tommy:eats reader and friend 'Curlz' has been telling me about the burger at Next Door for a few years. I finally got around to getting over to Next Door, which is Zod Arifai's more casual restaurant next to his appropriately- and much-ballyhooed Blu.
Representatives from the tommy:eats organization, including the editor-in-chief, the publisher, the VP of sales, the COO, and the CEO, had another fantastic meal at Chengdu 23 in Wayne this weekend. The editor-at-large and the Bergen County consulting editor were also present (titles make me feel good).
As I've noted several times on this blog, Chengdu 23 is serving authentic Sichuan food, as good as you'll find in NYC. You can certainly go here and foolishly order the Americanized Chinese food, and it's certainly better here than it is at 99.999999% of the Chinese restaurants out there, but the real magic happens with their more authentic offerings.
201 Magazine, the big, glossy magazine that you see in grocery stores (or in the mail...they seem to send it to people for free in addition to selling it), released their yearly readers poll. It's sprinkled with "Editor's picks" and "Celebrity picks." I'm not sure I care what these folks have to say about restaurants, but I guess their opinion is neither better nor worse than that of any random person.
Waking up on the first day of the lunar new year with a hankerin' for Chinese isn't ideal. While we managed to avoid that craving the night before, when no doubt every good Chinese restaurant was packed with people celebrating, we woke up with dim sum on the brain, and Ridgewood's Dim Sum Dynasty seemed like a good a spot as any to get a
quick dim sum lunch. In fact, their dim sum is quite good, especially when you consider that
it's in the middle of Ridgewood. We thought we might be able to sneak an early lunch in, and, you know, beat the crowds.
We were wrong. Apparently lots of other people know about their dim sum, as there was a 20 minute wait for a table...at 11.30 am.
We soldiered on and waited for our table, avoiding rolling steam carts and crawling small children, and were treated to some pretty damned good food. This is just a quick note to remind you and me to get down there for dim sum more often, but preferably not on Chinese New Year.
One of my resolutions for 2013 will be to eat out more often. Or perhaps more accurately, branching out a bit and doing a random lunch somewhere, rather than having a salad or sandwich at home. Eating *out*. None of this "paying forward" or being nice to people BS. We got a jump on that resolution today and headed off to Sakura Bana in Ridgewood, NJ.
Something called Wa Lobster Pot is opening in the space that Lisa's previously inhabited. I'm not sure what a Wa Lobster Pot is, but we'll see.
Park West Tavern continues to pump out excellent burgers and "sliders" (mini-burgers, actually), along with some other very acceptable, and often excellent, food. Their website continues to pump out annoying and unecessary music. Hey Park West Tavern, I'm listening to my own music while looking at your website. Don't need yours. Thanks, though.
The place called Raymond's, which I've read on the internet "OMG they have the BEST waffles," in addition to other food with is apparently "to die for," is open, and is, aesthically speaking, a wonderful addition to downtown Ridgewood. I'm confident that most items are "cooked to perfection" and "SOOOOOOOO freakin good," and the "establishment" serves food that "my hubby loved," but I haven't made my way over there to be sure.
Two visits have turned me into a fan of this place, much to my delight. While Fin does have its flaws, overall you can eat pretty well here, and if a loud and energetic room is your thing, have a good time while doing it.
The servers have been quite good. Perhaps a little too comfortable for some at times, but I'm not one of those people who gets offended when a server introduces him or herself. Runners and busboys, equally as good, and very efficient and professional.
Little touches like hot towels for your hands, if you've been eating some shellfish with your fingers, a fresh set of wine glasses if you move on to a different bottle (Fin is BYO), and purse hooks under the tables (I've never seen purse hooks anywhere but on bars), really add up at Fin.
This was the best thing I ate yesterday, and that was after eating fantastic pizza at Porta.
I read a bit about Mogo Korean Fusion Tacos on the SFI (Stupid Friggin' Internet), where a bunch of people promptly started criticizing the place. If I recall correctly, and I wish there were a way that I could read this crap and have it not plant itself in my head, there were complaints about the price (4 bucks?), the flour tortillas (rather than corn, for Korean flavors?), and who knows what else. I'm sure someone was offended there's a tip jar or that the sun was too bright.
I found myself on Church Street in Montclair a few weeks ago. This wasn't be design, though. I had planned to go to Mancinni's, to finally try that pizza that people have been raving about. Their outgoing voice message noted that they open at 11.30 on Sundays, so off I went. Unfortunately the sign on the door noted something altogether different, and they weren't open for lunch.
Disappointed and unsure of what to eat, I took a walk up Church street. There was that Raymond's place that everyone seems to love. People were lined up, waiting 20-30 minutes for the opportunity to eat that brunch of theirs. I'm of the opinion that places like Raymond's cater to people who think they should like places like Raymond's. But that's for another post. And hey, perhaps they execute those standard brunch items really well, but I just can't get behind standard bruch foods. There's no reason that I shouldn't have the choice to eat whatever food a restaurant specializes in on a weekend afternoon, rather than being forced to choose between frittatas, steak & eggs, pancakes, waffles, and the rest of it. But that's for another post.
I walked right by Raymond's and the sheep standing around waiting for their turn, and noticed Albert's/Amici. Mostly empty. Eager servers waiting to seat you. A kitchen waiting to cook for you.
The menu had some southern influence, which didn't make much sense to me, given the name Amici, but the chicken fried steak with sausage gravy certainly caught my eye. This trip to Montclair was coming together.
I grabbed one of the several empty tables outside, and walked next door to the wine shop (the very sexy Amanti Vino) to get a bottle of sparkling rose, which was going to go perfectly with the chicken fried steak.
Unfortunately the chicken fried steak had turned into short ribs, and it wasn't available. Another dish that caught my eye was the Cajun Benedict. Poached eggs on grit cakes with andouille topped with a creole sauce. "This would go well with my sparkler," I knew.
The dish was enjoyable (the eggs were not runny enough for me), and it was really nice having the option to get these bold flavors on a Sunday afternoon.
Italian American restaurants (like Amici was) are a dime a dozen, and very rarely are they exceptional at all. Very, very rarely. Amici realized this when they hired Albert as the chef, I'm told, so they've switched concepts to leverage his strengths in southern/creole cooking. I'd like to see a wider selection of cajun/creole, but perhaps they're working on that.
Give albert's a try. Be a trailblazer, not a follower. I guarantee you'll be more satisified.
t:e field reporter jimmy:rocks has been telling me about this Mancinni's place for a while now. He's been making some outrageous claims about how good it is. I didn't doubt him too much.
Knowing t:e reader 'Curlz' enjoys good food and the Montclair area, I gave her the heads up on this BYO pizza joint. She gleefully reported back on how good it is. I now have no doubts whatsoever that this place is worth a trip.
One day 'Curlz' and jimmy:rocks, who don't know each other, ended up sitting next to each other at Mancinni's and chatting, unaware of the common link. I guess they go often. This was on the day after they apparently just missed each other at Pizza Town in Elmwood Park. Yet another time Curlz reported that she ended up sitting next to longtime t:e friend Rosie Saferstein of NJ Monthly. All of this is becoming too much for me to process.
Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to get down to Mancinni's myself. My pizza obsession will get me there soon. But, I think the word needs to get out, so I present to you the first official t:e guest blogging, by Curlz, on Mancinni's.