Soup Dumplings Plus: super Shanghainese in Fort Lee, NJ

Soup dumplings plus fort lee-3

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


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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Shanghai Restaurant: Authentic in Fort Lee, NJ

Shanghai Restaurant beef tripeBeef and tripe

I put out an SOS on the ol' Facebook page, asking the fine freaks who follow this blog to toss a few ideas for authentic Chinese restaurants out at me. While I know a bunch of these places exist in north Jersey, I end up returning to the same handful over and over.

One kind freak suggested "that soup dumpling place" in Fort Lee. I'm not sure if Shanghai Restaurant was the place to which she was referring, but once I saw the menu I knew it was authentic, and worth a shot. And I was right, as usual.

Shanghai Restaurant is located toward the east end of Main Street, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Fort Lee. We were able to get a parking spot directly in front of the restaurant.

It's a clean, small, bright place, with several tables outside. Not something I see very often in Fort Lee.

Shanghai Restaurant Fort Lee

A pot of loose leaf tea was placed on the table by the nice gentleman, and refilled several times. Two menus were delivered.

While I know it's not necessarily a dish from Shanghai, I rarely pass up a plate of spicy beef and tripe (pictured at the top of this post).

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Tang Maru: Korean food in Palisades Park, NJ

Tang maru palisades park

When Chef Bobby Cho of Kimchi Smoke tells you to go to a restaurant called Tang Maru in a town called Palisades Park and order the pork neck soup, you wait 2 years and then do just what he says.

This dude isn't messing around. Not only does he know his BBQ, but he knows his pork neck soup.

Tang Maru is a pleasant, bright restaurant, with friendly service and a big connected parking lot, in an area near saturated with Korean restaurants. Since I have so little experience with Korean food, I can't say it sticks out from the pack, but damn if it isn't fantastic. And pretty cheap.

Barley tea hits the table, and then out come the banchan. I was very pleased to see whole fried fish in the assortment. The wife, however, wasn't as pleased. So I ate two. Fleshy, moist, fried fish. Guts and all as far as I could tell. But being gutless, I avoided the really flavorful parts and went to town on the regular bits.

Also included were spicy squid (I think), white radish kimchi, cabbage kimchi, and a salad. At that point, I'm pretty much full. But moments later the cauldrons come out of the kitchen.

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Joyce Chinese Cuisine in River Edge: still on track

Don't believe the naysayers.

I've been hearing that Joyce Chinese Cuisine is slipping. That's it no longer good. That something has changed for the worse. Ignore all of those wrong people. I'll be the judge of "good" thank you very much.

Indeed, everything seems fine at this Sichuan restaurant in River Edge, NJ. In fact, on a recent trip, I had one of the best dishes of this year.

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I wanted some Sichuan comfort food, and for me, fried fish is comforting. I ordered the Fried Spicy & Aromatic Fish, which hit the spot.  Tender pieces of fried fish, chili oil, chili peppers, and a load of Sichuan peppercorn. Classic Sichuan flavors here. "Boy, this has a spicy kick" I thought. I had no idea what I was in for next.

Tripe has been entering my face whenever I see it, especially following a recent trip to Tuscany, where I ate tripe as much as possible. So when I saw Tripe w/ Long Pepper and Peppercorn on the menu, well you know I just had to check it out. "You like hot?" the server asked. "Yes, of course," I confidently replied. I'm no rube, after all.

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From Scratch: Excellent Italian restaurant in Ridgewood, NJ


There's a little gem of a restaurant tucked away on E. Ridgewood Ave in Ridgewood. With its limited menu and lack of the typical Italian-American treats, From Scratch might not be for everyone. But if you are interested in Italian cooking influenced by the cooking of that country, you will probably enjoy the place. Judging by the crowds and hard-to-get reservations, plenty of people already "get it."

I could have very well been sitting in Italy the other day, as I enjoyed my lunch, with the sounds of the Italian language in the background (the owners are from Rome). The waitress that day was also from Italy. Near Napoli, as it turned out. More importantly than where she's from is that she convinced me to order an Italian soft drink.


Typically I'll drink only wine or beer or water with food, but as she described this drink as being made with bitter orange, my interest was piqued. I'm sure glad I gave this stuff a try. Contrasted with the one-note sweet glop the passes as soda in the US, the Italian version is much more dynamic, much more interesting, and much more delicious. This stuff is agrodolce (bittersweet, as you know). It tasted not much unlike an Americano, a cocktail which I routinely drink like it's my job (equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari, topped with sparkling water and served with a slice of orange). It's made by Lurisia and called Chinotto.


Oh the food you wonder? I had a wonderful panino with bresaola, parmesan (sliced by knife), arugula, and a touch of dressing. This is a perfectly balanced sandwich with quality ingredients. Contrasted with typical sandwiches, which too often consist of too-much mediocre bread, and too many bland fillings.  This sandwich packed all sorts of flavor and texture, all with being a sensible (to my mind) size.

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White Maple Cafe: Ridgewood, NJ restaurant


White Maple Cafe opened without me realizing it. I happened to be walking by one day, after a fine meal at from scratch, and there it was. A good-looking restaurant with an interesting menu. Who knew?

I popped in for a quick lunch the other day to see what was going on. I liked what I saw and enjoyed what I had, for the most part.

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Best dishes: of 2015


Putting together a year-end wrap-up list like this is sort of a pain-in-the-ass, I've come to realize. I have to figure out what dishes I want to include, find a photo, remember something halfway interesting or at least accurate to say about the dish, type it all in, spellcheck, look up web sites, etc. It takes a lot time, and at the end of the day very few people care what I put into my face. And I'm sure as shit not getting paid for it. But, it's a nice walk down memory lane for me, so once I get going, sifting through the photos and thinking about the experiences, it turns out to be quite a lot of fun, as I ignore the reality that you may not give a toss about any of it.

But then I have to type words and stuff, and I put it off for 3 weeks. It turns into a task. A task that I just recently tackled.

So why isn't this list New Jersey-focused you didn't ask and probably didn't even wonder? Well I'll tell ya. I used to include only New Jersey/NYC restaurants in these lists (I think), but I've been told that there is some value to some people to include stuff from other places. The fact that many of the dishes on this list are from outside of New Jersey shouldn't be a surprise. When I travel, I'm obviously carefully picking restaurants that I think will be outstanding. And let us not ignore the fact that when you're traveling, things just taste better. New experiences put more lead in my pencil than anything. When I'm stuck in New Jersey, conversely, I don't spend enough time eating out, and too often go back to the same places where I know I can get a good meal. But, there are several restaurants on this list within a stone's throw of New Jersey, so even if you don't ever plan on leaving the Garden State, perhaps something on this list will appeal to you.

Enough explaining. On with it.

Here's a list of exceptional dishes that I enjoyed in 2015. In no particular order other than perhaps chronological.


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Momma's Boy Burgers: A Shake Shack-ish place in Wayne, NJ


It's beyond evident that Shake Shack was an inspiration for the people who opened Momma's Boy, a burger/hot dog joint in Wayne, NJ. It's clear right down to the wood/metal interior and the logo. And who can blame them for taking some cues from a place like Shake Shack. Shake Shack does a pretty damned good job at selling hamburgers and fries.

The people behind Momma's Boy were certainly paying attention when they pulled this place together.  The burger is very similar to the burger at Shake Shack. Same griddled potato roll, same style of "special sauce" (may0/ketchup-based), same type of melty American cheese, and the same size. But all of that means nothing if the burger meat isn't tasty, and the execution is flawed. Do they pull it off?

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Joyce Chinese: River Edge, NJ, the same as it used to be: excellent


From the various rumblings on the web claiming how Joyce Chinese, the barely 2-year-old Sichuan restaurant in River Edge, NJ, "isn't as good as it used to be," you'd think they changed the menu and dumbed down the food to appeal to bland American tastes. From my admittedly unscientific analysis, I conclude that that's all a bunch of cahcah (cahcah means crap). The restaurant continues to serve mind- and tongue-numbingly good Sichuan food.

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