Novo Mediterranean: Ridgewood, NJ

North Jersey has no shortage of restaurants focusing on what might be considered "Mediterranean cuisine." Ridgewood alone boasts several, ranging from good (Lisa's Mediterranean and Mediterraneo), to cookie-cutter (casually glances at It's Greek To Me). So when I saw another restaurant billing itself as "Mediterranean" was opening on Chestnut Street, I wasn't overcome with anticipation. In fact, I was only vaguely interested in the prospect. I'm here to tell you that I was a moron.

After my first meal at Novo Mediterranean, I proclaimed it "excellent," "one of the most exciting new restaurants in the area," and noted that it "has potential to become a favorite." 

After the next meal I upped the ante, stating "Chef Kahlon is a stone cold killer," and "serious effing business here."  It took me a while, but I am no longer (as much of) a moron. Novo is, indeed, irrefutably, one of the most exciting new restaurants to hit North Jersey in a long time. After three meals it is, without a doubt, a favorite. I cannot imagine ever tiring of Chef Kahlon's cooking--although his dashing good-looks are starting to grate on me.

I should talk about the food.

Novo bread

The first thing that hit our table was a loaf of house-made bread. A steaming log of olive oil coated, airy bread, sprinkled with sea salt. The bread alone is reason to return. I can't imagine how good a sandwich made with this stuff would be. Throw some ham in there and call it a day. If at the moment that bread hits the table you don't realize that you're in the hands of an excellent chef, you'll only have consider the punch of flavor packed into house-made za'atar to be convinced. I couldn't figure out what was in it, and I don't care; some things are too good to ponder. 

I'm bloviating enough as it is, and I know you people have a very short attention span, so I'll just move on to some photos and brief comments.

Novo salad

This salad was popping-bright, with crunchy, fresh vegetables, appropriately dressed, and adorned with fried chickpeas and shaved cheese. This dish may very well encapsulate Chef Kahlon's approach to cooking. Lots of exciting acid, herbs, fresh ingredients, and textural contrast. He cooks like I like to eat.

Novo ravioli 2

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Restaurant comers and goers in Ridgewood: NJ


The near constant turnover of restaurants continues in Ridgewood, NJ.

Long-time staple and all-around mediocre restaurant La Piazza disappeared a few months ago. I got a bit excited when I saw a sign announcing a new place called "29 Chestnut," until I looked closer and read "Italian Trattoria." What we don't need is yet another "Italian" restaurant in New Jersey (I'm relatively confident that it will be "Italian-American" and will not specialize in the cooking of any part of Italy).


Diwani moved out of its digs on E. Ridgewood Ave and headed up to Mahwah a few months back. That space is extremely awkward, with a small front room, some sort of dead space, and then a larger dining room tucked in the back. Let's hope Pardis Persian Grill can make a go of it.


Back on Chestnut Street, it looks like some sort of health food place went kaputt, and something with the potential of being much more interesting is moving in. Tori Ramen Chicken is coming soon.

Will they only serve chicken ramen? What about pork? I like pork. It looks like a pretty big space, so maybe they'll have room for chicken and pork ramen. Either way, this one is something to look forward to.

Ridgewood Fisheries, the small Japanese market, has closed. J Mart, another Japanese market, remains open.

Bella Notte Italian Bistro, which was La Bottega before that, closed a few months ago. The space remains empty.


Kilwins, some sort of chain, has a nice little spot right across from Van Neste Square. Haven't been in there, but I'm guessing they have chocolates, caramel apples, fudge, and ice cream.

As I noted earlier, another highly anticipated restaurant, Fish, is making progress on their remodel of the old bank building. I've got high hopes for this place, and I hope it doesn't screw it all up.

A reader notes that Italia di Gusto is open on E. Ridgewood ave. The website is here.

So that's that.

I worked up quite an appetite walking those 4 blocks, and headed over to the always-excellent Sakura Bana for some sushi. 



Bogie's Hoagies in Hawthorne, NJ: the best sub shop for miles

Boagies hoagies

Bogie's Hoagies has been quietly sitting in a nondescript strip of stores on Lafayette Ave in Hawthorne for some years now. I've driven past the place countless times, never thinking the sub shop behind the door could be anything other than mediocre. I have recently come to learn that this couldn't be further from the reality. I sure do love being wrong.

Bogie's Hoagies, to break it down for you, is simply the best sub shop for miles, and certainly one of the best sub shops that I've ever visited. There's so much that they are doing right that it's a bit mind-boggling. 

The place is essentially a sandwich shop, but it's run like a restaurant. The owner, who has owned and run full-service restaurants in the past, has been present every time I visit. He wears crisp, clean Chef's whites, and seems to be very much engaged in the operation.

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Dim Sum Villa: Proper dim sum in New Providence, NJ

Dim sum villa dim sum

File under: where the heck is New Providence, NJ?

I certainly had no idea. Never heard of it, as far as I can remember. I know the area, but not this New Providence. Luckily I have a map, so I was able to locate this lovely little hamlet and the fabulous dim sum restaurant tucked into its bosom. Dim Sum Villa is the name of the place, and they've got some proper dim sum.

Dim sum villa cart

They've got cart service at Dim Sum Villa. This neither excites me nor bothers me. I really don't care if a restaurant has carts. But it's nice to see the selections up close and in person and do the pointing routine.

Here's a brief rundown of a recent dim sum lunch:

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Menya Sandaime: Ramen in Fort Lee, NJ

Menya sandaime fort lee

Fort Lee is probably one of the most exciting food destinations in New Jersey. Sure, the restaurants mostly lean toward Korean and Japanese, but the sheer volume of options alone make this town worthy of multiple return visits. I've been returning whenever I get a chance.

On this return trip, we headed over to Menya Sandaime--a Korea-based Japanese restaurant situated in a house on a side street. Ramen was calling us on this chilly autumn morning, and this newly-opened place seemed as good a spot as any.

I'm not sure if my lack of experience with ramen informs my opinions to a fault, or if the ramen I've been eating has actually been really super. But my recent experiences have really left me wanting more. Menya Sandaime was no exception.

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Shanghai 46: Shanghai-style Chinese in Fairfield, NJ

  Soup dumplings

Hunan Cottage is (thankfully) gone, and the Chengdu 23 people moved into the building on Rt 46 East, in Fairfield, NJ. But not with Sichuan-style food. This time, they've implemented a Shanghai-style restaurant (with a very silly-sounding name). Which is just wonderful news. It's called FU restaurant Shanghai 46 (name changed!.

Even better news is that the meal we recently has was immensely enjoyable, and no doubt an indicator of the good things to come.

The menu is set up similarly to Chengdu 23's. In fact, if you don't look closely, you'd think they were the same. But this menu is filled with Shanghainese food. The standard Americanized stuff is in separate sections of the menu, and it's relatively clear which food is authentic cooking.

That authentic Shanghai-style cooking doesn't rely as heavily on the fermented, deep, rich flavors and oil-based sauces that Sichuan food often does. Shanghainese is more about the flavors of preserved vegetables and silky, almost understated sauces. Other than some of the protiens (sea cucumber, eel, jellyfish), it's hard to think that this food could be offensive or intimidating to anyone, even if they aren't familiar with authentic Chinese cooking. It's quite agreeable, and very approachable. So, you know, try it if you haven't. Or if you have, bring your dopey friends who claim "I don't like Chinese food," even though they've never actually had Chinese food.

So I was saying...

The staff was pleasant and accommodating. I can't help but give Hunan Cottage one final kick in the groin for being such unpleasant people when I note this.

We started off with a couple of selections from the dim sum menu, and then jumped into the entrees.

Leek pancake
Leek pancake

First up was a leek pancake (Fried Leek Dumpling on the menu) type of deal. We weren't expecting the flat thing that came to the table, but the fried pastry-like dough was filled with glorious leeks. As with much Shanghai food, the flavors were subtle and clean. This isn't the punch-you-in-the-throat flavor profile of Sichuan food. A little hot mustard did provide a welcome kick, though. I guess we weren't truly ready for such subtlety.

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S. Egidio: Neapolitan-style pizza in Ridgewood, NJ

S egidio ridgewood pizza

It took me a while, but I finally had a chance to grab a pie at S. Egidio, the small, Neapolitan-style pizza place on North Broad Street in Ridgewood, NJ.

While the dinner menu isn't very large to begin with, the lunch menu is even smaller. Some salads, sandwiches, meats, and pizza. Maybe even a pasta or two. Doesn't matter. I was there for the pizza.

I went right for a Margherita pie. A better baseline for comparison you will not find. And I caved and ordered soppressata as a topping.

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Shanghai 46 in Fairfield, NJ: Shanghai-style from the folks who bring you Chendgu 23

File under: orgasm-inducing news

Update: We had a meal here recently, and it was quite good (click me).

Update: it's now called Shanghai 46. Same owners, better name.

I've been advised that the folks who run the wonderful Chengdu 23 in Wayne, NJ, have opened (just four days ago at the time of this post), a restaurant specializing in authentic Shanghai cooking. It's in the building where Hunan Cottage used to be, on the eastbound side of Route 46 in Fairfield, NJ.

Hunan Cottage was offensive, and I was not upset to see it go. Specifically, the attitude of the staff toward me and my companions was almost without exception rude, obnoxious, and, it could be argued, just downright racist. A lot of "you won't like" and "you can't order that." Not to mention the difficulty of getting a menu with authentic stuff to begin with.  The staff at Chengdu 23, conversely, has always been very gracious, and actually lets me order what I want. I'm assuming the staff at Fu Restaurant will be no different. A welcomed change.

I picked up a menu and do see lots of the usual Shanghai suspects: Lion Head meatballs, soup dumplings, lots of sea cucumber, jellyfish, pickled vegetables, preserved eggs, etc.

While I haven't given Shanghai 46 a try yet (Yeah we did: click me), I did enjoy a meal at Chengdu 23 this morning. Here are some things that we ate that you did not:

Chive dumplings

Chive dumplings (available during weekend dim sum service)

Chive dumplings

Rice noodle with spicy sauce (available during weekend dim sum service)

Chive dumplings

Crispy shrimp balls (available during weekend dim sum service)

Chive dumplings

Shrimp toast

Chive dumplings

Scallops of some sort. Battered and fried w/ some spicy bits.

Chive dumplings

Prawns with minced pork, pickled peppers and scallion in Cheng Du Sauce (with shell)

Shanghai 26 Restaurant : 14-18 Route 46 East : Fairfield, NJ : 973.808.5888



La Bottega in Ridgewood closed, and is now Bella Notte Italian Bistro [CLOSED]


Update: 2015/03/26 Bella Notte seems to have closed.

Fans of La Bottega were probably shocked when seemingly overnight the restaurant changed names. In the blink of an eye.

Apparently the ownership hasn't changed, but the restaurant is no longer associated with the La Bottega chain. I'm told much of the staff remains the same, as well as many of the popular menu items. So if you liked La Bottega, you should probably try Bella Notte Italian Bistro, even with its unfortunate name. <rant>"Bistro" is French, not Italian. Trattoria or osteria would be more appropriate.</rant>


Hot Diggity Grill: Hawthorne, NJ: Great burgers!

Hot diggity Grill burger fries

I was driving through Paterson today, and for some reason I started wondering how Smashburger serves their burgers so darned hot. They really are hot, and stay hot. Like magic. I'm a big fan of Smashburger. It was close to lunchtime so I figured I had to get a burger, from somewhere.

Smashburger was a bit out of my way, and luckily I recalled a reader telling me that Hot Diggity Grill in Hawthorne has a good burger. I was skeptical when I heard this, and was still skeptical when I recalled this, but I shot into Hawthorne to give them a shot. Glad I did.

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