, attracted a long line at a one-day outdoor market.
Traditionally the topknots on khinkali serve as a fingerhold, so you can eat the dumplings without utensils, and as a measure of how many you've eaten, since the knots are usually so tough that they're discarded on the plate.