MARITIME PARC, JERSEY CITY
Along with the stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the downtown Manhattan skyline, and the Liberty Landing marina, we were impressed by the food at Maritime Parc, 84 Audrey Zapp Drive, Liberty State Park, Jersey City. The tasty amuse bouche, a refreshing dish of blueberries, grapes, feta cheese, diced apples, and tomatoes in a vinegary dressing, was an indication of the appealing dinner to follow. For a starter, try the raw seafood platter or the unusual sunchoke gazpacho with almonds, grapes, and olive oil ice cream. The very fresh and clean-tasting fluke carpaccio with caramelized grapefruit, basil, and North American caviar is another light option. If you’re tired of the same pan-roasted mussel preparation with white wine and garlic, try the mussels with a delightfully different spicy chorizo, fennel, and tomato broth, which we slurped up with our spoons. Swordfish presented as a pot-au-feu and topped with a poached egg was another out-of-the-ordinary interpretation. The signature dish of buttery black cod presented with a creamy lobster hash was a winner and is highly recommended. A very substantial dish that was also great as leftovers was bucatini with chunks of lobster, in a tomato, orange, and lavender sauce. For dessert we devoured the summer cobbler made with local strawberries and cherries topped with lemon-buttermilk ice cream.
Maritime Parc is not only a seafood restaurant. Rib eye, chicken, and rack of lamb are on the menu, and if you can’t decide whether you want fish or meat, there’s a scallop and braised short rib entrée with sauce gribiche. The seasonal menu changes four times a year. For a real bang for your buck, come here on a Thursday night, when the Oyster & Burger Bash is offered from 5 PM, which includes six fresh oysters of the week, a specialty burger with fries, and a chef-chosen beer or glass of wine, for $20. For reservations, call 201-413-0050.
Black cod with lobster hash.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
PICNIC THE RESTAURANT, FAIR LAWN
The last time we were at Picnic the Restaurant, 14-25 Plaza Road North, Fair Lawn, was December 2010. Since then, owner/chef Christine Nunn has won well-deserved accolades from New Jersey Monthly restaurant reviewer Pat Tanner, who awarded the restaurant 3.5 stars out of 4. Picnic was also chosen as one of the top 25 restaurants in the state by the magazine. On a recent visit we were just as enthralled by the food. Chef Nunn continues to impress with her New American seasonal menu and exemplary waitstaff. Be aware that the menu, which can be found at www.picnictherestaurant.com, changes daily, and that the restaurant is BYO.
Tables receive complimentary cheese with crisp crackers, walnuts, and dried cranberries in lieu of bread (which is available upon request). Our starters included an “it doesn’t get better than this” BLT salad with wonderful heirloom and Jersey beefsteak tomatoes, double-smoked bacon, chopped egg, and a creamy dressing; mussels in ginger lemongrass broth, atop hand-cut fries that soaked up the sauce; a deviled-egg trio (truffle salt, smoked paprika, and garden chive); and creamy homemade ricotta crostini with different toppings, including smoked Cerignola olives, strawberry balsamic, and truffle honey.
Entrées were equally satisfying. A grilled pork chop with bourbon barbecue glaze was served medium-rare as ordered. The accompanying sweet potato fritters, which are also available as an à la carte side, were absolute knockouts and paired perfectly with the pork. Steak au poivre, a prime New York strip with hand-cut fries, was tender and juicy. A thick-cut swordfish fillet received a creative boost from the tomatillo, avocado, and shrimp salsa verde that topped it, while plums with a Pommery mustard compote added sweet and tart flavors to pecan-crusted halibut. Both fish had clean ocean flavors and couldn’t have tasted fresher.
The raspberry tart with an almond crumble crust and the key lime pie deserve applause. We were sorry that four of us decided on two desserts, since once we tasted them we realized these sweets were so scrumptious that we didn’t want to share them.
We do have one complaint. The white napkins left lint all over Lowell’s and my pants. This is a common problem in many restaurants and seems to be getting worse. We’re thinking of going “BYON” (bring your own napkin) from now on.
Picnic is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Tuesday though Saturday. For reservations, call 201-796-2700. It’s a fabulous restaurant that we can recommend highly.
Pecan-crusted halibut with a plum and Pommery mustard compote.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
BRICK LANE CURRY HOUSE, MONTCLAIR
The food blogs were all abuzz about Brick Lane Curry House, 540 Valley Road, Montclair (973-509-2100), which opened in June. Wanting to try a hot new restaurant and craving Indian cuisine, we ventured over to this small 40-seat BYO on a weekday night. We recommend that you dine early here and make a reservation, as the restaurant fills up quickly and gets noisy. We couldn’t hear ourselves speak, making conversation impossible.
We started with sesame naan with onion, ginger, garlic, rosemary, and basil, followed by a fabulous greaseless samosa filled with spiced potatoes and peas. A crispy cauliflower appetizer was soggy and in a tomato and garlic sauce that was too sweet. Another disappointment was Nizam’s boti rolls, which reminded me of a vegetable wrap, as the dough was thick and the filling was bland. The rolls can be ordered with paneer, tofu, chicken, lamb, or prawns. Now for the winners. Shrimp Goan with a scrumptious sauce made from green chilies, coconut, coriander, and vinegar was one of the best renditions of this dish that I have had in a long time. I would have also been happy just having the creamy slow-cooked black lentils or the eggplant cooked in a thick red nutty sauce and topped with frizzled basil, which the menu lists as being sweetened with jaggery, an unrefined whole cane sugar. Chicken tikka is a safe dish to try, as it is not spicy. If you want to experience different flavors, the chicken kebabs can be ordered with three different marinades.
We didn’t have dessert, as our bill was presented at the table without the waiter asking if we wanted dessert, coffee, or tea. If you go and have dessert, let me know what you had and what you thought. The dishes here also were perfectly seasoned for my palate, which means a medium level of heat. Let the waiter know if you prefer your food at a level where you’ll break out in a sweat. There’s a dish on the menu, Phaal, which is described as “an excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor,” which the chef prepares wearing a gas mask. For customers who do manage to finish the serving, a bottle of beer is on the house, along with a certificate of completion and your picture in the Phaal hall of fame.
Brick Lane eggplant.
Photo courtesy of Rosie Saferstein.
PARK STEAKHOUSE, PARK RIDGE
There won’t be any lobster bibs and you will get your hands dirty on September 22, when the Park Steakhouse, 151 Kinderkamack Road, Park Ridge, will have an old-fashioned lobster/clam bake. The evening starts with steamed littleneck clams, clams casino, Prince Edward Island mussels, Cajun-style black tiger shrimp, Louisiana crawfish, and assorted summer salads. Then, for the main course, each guest will get a two-pound lobster stuffed with jumbo lump crabmeat, Jersey corn, and red bliss potatoes, plus a few other surprises. 6:30 to 11 PM; $75 including wine, beer, and cocktails. For reservations, call 201-930-1300.
NEW JERSEY RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION RESTAURANT WEEK
September 18 through 25, Dine in New Jersey: Taste the World, sponsored by the New Jersey Restaurant Association, will be celebrated at hundreds of restaurants throughout the state, to benefit NJ-based childhood hunger charities. Restaurants involved in this weeklong promotion will offer special multi-course, fixed-priced menus for $19 or less at lunch and $35 or less for dinner. Additionally, an official cocktail for the week called the Garden State of Mine, created by mixologist Nicholas Davidson of Gusto Grill in East Brunswick, will be featured at many of the establishments. It contains Laird’s Apple Jack, German elderflower, peach and cranberry juice, honey, and rosemary. NJRA president Deborah Dowdell says, “This year we look forward to celebrating and highlighting the diversity of eateries available in New Jersey. With a multitude of restaurants participating, there will be something to satisfy the adventurous diner as well as the stick-to-the-favorite taste buds.” More information can be found at www.dineoutnj.com.
CAPE MAY FOOD & WINE CELEBRATION
September 16 through 25, the Cape May Food & Wine Celebration presented by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities will be held throughout the town. Events include winery tours and tastings, a beer tasting dinner, a harvest food and wine tasting, luncheons at local restaurants, and chefs’ dine-arounds. Participating restaurants include 410 Bank Street, A Ca Mia, Aleathea’s, the Carriage House Tearoom & Cafe, Fresco’s, the Mad Batter, Martini Beach, the Merion Inn, the Peter Shields Inn, Tisha’s, Union Park, and the Washington Inn. For more information, log on to www.capemaymac.org.
WINEFEST AT VALENZANO WINERY, SHAMONG
WineFest 2011 will be held at Valenzano Winery, 1090 Route 206, Shamong, on September 17 and 18, with samplings of more than a hundred wines from six NJ wineries, local restaurants in attendance, a cheese tasting, and more. Noon to 5 PM; one-day tickets $15 in advance or $20 at the gate, children free. For more information, call 609-268-6731.
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