I know what you're thinking: I haven't been posting blog entries so I must not be eating. Well just because I don't post blog entries doesn't mean I'm not eating. That's plain silly. Of this you are assured. It's just that I don't always feel like writing a whole bunch, or, more accurately, don't think I have anything interesting to say (usually the case). So, every now and again, I write these superficial little recaps, describing what I recently ate and where I ate it, if it think it's important enough. It's less pressure on me. This comes out of laziness, lack of motivation, lack of confidence, and a complete and utter lack of interest in whether people return to my blog for fresh posts. The occasionally declining tommy:eats blog stats are a testament to that, if not a reminder to post something. Anything.
So here you go: superficial and shallow notes on a few notable bites from the past week or two, that I think you should know about, from Oceanos (NJ), Babbo (NYC), Victor's Maywood Inn (NJ), and The Restaurant (NJ):
Oceanos : 2-27 Saddle River Rd, Fair Lawn, NJ : 201.796.0546
We like Oceanos. It's a real neighborhood place: a place we can drop in on almost any night without a reservation and get something good to eat. They're always accommodating.
Father-son owners (and fish-lovers) Peter and Nick had some exceptional calamari on hand during our last visit. They personally pick out their fish in the wee hours of the morning (and you should thank them). They offered to grill it up for us. While we ate the tender, deliciously charred calamari, chatting with Nick, we wondered why so many people choose to deep fry this stuff. Jeesh.
Babbo : New York, NY
Mario Batali is one of my favorite chefs. Beyond his food, I love the vibe of his restaurants:
- Professional, friendly, well-informed staff.
- Casual and energetic yet sophisticated atmosphere.
- You can learn something about food or wine on every visit, if you want.
And the food is generally top-notch.
We had the excellent warm lamb's tongue dish found on the current menu. Chopped up and served with chanterelle, a lightly-poached egg, and a little truffle oil. An egg on top of anything makes it better. What a great dish. I was leaning towards the testa, but when I asked our superb waiter (Joe?) what he thought of the lamb tongue, he gave me a silent but knowing nod "yes". That's all I needed to not hear. I mean, where else are you going to get this dish anyway? Lamb's tongue it was. And where else can you have wine author David Lynch pick out your wines?
That evening's dinner soundtrack included some old Bowie.
Victor's Maywood Inn : 122 W. Pleasant Ave, Maywood, NJ : 201.843.8022
Victor's Maywood Inn owned by the Rivera family, members of which also own Rivera's in Fair Lawn, and the Glen Rock Inn (affectionately known as "The Inn" by locals). A guy named Victor owns The Inn. But this isn't the same Victor that owns Victor's Maywood Inn. That Victor passed on a while back. But his son now runs the place. His son's name is not Victor. However, I think he has a brother named Victor. They are both cousins of Victor from The Inn. Victor from The Inn has a twin brother, which just complicates the issue that much more, and explains why sometimes the person we think is Victor at the Inn seems to recognize us, and other times he doesn't seem to know who we are. One thing I know for sure is that I have no idea who owns Rivera's, and I'm afraid to ask.
You can get some tasty buffalo chicken wings at the Maywood Inn. Ask for them crispy with the sauce on the side. You can also get a surprisingly good martini here. Nice and cold and dry. The bar pies and burgers don't fare as well, but I know that some people dig 'em. The thin crust pizzas have all of the right cracker-thin-style pizza flavors, but the crust falls short. The burgers don't taste as though they're using the freshest beef at times.
All in all it's a real neighborhood joint, just like The Inn. We need more of that.
The Restaurant : 160 Prospect Ave, Hackensack, NJ : 201.678.1100
I've had high-hopes for the bar dining at The Restaurant. Our one trip to the dining room proper last year wasn't all that memorable. But since then I've been figuring for some decent bar food. I was, unfortunately, figuring wrong.
The burger wasn't really exceptional. Although, again, like the Maywood Inn, I'm sure there are lots of people who think it's great. And that's fine. It's just not great for me.
The pasta with braised protein was poised for excellence I mean, you're adding braised meat to pasta. What could go wrong? Well, for starters, you could cook the pasta until it turns into mush, which is what happened.
They've got an interesting enough wine list here, with some Long Island selections, which I always appreciate. The bartender was friendly, makes a good martini and pours a heavy glass of wine. He found time to be very efficient in between talking to the regulars who seem to fill the place.
Even with the mediocre-to-horrible food that we experienced, we'll probably give it another shot. I guess that speaks volumes about what friendly service and an interesting wine list can do. Not to mention a good martini and a heavy pour of wine.