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Modern Jewish Bistro offers Nu take on noshing

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 2:56 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A plate of some of the many items on the menu at the Nu, an old world Jewish bistro, in Squirrel Hill.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Chopped liver pate and manischewitz jelly at the Nu, an old world Jewish bistro, in Squirrel Hill.

It's a Yiddish word that means “so?” or “huh?” or “well?”

Two local restaurateurs also are using it to convey the modern twist they're putting on classic Jewish dishes.

Nu: A Modern Jewish Bistro opened in October on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill to fill a hole Gail Klingensmith and Pam Cohen saw in the Pittsburgh food scene.

“We're really excited,” says Klingensmith, who, with Cohen, owns the popular Pittsburgh breakfast spots Pamela's P&G Diner. “It feels like people have been saying for years this is what Squirrel Hill needs.”

Cohen's sister Rise is overseeing operations at Nu. The menu includes many of the family recipes the women have enjoyed for years.

“They were raised with all the traditions,” Klingensmith says. “They get it.”

Executive chef Kelsey Sukel is helping put new twists on the traditional fare. Menu items include chopped-liver pate with Manischewitz jelly, assorted pickles, mustard and schmaltz grilled rye ($8), a Reuben knishwich with smoked meat, housemade kraut and Swiss wrapped in a golden puff pastry with Thousand Island dressing ($10.99), and the Nu BLT, with crispy chicken skin “bacon,” lettuce, tomato, chicken-liver pate and mayo on toasted rye ($10.99).

For a light nosh, try latke tots, made of shredded potato, onion and schmaltz served with apple “ketchup” ($5) or homemade fried deli pickles served with Israeli ranch ($5). There's a slew of soups and salads to choose from, and desserts like grilled babka with salted-caramel ice cream ($7) and a Hungarian doughnut ($5).

But the shining stars of Nu's menu are the carving-board selections. Owners suspect the eatery will become widely known for its Montreal smoked meat, which is cured for 10 days, smoked for 12 and steamed for three. There's also smoked turkey, roasted brisket and more. Served on your choice of bread with pickles and coleslaw, they go for $10.99 or $15.99 depending on size.

Everything is homemade, down to the mustard on each table. Sukel, who hails from Cleveland, says many practices used in Jewish cooking, such as fermentation and curing, are important to all kinds of cuisine.

“All the things we do in fine dining started here,” he says.

The eatery features an open-kitchen workspace, plenty of seating and a giant chalkboard displaying the day's specials, additional soups and sides.

Klingensmith stresses the bistro is for anyone looking to enjoy something new.

“You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this food,” she says.

Nu: A Modern Jewish Bistro is at 1711 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Details: 412-422-0220.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948.

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