Blue Smoke, NYC: the burger

Best of: Dishes at NJ restaurants in 2006

With 2006 coming to a close, I found myself reflecting on some of the more notable dishes that I've had in over the last 12 months, while woofing down a very tasty hot pepper pizza at the Star Tavern in Orange.  "Notable" as in they made me utter aloud "wow, that's good."

Who doesn't like lists?  Everyone likes lists.  Lists give our lives order.  Even unordered lists give our lives order.  And they sure give writers and editors something to do at the end of the year.

And so the "Best of" lists were born.  Right there at the bar, the incubator of so many great ideas.

So here, in no particular order, are some of the most notable and "wow"-inducing dishes that I was lucky enough to have placed before me during 2006 in New Jersey:

  • Grilled lobster at Oceanos: Served with excellent twice-cooked fries and, for me, a few glasses of Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wine.  OK, so that's more of a meal than a dish, but it works so well that I feel obligated to map it out for you.
  • Pork Shank at Restaurant L:  Crispy and porky.
  • Tuna tartare at Kiku:  Kiku could suck, but it doesn't, and the tuna tartare is brilliant.  Just ask my uncle Jim.  Spicy, slightly peanuty, crunchy.
  • Grilled octopus at Varka:  Charred and vinegary
  • The burger at Copeland:  Hands down the best burger around.
  • Lobster roll at Elysian Cafe:  They treat the meat with respect.
  • BBQ at Bailey's Smokehouse:  Fink is a master.  Simply a master.  If I had to name a favorite, I'd go with his spareribs.
  • Pâté at Circa:  Chef Coury is an ingredients-driven chef, and he should be thanked.  And I should also mention their microbrew called Alt-er-nator.  
  • Itsy bitsy spicy fried fish at Petite Soochow: I forget the name of the dish.
  • Salt and pepper pork at China 46:  The benchmark.
  • "Egg rolls" at Little Saigon:  Nobody does it better than Nghia.
  • Fettucini with an étouffée sauce (spicy crawfish/lobster) at Silver Oak Bistro:  Chef Gary makes excellent BBQ and, as a matter of fact, excellent pasta.  

Hey look another list!

Oceanos : 2-27 Saddle River Rd : Fair Lawn, NJ : 201.796.0546

Restaurant L : 9 Franklin Turnpike : Allendale, NJ : 201.785.1112

Kiku : 365 Rt 17 South (btwn Midland Ave and Century Rd) : Paramus, NJ : 201.265.7200

Varka Fishouse : 30 N. Spruce St : Ramsey, NJ : 201.995.9333

Copeland : 2 Whippany Rd (in the Westin Governor Hotel) : Morristown, NJ : 973.451.2619

Elysian Café : 1001 Washington St (at 10th) : Hoboken, NJ : 201.798.5898

Bailey’s Smokehouse : 136 E. Erie St : Blauvelt, NY: 845.398.1454

Circa : 37 Main St : High Bridge, NJ : 908.638.5560

Petite Soochow : 607 Gorge Rd : Cliffside Park, NJ : 201.313.1666

China 46 : 88 Route 46 West : Ridgefield, NJ : 201.313.0088

Little Saigon : 19 Elm St : Montclair, NJ : 973.783.3914

Silver Oak American Bistro : 26 Wilsey Square : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.444.4744