At Luda’s Dumplings, where he is the chef, Eugene pledged to follow his mother’s precepts — always use the freshest ingredients; mix everything by hand — if not exactly her recipe. The dough, for example, is made with organic flour and is “not as soft” as with traditional pelmeni, he said; growing up in Sheepshead Bay, a historically Italian neighborhood, he fell in love with pasta and wanted the dumplings to have a texture closer to al dente.
Of the six fillings available, the most robust and wintry in spirit is Siberian-style beef and pork, here grass-fed Angus beef shoulder and pastured pork butt, ground in-house and evenly split so neither lords over the other. One pierce, and the juices run.
In other versions, a mash of potato and Cheddar has surprising buoyancy, and spinach, melded with feta, Parmesan and mozzarella, retains its vivid green. But pulverized shrimp loses some of its briny character, muffled by Parmesan and ricotta inside a dough stained pink by beet juice.
All are enhanced by a choice of three toppings per order, among them soul-brightening dill, mushrooms chopped and sautéed until almost duxelles and slightly carnal, and roasted garlic minced so fine, it’s undetectable to the eye but an insistent imprint on the tongue.
Best are pickled jalapeño slices, which give a little jump to the meal. (Higher-end toppings, for a $ 1 premium, include a drape of melted mozzarella, snippets of bacon and a poached egg that when slashed unleashes its caldron of yolk.)
Each order comes with two sauces, for dipping or pouring. For those who hew to tradition, there’s the bracing simplicity of vinegar or the velvety soft landing of sour cream, perhaps even better mixed together.
More maverick are variations of sour cream spiked with, by turns, raw garlic, Sriracha, chipotle, horseradish and pickled jalapeño, each with its own clarifying flare. “I know my mom would yell at me if she saw some of these things,” Mr. Tulman said.
Old-school pelmeni molds, looking like panels of honeycomb, hang above the counter. But Mr. Tulman shapes his pelmeni on a machine visible in the next room, built in Russia and customized with extra rollers so as not to overheat the dough when it’s compressed.
For dessert, there are slightly damp farmer cheese pelmeni with cocoa-infused skins, nicely muddled with sour cherries and chocolate flakes that promptly wilt into sauce. A lighter finish comes with kompot, a decidedly sweet fruit punch. It’s another nod to Luda, although Mr. Tulman allows that he’s been “experimenting” with the likes of pineapple and mango.
“Things in Russia we never had,” he said.
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Recommended Dishes Pork-and-beef dumplings with roasted mushrooms and dill; spinach-and-cheese dumplings with pickled jalapeño slices and roasted garlic; potato-and-cheese dumplings with poached egg, parsley and sliced pickle.
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