I've never been a huge fan of the River Palm Terrace restaurants. Their steaks just don't seem to be as exceptional as they should be at those prices. And maddeningly, I've never been able to get a straight answer on which of their steaks are actually 1) USDA Prime, and 2) dry-aged, rather than wet-aged (my preference is the former). They are generally cooked perfectly fine, but I don't usually detect any funky minerally notes that you can get with dry-aged steak. If you have any doubt of how funky and minerally tastes or smells, go to Peter Luger, where, I suspect, the butter/beef tallow "sauce" that they serve and cook the steaks with actually lends most of that flavor...not the meat itself.
But occasionally, we'll find ourselves at the Mahwah location, primarily because we can't think of any other place to have a decent dinner at a bar (bar dining is almost always preferable), and because the Mahwah location also offers "sushi" (rolls, raw fish dishes, that type of thing). On top of that, it's a little less hectic than the Fair Lawn location.
On our recent visit, I went through the same process that I always do, trying to figure out which steak might be exceptional. The best bet seems to be the porterhouse. But at 84 bucks, I'm not interested in rolling the dice. Then I look at the shell steak, and wonder if it's really dry-aged, or would taste dry-aged, and I sort of remember that it tasted like a regular supermarket steak (from a place like Fairway, not Shop Rite), albeit one with a nice char thanks to the broilers in the kitchen. But then the lamb chops jumped out at me. They seemed like a good idea. And they were.
The lamb chops are the least expensive meat entrees on the menu, coming in at under 30 dollars. There was also a special of a rack of lamb, with a red wine sauce, but we were in the mood for broiled meat, without anything additional that could screw it up. Broiled meat on a white plate. That's what we wanted.
And that's what we got.
Cooked to m/r as ordered, these cubes of lamb were well-seasoned, and absolutely exactly what we'd hoped for. Where the steak at the RPT always lets me down, the lamb chops exceeded our expectations. And that, is a good thing.
While we were expecting rib chops (you know, the ones you usually see, with the slender rib bone and that round bit of meat at the end), we ended up with loin chops (think t-bone). The expectation of rib chops was a bit silly, as the menu states "loin." Double cut, these were cubes of nicely charred juicy lamb meat and bone.
We started with a crab meat cocktail, which was the standard presentation of lump crab meat with horseradish and cocktail sauce. There's not much skill that goes into this dish, so very little chance it would be screwed up. It wasn't.
We also had the tuna "tacos." This is basically spicy tuna served on chips of some sort, with a slice of jalapeno and some roe. I'm a sucker for this type of thing. I could eat raw tuna every day and never get sick of it. I could eat jalapeno slices on just about anything. Fish roe adds a little fish explosion to any dish, and who doesn't like a fish explosion in their mouth. A perfectly acceptable dish.
I should also mention the crispy sweet potato fries. Not soggy, not bland, but rather crispy and sweet and creamy and seasoned to my standards and, apparently, very healthful. Really good.
The wines-by-the-glass program is a bit weak. Stagnant, and nothing too exciting here. However, they've got a Dr. L Riesling (a great low alcohol high value Riesling from Germany) for about 8 bucks, and a Malbec for about the same. When in doubt on reds, I go for Malbec, which are usually the least expensive, and most pleasant and oftentimes the most food-friendly.
As far as cocktails, they've got a decent supply of bourbons and scotches and vodkas and the other stuff. Being a steakhouse, you'll be sure to get a full pour. Is there fresh lime juice on hand? I'm not sure, I didn't ask, assuming there isn't. Were there bitters for my Manhattan? I'm not sure, and I didn't ask. Now that I write that I'm surprised I didn't check on the bitters situation.
The bartenders here are generally pleasant and efficient. There doesn't seem to be a lot of turnover at this place, which is a good indication that the bartenders are competent, and interested in their job. Two very important, and rare, characteristics for bartenders.
While I'm hesitant to say the River Palm Terrace is the best steakhouse in north Jersey, I can say that you can have a pretty good meal here with that lamb and some fish and those sweet potato fries.
River Palm Terrace : 209 Ramapo Valley Rd : Mahwah, NJ : 201.529.1111