For the last couple decades our family has stocked up on nova and sturgeon from Murray's Sturgeon Shop on the UWS in advance of holidays like Thanksgiving, when close to 20 lox lovers gather for the long weekend.
This year I thought it was time to challenge Murray's supremacy and have a good old fashioned Thanksgiving smoked fish shootout. So we sent my dad to Murray's to pick up a typical order of Eastern Smoked Salmon (we find the lox too salty) and sturgeon, and I went to Russ & Daughters to pick up a smaller order of their Gaspe Nova, Wild Western Nova and sturgeon to compare.
The results? On the nova front Russ & Daughters won by nearly unanimous decision. The Russ & Daughters nova was decidedly less fishy with a smoother, more balanced flavor than Murray's.
The one dissenter preferred Murray's fishier flavor ("It <i>is</i> smoked fish, you know."). But everyone else liked the Russ & Daughters selections better. Between the two Russ & Daughters options, opinions were more split. Some preferred the milder flavor of the Gaspe, while others liked the slightly saltier, more richly flavored Wild Western. Overall, I'd say the Wild Western edged out the Gaspe by a few votes.
With the sturgeon opinions were less clear. Although the two were decidedly different, my family members had a harder time picking a favorite. The consensus (with which I agreed) seemed to be that the Russ & Daughters sturgeon had a more complex, dare I say better, initial flavor. But the Murray's sturgeon left a more pleasant, almost buttery, aftertaste, which some preferred.
So which store wins? I'm going to have to hand the title to Russ & Daughters based on the overwhelming preference for their nova. But it's essentially a tie for sturgeon. And the bottom line is that you can't go wrong with either. Even those who clearly preferred Russ & Daughters nova were more than happy to load up their bagels with Murray's after tasting the Russ & Daughters (since we had more Murray's on hand).
Next year we may have to toss Sable's Smoked Fish shop into the mix, as my friends on the UES swear by it.