The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Bhoj, a True Sub-Continental Delight

Throughout my many years as a foodie I have visited countless restaurants searching for phenomenal interesting cuisine.  Since I have been on this endeavor for such a lengthy amount of time, it gets harder and harder to find new restaurants to take a bite out of.  I sometimes feel like a nomad wandering out of town, to another county, or even across state lines in pursuit of a foodie find worth talking about.   Imagine my surprise, when I was informed that I had been missing out on some of the best Indian food in the state, right in my own backyard.  After receiving messages from several of my Facebook friends urging me to give Bhoj, located at 430 Market Street, Elmwood Park, NJ 07407, a try, I had no other option but to heed their advice.
Bhoj

Kat and I are no strangers to ethnic food, which you know if you read this blog, so when I mentioned the possibility of Indian food for dinner Kat did not even let me finish the question, before responding, “YES!”  After a long day of work and a short stint at the gym, Kat and I hopped into the car with our appetites and headed to good ‘Ole Elmwood Park to experience all that Bhoj had to offer.

At first glance, Bhoj, does not seem like much, due to the fact that it is located in a shopping plaza with a Dunkin Donuts, a liquor store (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Bhoj is a BYOB), and a Laundromat, but as I have learned quite a few times on my epicurean adventures, looks can be deceiving.  As we entered Bhoj, the intoxicating aroma caused us to forget what the building looked like outside and focus on the interior of this enchanting restaurant, which was decorated with an authentic Indian theme.  I felt like Tucan Sam as I followed my nose through the restaurant as we were seated by our waiter.

Once we were seated we were welcomed to the Bhoj by our server and handed two menus and a list of specials.  While perusing the menu our waiter brought over two glasses and filled them with water while we attempted to make our decision.  When the waiter came back, as per usual, Kat and I could not make up our minds so I asked him to suggest an appetizer.  More often than not a waiter or waitress will choose an item on a whim when requested to advise a diner on what they should eat, but not at Bhoj.  I was happily surprised when our waiter engaged us in a short conversation in an attempt to judge our likes and dislikes before just offering a random dish for us to order.  Armed with the knowledge that he collected from our conversation our waiter competently recommended the Vegetable Samosas with Channa which was described as crispy golden brown triangle pastry stuffed with potatoes and green peas.  We of course took our waiters advice and ordered this alluring appetizer while we scrutinized the menu some more looking for the perfect entrée.  Our waiter also asked us what degree of spiciness we would like our appetizer to have, E.G. Mild, Medium, or Hot.  We requested medium, but our waiter seemed slightly suspicious about our heat tolerance and suggested Mild Plus for the appetizer and if we wanted more heat, he would adjust our entrées accordingly.

Indian Dipping Sauces

Dipping Sauces

Once our appetizer order was in, a waiter came to our table and placed a basket of crispy flat-bread that I believe was Khakra and a dish divided in thirds which housed three distinctly different sauces for said Khakra.  I have to admit that Bhoj scored some points with this foodie by adding the dipping sauces, which were wonderful by the way, because I am huge sauce fanatic, so much so that I have an entire shelf dedicated to sauces is my refrigerator much to Kat’s chagrin.  As we chowed down on the complimentary Khakra we made our final decision for our main course and relayed them to our waiter. I decided upon the Bhuna Gosht for $17.95 which was described as Lamb cooked in special thick gravy with exotic spices and tomatoes, whereas Kat went with the Chicken Tikka Masala for $16.95, which was described as boneless pieces of Tandoori chicken cooked in a creamy tomato sauce.  We also ordered Garlic Naan for $3.95 and Basmati Rice for $1.50 to complete our meal.

Khakra

Khakra all dressed up

Shortly after we ordered our entrées, our appetizer arrived on the table and it was presented beautifully on the serving plate. The two overstuffed triangle pastries were fried to perfection and placed on the dish surrounded by the Channa creating an edible piece of art that any refined foodie, including Kat and I, would feel bad destroying.  That is, until we tasted the first bite, and then we devoured every last morsel of this fantastic dish as if we were a bunch feral carnies that have never used a fork before.  Yea, that is right! It was acting like a feral carnie good!

Vegetable Samosas with Channa

Vegetable Samosas with Channa

While we were demolishing this delectable treat, our waiter approached the table to inquire about the spice level, so the Chef could prepare our meals properly.  Although, this seems like a minor detail, it is interactions like this that separate run-of-the-mill eateries and exceptional establishments.  Kat and I felt that the waiter and therefore Bhoj, honestly cared if we were enjoying their cuisine and wanted to do adjust the spice level to the appropriate tolerance so we would have the best possible experience they could provide.

After we were done with the appetizer, our table was cleared and the table was prepared for our main course.  When our dishes arrived the smell alone caused me to salivate like a rabid Chupacabra in heat.  As is the custom, Kat and I spooned a portion of rice on our plates, which we then topped off with a serving of the entrées that we ordered.  Each bite revealed more and more of the depth of flavor these dishes possessed.  The addition of the Garlic Naan only added to this magnificent feast.

Bhuna Gosht and Chicken Tikka Masala

Bhuna Gosht and Chicken Tikka Masala

The portions were extremely generous and we only ate half of our meals before we felt as if we could not eat another bite. That is, until our waiter approached the table and asked about our thoughts on dessert.  He highly recommended the rice pudding, and since he had not steered us wrong all night, we followed his guidance like he was our gastronomic Sherpa.  Once again his expertise navigated us down a path of culinary enlightenment.  The rice pudding not only tasted great but snuffed out any lingering effects of the tingling sensation that accompanies proper Indian cuisine.

I have to say that I was exceedingly impressed by Bhoj.  The ambiance enhancing modern Indian music combines with the traditional design theme to create an environment that is perfect for dining, while the tremendously helpful and attentive staff serves some of the best tasting Indian food that I have found in this area.  The lesson to be learned from Bhoj, is that sometimes what you are looking for can be found closer than you think, as long as you have an open mind and an open stomach.

Bhoj Indian on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

The Blue Collar Foodie Helps You Decide! Restaurant Week 2013 Edition

Restaurant Week 2013

Restaurant Week 2013

It is that time of year again folks! New York City Restaurant Week is about to commence and this year 317 restaurants will be serving up some of the finest food New York City has to offer, from January 14th until February 8th.  Each and every year more restaurants jump on the proverbial chuck wagon and attempt to compete for your business during the most hectic two weeks in the New York City restaurant business and the hardest part is choosing which restaurant to visit.  If you are as bad at making a decision as Notre Dame was at playing football this week, The Blue Collar Foodie has got you covered!  I have reviewed, inspected, and studied the New York City eateries participating in restaurant week this year and handpicked a few of my favorites to make your decision making process go a wee bit easier.

Before I get to the restaurants that made this exclusive list I first want to explain how these establishments were selected.  I evaluated each restaurant using the following criteria; the restaurant’s history, the building the restaurant is housed in, the menu offered, and of course the food they serve.  I then used a complex algorithm, not really but this sounded way too awesome not to write, and selected restaurants that not only serve remarkable food but also provide an amazing eating experience for the customer.

Considering I only get to visit these prestigious restaurants twice a year during restaurant week, due to budget restraints, my restaurant selection has to be more than just about food.  I want to visit famous buildings, have the chance to rub elbows with celebrities, dine where history actually happened, and do it all for 38 bucks plus tax and gratuity.  If you are looking for the best food this immense list has to offer this is not the review for you, but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime New York City experience keep reading!

It should be noted that I have not visited all of the restaurants that are on my list, so most of my research was done using the interwebs.  So if the restaurant that you choose is not as amazing as I say it is, please forward all your hate mail to dealwithit@Doyourowndamnresearch.com

To make your life even easier, I have broken down my selections to match the “by cuisine,” categories that are used on the NYC GO website, which lists all the restaurants that are participating.  I have also decided to follow Twitter’s lead and only use 140 characters to capture the essence of each eatery, I call them TweeViews.  If you like what you see in the Tweeview please visit the restaurant’s website to see more about the venue, by clicking the establishment’s name.  Furthermore, these selections are in Alphabetic order by cuisine type then restaurant name.  If you use this list to pick a restaurant out, I would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below, so please post.  Remember an outing into the City is really what you make of it, so as Barney from How I Met Your Mother would say, “Suit Up, and have a Legend, wait for it, Dary evening!”

 

Food Map

Gastronomic Map

American New

Butter:  A unique interior design inspired by nature paired with an eclectic menu featuring uncommon dishes make Butter a force to be reckoned with.

Hospoda:  Czech inspired fare paired with fresh pilsner instead of the normal wine creates a fresh take on fine dining at this upscale eatery.

The Lambs Club:  A famous chef and a building on the National Register of Historic Places that was home to one of America’s oldest theatrical organizations.

Leyla:  Boasting one of the finest menus on the restaurant week circuit, what it lacks in history it more than makes up for in culinary creativity.

Kutshers:  A modern Jewish American bistro, with roots in the Catskills, which offers Grandma’s favorites with a contemporary twist.

Park Avenue Winter:  A rustic American restaurant offering seasonal fare and a corresponding design that is only open until the end of winter begets spring.

Perilla:  With only 18, it is hard to score a table at this neighborhood restaurant, turned foodie mecca that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Sprig:  Located in the Lipstick Building this posh eatery offers artistically prepared seasonal fare inspired by Northern California cuisine.

 

American Traditional

‘21’ Club:  A former New York City speak easy, still frequented by many celebrities, expertly serving awarding winning food with high class flare.

The Darby:  This former legendary Jazz and Blues Club turned chic eatery serves up creative cuisine with a side of swag in the form of live music.            

 

Asian Fusion        

Ajna Bar:  Beautiful interior design, renowned DJ’s, and a collision between French and Asian cuisine make Ajna Bar an appealing spot for 2013.

 

Barbecue

Hill Country BBQ:  New York’s own piece of Texas, serving up huge portions of fresh Barbecue for all of us with a city addresses but country souls.     

 

Chinese

Hakkasan:  This ain’t your local Chinese takeout joint; this is refined Chinese fare which is combined with a sophisticated and stylish dining area.

 

Continental

The Russian Tea Room:   A New York City Icon that was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet and is frequented by the worlds’ most fastidious foodies.

 

French

L’ecole:  The ground floor of Fine Dining, located in the Int. Culinary Center; students from everywhere collaborate to create awe inspiring dishes.

 

Greek

Kellari:  A warm and inviting atmosphere that sets the tone for a Grecian inspired meal that the Chef lovingly prepares to celebrate his homeland.       

 

Indian

Junoon:  An extensive selection of interesting and delicious Indian dishes that offers the restaurant week veteran a wonderful escape from monotony.

Tamarind:  This trendy eatery is one of the most popular Indian restaurants in NYC, and one look at the décor coupled with the menu should explain why.

 

Italian

Asellina:  Sleek, posh, and chic describe this hip establishment where authentic Italian food collides with the modern day reality starlet scene.   

Barbetta:  Known as one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City, this is a great place for a couple to fall in love all over again.

Cipriani Dolci:  Located inside the majestic landmark that is Grand Central Terminal, Cipriani offers something to the architecture lover that others cannot.  

Pó:  An intimate space and fresh ingredients delivered daily by foot or bike by the surrounding markets, serving Italian food as it should be.     

The Leopard at des Artistes:  First time diners come for the buildings historical significance and the impressive art collection, but they come back for the food.

 

Japanese

Megu:  This establishment transports you to the Far East like no other restaurant I have ever been to, from design to dish, Megu is a phenomenal.

 

Korean

Bann:  A fantastic place to experience a variety of tantalizing Korean food while being surrounded by stunning authentic Korean décor.

 

Mediterranean

Ilili:  Ilili combines Lebanese cuisine with a Mediterranean flare, an epicurean delight perfect for the foodie looking to expand their palate.

 

Mexican

Maya:  Traditional Mexican cuisine meets modern culinary expertise at this contemporary eatery that promises warm Latin hospitality.

 

Pan/Latin

Raymi:  Billed as the best Peruvian restaurant in New York City with a menu and dining area that appears to back up that claim.

Rayuela:  A truly innovative and beautiful restaurant that created its own culinary genre known as estilo libre Latino or freestyle Latino.

 

Seafood

FishTag:  Mediterranean inspired seafood dishes expertly paired with wine from the imaginative culinary mind of world renowned chef Michael Psilakis.   

 

Southwestern

Mesa Grill:  Bobby Flay combines his passion for Southwestern cuisine and his love for grilling which leads to a marriage made in foodie heaven.

 

Spanish

Andanada 141:  A restaurant week menu truly built for adventurous foodies combined with a bull fighting theme makes this a great spot for thrill seekers.

 

Steakhouse

The Capital Grille Chrysler Center:  Located inside the Chrysler Center’s Trylon Towers, this highly rated chain steakhouse is an architecture aficionado’s dream.

 

Thai

Kittichai:  An exquisite design that lends itself to a romantic dinner for two with a menu that offers an inventive take on traditional Thai dishes.

 

Vietnamese

Le Colonial:  This one of a kind eatery transports you to a forgotten world known as French Indochina and serves French inspired Vietnamese cuisine.

The Blue Collar Foodie Visits The Twisted Elm Tavern

As a Blue Collar Foodie, my epicurean journey started with dive bars and unexpected foodie finds across this wonderful state of ours. The places that I frequented in the early days of this culinary adventure would make the typical fastidious foodie cringe with disgust. I however loved every minute of it! I still enjoy eating a gourmet meal off a paper plate in a wood paneled wonderland, while the glare of a 50 inch television broadcasting a sporting event illuminates the dark and dingy dining room, but my new true love is the Gastro Pub.

A Gastro Pub is quite simply a bar that serves high end food paired with craft beer and they have been sprouting up in the Garden State faster than reality shows that focus on drama fueled D-bags from the planet orange. My preferred Gastro Pub right now is none other than the Twisted Elm Tavern located at 435 River Drive in Elmwood Park, New Jersey. This relatively new eatery in Bergen County is the brain child of co-owners Jim Rogers and George Kantakis, and according to this foodie, they have struck gastronomic gold!

Twisted Elm Sign

The Twisted Elm Tavern offers its customers two distinct atmospheres to enjoy the imaginative creations of the Elm’s Head Chef Albert Scazafave. First and foremost is the “sit down,” experience, which I recommend for the Twisted Elm virgin, which is comparable to any high-end restaurant you will find in this area. The second way to appreciate the many offerings of the Twisted Elm is to belly up to the bar, where you can not only have a great conversation with one of the exceptionally sociable and educated bar-tenders, but order anything off the dinner menu as well.

The Twisted Elm’s décor is littered with artistic photographs of local historical sites that initiate countless conversations about native folklore, which is always entertaining for a townee like me.  The rustic yet refined approach to design that the Twisted Elm has chosen lends itself very well to the genre of Gastro Pub, and creates a home-like appeal with a fine dining flare.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Spanish Chorizo

Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Spanish Chorizo

Even though I have never been disappointed in any dish I have devoured at this spot, I do have some favorites that standout amongst the crowd. First off the bread and butter that are served will challenge your self-control, because between the enticing artisanal everything butter and the fresh baked bread, if you are not carful you will fill up before your meal begins. As For appetizers, I highly recommend The Spicy Garlic Shrimp($12), which combines garlic shrimp with Spanish chorizo in a mouthwatering sauce perfect for seafood lovers, or The East Meets West Ribs($12), which are covered in a sriracha barbecue sauce, that, I am not ashamed to say, have dreams about. As for the Main Course, I am a sucker for the Skillet Mac and Cheese with Lobster($15), which delivers a tremendous amount of Lobster flavor thanks to the gigantic pieces of lobster mixed into the cheese sauce that has a slight smoky flavor due to the loving addition of my favorite condiment, Bacon! That is right, you heard me, I said condiment, bacon makes everything taste better, and therefore it is the only meat that should be considered a condiment. The aforementioned Pork Shank ($24) also makes my list of culinary contenders on the Twisted Elm’s menu, due to a perfectly executed chasseur sauce that displays the Chef’s wide array of influences.

Smoked St. Louis Ribs with Sriracha BBQ sauce

Smoked St. Louis Ribs with Sriracha BBQ sauce

As you are eating the generous portions the Twisted Elm offers please keep in mind that not partaking in one of the daily dessert specials would be a foodie crime punishable by excommunication and a lifelong sentence of eating at McDonalds. The evil genius that constructs these decadently suggestive concoctions deserves the utmost praise, for these deserts leave me speechless each and every time I indulge in one of these masterpieces.

Twisted Elm Dessert

Since this is a foodie blog I have spent a substantial amount of time describing the Gastro facet of the Twisted Elm but I would be remiss if I did not inform you about the Pub side of this establishment. The Twisted Elm Tavern is not your ordinary local watering hole slinging Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser long necks; they offer a rotating craft beer selection that is handpicked by an unofficial Cicerone, a beer sommelier, which fluctuates with the seasons. The beer menu, which is listed on a large blackboard behind the bar, regularly features craft brewing legends such as Stone Brewing, Dog Fish Head, Rogue, and Flying Dog.

To add to the allure of the Elm’s libation selection they offer much more than just craft beer. The Elm consults a sommelier to choose the wine that they offered to their customers who prefer grapes over hops. Furthermore, much to my wife’s delight, they also serve artisanal Hard Cider by Crispin.   To top it all off, they of course offer a full bar complete with every kind of alcohol your heart desires, or you can allow one of the bartenders to whip you up a specialty cocktail designed by their own in-house mixologist.

Whether you are looking for a peaceful gourmet meal with friends or a place to watch the game and have a couple of craft brewed cold ones, The Twisted Elm has got you covered. As a parting piece of advice, I suggest that if you decide to go to the Twisted Elm Tavern, please leave your inhibitions and diet at home. The Twisted Elm experience is all about adventurous dishes and extraordinary beverages that all combine for a gastronomic expedition that calorie counting and hesitations will not support.

Click to add a blog post for Twisted Elm on Zomato