Soup Dumplings Plus: super Shanghainese in Fort Lee, NJ

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For a good long while, there were only two Shanghainese restaurants in North Jersey (or at least there were only two that people could find): the late, great, China 46, and Petite Soo Chow in Cliffside Park.  While I never warmed up to Petite Soo Chow, I almost cried when China 46 closed. It was truly an exceptional restaurant.

I missed those soup dumplings especially, with their delicate, thin skins. Fast forward to 2018, and soup dumplings are everywhere. But, too often they have thick, doughy skins. I'm pleased to report that the soup dumplings at Soup Dumplings Plus in Fort Lee are as good as any I've had. And the rest of the stuff seems tops, too.

Soup dumplings plus fort lee

We started with an order of Braised Fish Shanghai Style. The server warned me that it was on the bone, which of course is fine with me. I was hoping it would be challenging in some respect. Kinda wish the server would have also noted that it's served cold. Well I wanted something different and I sure got it. The fish is braised in a slightly sweet sauce, and was quite enjoyable if you're into that sort of thing.

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Up next was the Pancake with Sliced Beef. Basically a scallion pancake stuffed with beef flavored with Chinese five spice (or similar). Really super, and quite filling.

The soup dumplings, as noted above, were outstanding. Thin skins, that big pork meatball in the middle, oh man. All wonderful. There's black vinegar on the table and they give you a shallow bowl of ginger. Marry those two things and go to town.

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One of my favorite Chinese dishes is the simple yet delicious beef with hot peppers. A simple stir-fry of tender beef, some soy sauce, some sugar, maybe some ginger/garlic, and sliced hot peppers. They're summer peppers (summer hot, some not so hot), and add a wonderful, fruity heat. I've been thinking about this dish since we had it.

The menu has pictures of most of the dishes, which is quite helpful. Usually that's a bad sign, but not in cases like these. And it was filled with all sorts of dishes that I wanted to try.

Service was pleasant, with tea being refilled several times. The place was filled at lunch time during the week.

Soup Dumplings Plus is my new go-to for Shanghainese food.

If you go: The entrance is in the mall (no entry from the sidewalk-facing door), and there's a small parking lot below the little mall.

Soup Dumplings Plus : 1550 Lemoine Ave : Fort Lee, NJ : 201.944.0901


Dullboy in Jersey City: cocktails and quite a burger

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My friend was annoyed that they put some sort of "special sauce" on his burger on his prior visit. "They should tell you that they're putting sauce on it," he complained.  I noted that the menu states that there is special sauce, so that's on him. In fact the menu says there are two special sauces. What my friend lacks in reading comprehension skills, he makes up for in restaurant recommendations. He told me to meet him at Dullboy on a recent night, and being the good soldier that I am I Ubered alllll the way to Jersey City.

Dullboy could be described as a exceptional cocktail bar that happens to serve some (very good at times) food, including one fine burger. Indeed the first thing I noticed was the array of interesting spirits behind the bar. And, of course, fresh fruit, fresh herbs, tinctures, bitters, infusions, etc. I dug right into the list.

The cocktail list includes a good number of the classics, and an equally good number of originals. Lots to choose from here, and I'm not even sure I saw a single vodka drink (although I tend to simply ignore those boring concoctions when I see them).

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Sous vide steak: at home

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I'm about 15 years late to the sous vide party,  but if you know anything about me, you know I stay really really late at parties, so it all balances out.

The big benefit of sous vide is you can cook a piece of meat to the temp you want from crust to crust. None of that band of gray, dry meat with just a little m/r in the middle. This appeals to me, and it should appeal to everyone.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I figured I'd sous vide a steak. I didn't have one of those fancy devices, but I did have an instant read thermometer, a pot, and a stove.

I got myself a beautiful piece of beef tenderloin from Sal at Westwood Prime Meats, threw that in a vacuum sealer (these things are great and every cook should have one), and got my situation situated.

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Sous vide-3

The challenge of sous vide cooking without one of those fancy devices is keep the water at a constant, and correct, temperature. After some fiddling, I found it was quite easy to dial in the temp. While you might be tempted to rely only on the knob of your stove to nail that temp, you might have an easier time using the combination of a very low flame, and moving the pot off the flame a bit. This way you can just nudge the pot back onto the flame a tad, or off, if the temp starts swinging.

Heck I had good results at a friend's house with a pretty crappy electric cooktop and an old analog thermometer.

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Marcus B&P: a Marcus Samuelsson restaurant in Newark, NJ

Marcus B&P Newark-6

That handsome devil Marcus Samuelsson sure has a cool sense of fashion. And he knows a thing or two about food. We couldn't have been more impressed with his newest venture, Newark's Marcus B&P.

The place is gorgeous. Lots of natural light pours through the large windows behind the bar. The restaurant is located in the newly renovated building that once housed Hahne's department store. Are you old enough to remember Hahne's? I'm so old I knew about it and have since forgotten about it, until now.

We had what can be described as a thoroughly exceptional meal, top to bottom. I'll gladly tell you alllllll about it.

But first, a cocktail.

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Best dishes: of 2017

Another year, another 5 lbs sagging from my increasingly sore frame. And another roundup of some of the best dishes that contributed to those issues.

Looking back at this year's list, it's hard to not notice a theme of burgers, tongue, and pizza. And not a single salad. Who woulda thunk. Some of these dishes were found in New Jersey, which is good for you if you live in New Jersey and want to try them. But many were from some travels. As I've noted in the past in these year-end wrap-ups, it should come as no surprise that I'm eating stuff that I find exceptional when traveling. I mean, that whole idea of traveling is to eat exceptional things that you can't find at home. And maybe go to a museum or some shit. I'm not really sure.

On to the list, a list which is in no particular order.

Husk : Nashville, TN

Husk Nashville Burger

Husk most certainly has to be one of the finest restaurants in Nashville. So fine that I found myself there twice during two trips. Only during the second visit did a Nashville-sized hangover lead me to order the burger. I had some hesitation when the bartender said they don't take a temp on it, but any concern was unfounded.

This is a double patty burger with gooey cheese and a monster sear on the exceptional beef. On a perfectly-sized bun. This thing is a work of art in its simplicity. Balance, salt, sear, fat. Every note was perfect.

Nashville Hot Chicken and waffles
Kitchen Notes in the Omni Hotel : Nashville, TN

Nashville Hot Chicken Kitchen Notes Omni

And to think I'd never heard of Nashville hot chicken before 2017. And to think even KFC now has it.

I was able to sample Nashville hot chicken from several places (Prince's, Hattie B's, Acme Feed & Seed) during one visit. And they were all fantastic. I had low expectations for the restaurant in the Omni Hotel, especially with respect to this regional specialty, as you might. And that was wrong. Glorious hot chicken, a waffle, a perfectly cooked egg, pickles, a gallon of water, and a coffee. Holy cow did I need that on this particular morning. I returned the next day to have this again, but, alas, they weren't serving this dish that morning. This left a hole in my heart.

Tripe with long pepper and peppercorn
Joyce Chinese : River Edge, NJ

Joyce Chinese River Edge Tripe

As I noted earlier this year on the blog,

"The flavor was intense. The heat was searing. The notes were herbaceous and fruity. Again, two elements I'm not used to experiencing in Sichuan food. The bowl was loaded with tripe, and Chinese celery, and bean sprouts, and pickled peppers, and ginger, and hot chili, and wood ear mushrooms. Textures swimming all around. I didn't know where to start, but didn't want to stop."

This was quite a dish. Not for the faint of heart. In fact, don't order it unless you are an expert like me.

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