They call me “Two Soups.” Sometimes. And by “they,” I mostly mean one person. “They” call me this because I sometimes order two soups for lunch. Like, instead of “soup and a sandwich,” or “soup and a salad,” I’ll have soup and another soup. A different soup. I like soup that much. (I could perhaps marry Jennifer Coolidge in Best In Show and sit with her and eat soup and talk or not talk. She’d prefer the latter, I would bet.)
I’m thinking of having two soups for lunch today, in fact. This time of year, when the weather turns cold, this type of day, rainy and gray, is just screaming for soup. And there’s a place nearby that has excellent soups. I’ve been going there a lot lately. It’s called Karloff and it’s on Court Street in Brooklyn and it’s a nice, airy room to sit in and if you like soup, I’d recommend you go there, too. And order two bowls of soup.
Unless you’re worried that your friends might start calling you “Two Soups,” too. And you think that would bother you terribly. I don’t mind it so much myself. But I never wrote a symphony.
My favorite soup at Karloff is a puree of kale and broccoli that tastes better than that sounds. It’s full of ginger and garlic and paprika and tastes as bright green as it looks. It’s actually most like a more liquefied version of the dish you find at Indian restaurants called sarson da saag, which is supposed to be made with mustard greens and spinach, I guess, but is often thought of as just stewed greens of any kind and is often made with broccoli, too. That’s a favorite of mine, at Indian restaurants.
But Karloff is a Russian restaurant, as you might have guessed from the name, and my second favorite soup there (the other one I think I will order today) is the “dark chicken soup with meat dumplings.” The dumplings are a specialty of the house — vareniki, they’re called. You shouldn’t eat too many of them, but that’s hard because they’re totally delicious. On their own, they’re served with sour cream and apple sauce, which you basically ignore, except to maybe use as a palette cleanser between bites, and drenched in butter, or maybe it’s oil they’re cooked in, which you should definitely not ignore. In the soup, they combine with vegetables and chopped up chicken (all parts, careful of bones) to make for, yes, a much darker and meatier chicken soup than you’re used to finding. A better chicken soup.
Strangely, being that it’s a Russian restaurant, Karloff’s borscht is not so great. It’s glowing red, the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s for some reason blander and less substantial than the borscht at say, Veselka, which I prefer. It’s a little sweeter than salty, and it lacks large hunks of brisket. It’s probably healthier for you. So maybe get it for that reason, as a third option (we should call you “Three Soups”!) if you love beets, which are supposed to be so high in nutrients. But, wait, don’t get it if they’re serving the split pea soup the day you go. It’s not on the menu, generally, but they’ve been having it a lot lately. And I have, too. It’s about the best split pea soup I’ve ever had. Heavy on dill and scallions and what they call “New York bacon,” which I guess is local. Thick-cut and smoky and I’d better hurry up and go get some.
They serve the bacon with their breakfasts, too, and the breakfasts are also totally dynamite. If you go for breakfast, or opt for breakfast food at lunch (never a bad idea) you should get the potato latkes (another specialty of the house!) which will remind you of the first time you ever had potato latkes, when you peeled and shredded the potatoes yourself, sitting next to O.E. Hertler at the long table at Winding Brook nursery school, and marveled at how the thin little sticks of potatoes (like those you’d later love eating from those greasy conical cans, but softer) stuck together in the oil and egg, and how the ones in the middle, where the latke was thickest, turned creamy and sort of melted, while the ones on the outside, around the edges, got a crispier shined golden brown and crunched when you bit into them. Sorry for that silly bit of revery. But I’m telling you: these are the perfect potato latkes.
And here’s what you do with them: You order them with fried eggs and the bacon, and with your fork, you gently pull the eggs over the latkes. With the strip of bacon making for a mouth, this will give your plate the appearance of a face caught in an expression of wide-eyed surprise. The latkes being like frames for the fried-egg eyes with the yolks being the eyeballs. (If you happen to be dining with a 6-year-old, he or she will probably get some enjoyment out of this. But that’s not why you’re doing it.) Now, stab both eyes in the eyeballs with your fork. Hard, so the tines hit the plate below. Then let them sit for a minute. The idea here is to let the yolk drain through the holes in the eggs and seep into the latkes, making them even more mind-blowingly delicious. I suppose if you have a particularly enthusiastic expression on your face as you do this, you might terrify your 6-year-old, if your 6-year-old is particularly sensitive. But probably not. Six-year-old children are bloodthirsty little monsters, and most of them were likely imagining doing the same thing with their fork as soon as they saw the that eggs looked like eyes. They’re probably thinking of doing this to you and your real eyes when you sleep, too. Anyway, if you don’t do this to your eggs and latkes, I don’t know what to tell you. Try to enjoy them anyway, I guess.
I’d better wrap this up. But Karloff serves dinner, too. And while I’ve gone there for that a couple times, too, I haven’t tried everything on the menu. (I’d like to try the beef stroganoff.) There is a salad called a Tsar salad, which is grilled hearts of romaine and croutons and parmesan with a creamy dressing that does sort of make you feel like an emperor when you eat it. And a wide variety or blintzes and burgers. And the dumplings. But also, you could just get soup. Lots of soup. That’s what I’m going to do today.
Oh, and for dessert, they have incredibly good ice-cream that’s made “in small batches” at this place up near Hudson. (It’s served at a shop up there called Jane’s, too.) Lots of the flavors are fancy-pants style and too aromatic for me, with rosewater, orange blossom or lavender. They have beet and dill ice-cream, too, which I am sort of philosophically opposed to. (But which I have heard is good by more open-minded people who have tried it.) The peanut-butter fudge, though, is phenomenal. Like, as good as any ice-cream I’ve ever eaten. I was stuck on that stuff every single day for too long of a stretch this summer. But it’s too cold for that, now.