(thanks to New Jersey Monthly)
First, an apology. I once again have to rely on the photos of others to do the visual work for me. But this time, it’s not my fault. My wife and I were late in arriving and it was raining, which prohibited any good outside shots of the new restaurant, Nisi Estiatorio.
However, if pictures are your thing, I highly recommend a visit to Nisi’s site, which features a beautiful rolling photo gallery of interior, exterior and food shots. I refer to it often, and you should too.
While I don’t want to get too bogged down in the online world, the website does provide a good lead-in to the restaurant’s impressive design sense. Neither too stuffy, nor over-the-top gaudy (always a risk with New Jersey “fine dining”), the dining room is invitingly simple and open. It’s rare that my wife and I notice the decor, but it is to Nisi’s credit that we both complimented the physical design as sophisticated and not overly-showy.
But enough with the prologue… let’s talk about the eats!
Posted in new jersey, Restaurants
Tagged Englewood, fine dining, fish, greek, John Piliouras, kataifi, Keftedes, kibbi, lamb meatballs, lavraki, Manouri, new jersey, Nisi, orzo, pastourma, seafood
Looking for an Italian restaurant in North Jersey is like trying to find a Starbucks in midtown Manhattan. There’s one on every corner and most of them strive only for mediocrity.
Since moving to Bergen County, my wife and I have tried to choose our Italian meals wisely. There are a ton of options, so finding the really good ones becomes a challenge in itself. Granted, this is an often delicious challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.
The recommendations we’ve received have continually put us in towns to the north and south of our small haven of Waldwick. We’ve tried Italian in Ridgewood, Allentown and Ramapo. Nothing’s been bad, but nothing has really presented itself front and center as the best Italian food around.
And yet, every time we set out on another Italian adventure, we pass a little place in Waldwick called Andrea’s Ristorante Italiano. It sits in the middle of a fairly old-school (and fairly ugly) strip mall and is just about the most unassuming restaurant you could ever come across. I think that’s why we never gave it much thought.
Posted in new jersey, Restaurants
Tagged Andreas Ristorante Italiano, Bergen County, best food, gnocchi, Italian, mozzarella di bufala, new jersey, ravioli, seafood ravioli, Waldwick
OK, it wasn’t that bad.
But when the wife and I entered Restaurant L (in nearby Allendale, NJ), I had to chuckle at the “piano man” jamming on his full-sized Casio keyboard in the corner of the bar. I wasn’t expecting that.
For some reason, we had it stuck in our head that Restaurant L was an upscale, classy dinner joint. It has its own strip-mall-free structure, nice cars in the parking lot and uses words like “rich” and “elegant” on its website.
What we found, however, was good, if unspectacular food, a kind of blah ambiance and the aforementioned keyboard crooner. But let’s start at the beginning: the Ahi Tuna Tartare. It was served in an almost sushi-like fashion, rolled up in a thin slice of cucumber. I appreciated the creative approach, though there was nothing interesting enough in the taste to write home about.
We continued with the seafood theme for our entrees. I very much enjoyed my Grilled Swordfish Steak (with a tropical fruit and avocado salsa over sauteed spinach with fried plantains) and was happy to finish every succulent bite. Again, it was nothing revolutionary, but I thought it was well prepared and flavorful.
My wife has less luck with her Mahi-Mahi special. Although I can’t quite remember the preparation (and it isn’t listed on the site’s menu), I know she was underwhelmed by the fish itself. The blandness of the fish was echoed by fairly bland grilled vegetables and unmemorable mashed potatoes. Her one-word review: “eh.”
I think it’s safe to say that we probably won’t be back to Restaurant L on our own. It strikes me as a better place to take the parents. After all, the most memorable part of the meal was the bar keyboardist’s version of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.”
And maybe that’s the best way to enjoy this place: just the way it is.
Richard Perry/New York Times
I’m way late in posting this review, and as a result, I’m probably giving short shrift to one of the best meals my wife and I have had in New Jersey so far. My apologies to Cafe Panache.
This restaurant is a bit of an odd duckling in that:
- It’s an undeniably “fancy” French-American restaurant, but boasts no wine list (it’s BYO)
- It’s in a nice, stand-alone building, but is adjacent to a strip mall parking lot
- It attracts a strangely diverse crowd of date-night couples, business diners and older out-on-the-towners
But if the place itself is somewhat uncategorizable, the food is much easier to explain: it’s really damn tasty.
Credited with bringing NYC-caliber creations to suburban Jersey, chef and owner Kevin Kohler does exceptionally fine work with his weekly-changing menu. Not unlike some of the best “small” places in Philly, Panache excels in bringing out the best in fresh ingredients, allowing Kohler’s fantastic sense of design and presentation to take center stage.
Our particular meal began with a split order of agnoletti, delicate Italian cheese dumplings that were perfectly moist and buttery. For my entree, I ordered the red snapper which was pan-fried and served with a delicious black couscous surrounded by a red pepper coulis. My wife went for a meatier fish, ordering the grilled swordfish, which sat atop a mountain of various jullianed vegetables and a light lemon-oil dressing.
I wish I could be more descriptive with our experience, but sometimes I’m just not as fastidious a blogger as I should be. Anyway, I think you get the point – Cafe Panache creates some of the best cuisine in North Jersey.
My recommendation: go right now.
Anybody remember this unfortunate creation?
It’s the ultra-PC, non-offensive mascot from the Atlanta Olympics of 1996. He/she is named Izzy, short for Whatizit, which is an ironically unhip version of the question everybody would be asking: What is it?
Just as confusing was my visit to the Flirt Sushi Lounge in Allendale, New Jersey. And just as people scratched their heads when Izzy made its debut, I am at a profound loss in understanding this place. Here are some of its random qualities:
- It serves sushi.
- It looks like a brothel.
- It plays Latin pop… loudly.
- The rolls have names like “Big Balls” and “Viagra.”
- The clientele is majority female.
What is the heck is going on here? Am I missing something or do none of these elements relate to each other?
I guess I just don’t get it.
The rolls were interesting and delicious. But still, they were not enough to distract me from the swirling weirdness that played out around me: slick-looking waiters, impressionable teenagers, lots of red and black.
And it’s BYOB.
Can anybody tell me what’s going on with this place? I’m dying to know.
It’s now been more than a month since I moved from Motown Philly to Bergen County, New Jersey – land of well-manicured lawns, gigantic strip malls, and alcohol-less Sundays.
The suburban lifestyle is quite a turnaround from our previous urban environment. We can’t walk to restaurants, convenience stores, movies or just about anything. And with only one car, let’s just say I’ll be cooking more often.
However, my wife and I have found some time to go out and eat together so far, and we’ve gravitated to Ridgewood: an affluent town center a few miles south of us teeming with restaurants, boutiques and other rich-folk amusements. In general, the food has been good, though nowhere near amazing.
Other than the Country Pancake House, here are our other conquests:
Probably the best of our Ridgewood meals thus far, this BYOB (they actually exist outside of Philly!) is a quaint, casual food factory with all the warmth and attention of mom’s kitchen. It’s described as a Mediterranean place but leans heavily toward Greek and Turkish, with lots of spinach, stews and fish specials.
We shared a sampler appetizer with grape leaves that were among the best I’ve ever tasted. For entrees, we both ordered fish specials, although I can’t quite remember the details. They were both white fish and both were perfectly tender and delicious. We barely found room for dessert, but the baklava looked too amazing to pass up. It was.
Posted in new jersey, Restaurants, Ridgewood, Roundups
Tagged Cafe Tulip, chicken tikka masala, dragon roll, Gen Sushi, grape leaves, Greek to Me, Indian restaurant, Malee Thai, Mela, naan, new jersey, pad-see-eew, Ridgewood
Remember this guy?
His name is Al Yageneh and he was the inspiration for Seinfeld’s legendary Soup Nazi character. Turns out he’s done quite well for himself by franchising his world-renowned New York soup shop.
I just discovered one of his Original Soup Man locations on a recent trip to the Jerz (New Jersey, for non-locals). I didn’t make the connection at first, but then I was struck by a big sign explaining “the rules”:
For the most efficient and fastest service, the line MUST keep moving.
- Pick the soup you want!
- Have your money ready!
- Move to the EXTREME left after ordering!
Ah, yes! The memories came flooding back: George and Jerry ordering stone-faced and then sidestepping to pay with almost robotic precision. Fortunately, this particular shop was fairly empty and manned by an amiable guy in a backwards Yankees cap. He didn’t look like he was about to enforce any rules.
Alhough we tasted a curry-based soup and got a look at the rest of the lineup, the wife and I went with a vegetarian mushroom-barley concoction. Barley is not an ingredient that usually floats my boat (and neither is soup as a general food category), but this stuff was like liquid gold. It was flavorful without being too salty, hearty without being a full meal, and just the right balance of slurp and chew.
My only question: when’s the Soup Man coming to Philly?