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Eat and Drink

Sardines: the cool new fish swimming onto NYC menus

Diners are used to seeing salmon and tuna on menus, but there's a new popular fish in town: sardines.

Though the word usually conjures images of oily little fellas in retro tins, several restaurants are sourcing fresh sardines and complementing their naturally mild but bright taste with equally fresh ingredients like herbs and vegetables, rustic bread and creamy butter.

"People like sardines a lot more than I thought they did," said French Louie co-owner Doug Crowell, who has a smoked sardines dish on the menu. "Growing up, one of my favorite snack was always canned sardines on Triscuits. It turns out I'm not the only sardine lover out there."

Fish is one of the healthiest foods you can eat too, thanks to all those omega-3 fatty acids, which are "known to promote heart health by lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk for heart attack or stroke," said Daniela Neman, a senior dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital. "They also promote healthy brain function."

And while omega-3s are found in all fish, fatty fish like sardines are an especially good source of the nutrient, said Neman.

"Because sardines are a smaller fish, they carry less contaminants like mercury, making them safe to eat more often -- even up to two to three times per week," said Neman.

With that incentive in mind, dig in to these five sardine dishes from around the city:

100 Sardines

Aldea chef George Mendes has always been a
Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Aldea chef George Mendes has always been a fan of sardines, which are hugely popular in his family's native Portugal. And at his Mad Sq. Eats pop-up, he even imports them from the homeland. The sardine toast features a mixture of fresh and tinned sardines with garlic mayo and yogurt, diced cucumbers, parsley, cilantro and lemon atop broa, a rye cornbread made at Aldea. It's Portuguese perfection. $8; Mad Sq. Eats, running now through May 30 at Worth Square, W. 25th Street and Broadway, Urbanspacenyc.com/mad-sq-eats

French Louie

Crowell may be pleasantly surprised at the popularity
Photo Credit: David Brinn Williams

Crowell may be pleasantly surprised at the popularity of the dinner dish at his newish Brooklyn restaurant, but it's easy to see why it's become a hit. The lightly smoked Rhode Island sardines are served with a seaweed-flecked dulse butter and slices of rye ficelle from Bien Cuit for a combination that is deliciously comforting. $10; 320 Atlantic Ave. in Boerum Hill, 718-935-1200, frenchlouienyc.com

All'Onda

At All'Onda, sardines are transformed into a work
Photo Credit: Nathan Rawlinson

At All'Onda, sardines are transformed into a work of art at this modern Italian restaurant. Cut into diagonal chunks and served as a raw crudo, they are accompanied by pickled pearl onion, pine nuts and fennel puree. And yes, the dish tastes as good as it looks. $16; 22 E. 13th St., 212-231-2236, Allondanyc.com

The Shakespeare

This is British comfort food at its best.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

This is British comfort food at its best. Fresh sardines are grilled and served on toasted sourdough and buttered baby-leaf spinach, and the whole thing is topped with a perfectly runny soft-boiled egg. Did we mention it's dripping with a warm bacon vinaigrette? $17 (dinner special this week only); 24 E. 39th St., 646-837-6779, Theshakespearenyc.com

Achilles Heel

Fresh sardines are healthier since they're not packed
Photo Credit: Bryan Smith / Bryan Smith

Fresh sardines are healthier since they're not packed in oil, but we couldn't resist including this sandwich, which uses the tinned variety. The sardines, a saffron-packed rouille sauce and peppery arugula are layered between two thick pieces of She Wolf Bakery sourdough. Don't forget the pickle! $12; 180 West St. in Greenpoint, 347-987-3666.

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