The Essential Epicurean Guide To NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2015

restaurant week NYC 2015For numerous years I have been an avid fan and participant of the NYC Restaurant Week movement. I know there are hundreds of haters that disagree with the savings, despise the menus, and talk shit about the service, but I am not one of them. If you are, kindly piss off and save your hate mail for some other blogger. However, if you are trying to choose an interesting restaurant to venture to this year please continue reading.

If you are like me and this is not your first time rocking Restaurant Week you are tired of the regular RW haunts.  If you are a virgin to the Restaurant Week game this post is really not for you.  Please go to the NYC GO website and do some research, I assure you it is totally worth it!  However, if you are tired of eating where Frank Sinatra punched Elvis in the junk, where Edgar Allen Poe wrote some words on a napkin that he blew his nose in, or at a spot that used to be hostel for starving artists that you have never heard of, this is the post for you!

This year my top 15 really has nothing to do with history, decor, or prominence.  My methodology was simple. I scoured the menus that were available for every restaurant on the RW list and picked out the ones that gave me a food boner.  Feast your eyes and get ready to hide your erection because without further ado, here are my selections for the summer session of the 2015 Restaurant Week!

Burke&WillsBurke & Wills:  This Australian eatery ain’t the fucking Outback!  It is the real deal and they serve actual Australian Cuisine. Their menu for this RW session offers the likes of Kangaroo, Octopus, Lamb, Veal Sweetbreads, and Prawns.  In other words, if you are looking for a little down under strange,  this is the place to visit!

The Cecil HarlemThe Cecil:  In the immortal words of Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.”  The Cecil is described as New York’s first Afro-Asian-American brasserie and it serves some exceptional dishes.  The highlights from their Restaurant Week Menu include Crispy Squash Blossoms served with Shrimp and for a ten dollar supplement you can sink your teeth into a Grilled Lamb Saddle topped with a Spicy Tomato Peanut Sauce.  Make sure you also sample a beer direct from Africa if you stop by the Cecil!

DBGB Kitchen And Bar DBGB Kitchen and Bar:  This downtown hot spot is what you get when a French brasserie meets an American tavern, has one too many and slips one past the goalie.  Normally, I would not recommend a burger during Restaurant Week but one look at their menu and I was dreaming of The Frenchie Burger, which is described as a 7 oz beef patty topped with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and morbier cheese all served on a peppered brioche bun.  Not to mention DBGB offers 25 taps and 75 bottles of beer to wash down that behemoth burger.

InakayaInakaya:   It is true that not all sushi is created equal but for the most part great sushi is all pretty comparable.  Inakaya not only boasts remarkable sushi, which you can find on their RW Menu, but they also provide a show while you eat.  Inakaya uses the traditional method of Robata-Yaki, or Grilling Around a Sunken Hearth.  In other words the Chefs play to the crowd while they grill each dish in their open kitchen, using only the freshest ingredients they can find.

JunoonJunoon:  I am a sucker for Indian food, so I knew at least one of them would end up on this list.  The aroma, the depth of flavor, and the occasional heat not only intrigues me, but entices me like a bag o’ blow speaks to Charlie Sheen.  Junoon won me over the second I viewed their menu and saw the Bhut Jolokia which is described as a Ghost Chili Yogurt served with honey and 65% Chocolate.  Sure they have several great appetizers and entrees as well, but who cares… GHOST CHILI YOGURT!!!

Kin ShopKin Shop:  Kin is the Thai word for eat, and at this casual yet hip establishment that is exactly what you will want to do. In a sea of Thai restaurants that are popping up faster than pimples on a teenager, Kin Shop really is one of the Stand Outs.  What caught my eye of this menu was the Steamed Bouchot Mussels that are served in a Siamese Curry Sauce and the Braised Hampshire Pork served in a Panang Curry.  Deal with it, I am a curry whore!

L'Ecole, The Restaurant Of The International Culinary Center:L’Ecole, The Restaurant Of The International Culinary Center:  Ever wonder where tomorrows top chefs hone their skills?  Question no more, L’Ecole is the culinary world’s Minor Leagues and some of these powerhouses are ready to be called up to the Bigs.  I am a storyteller, as you can tell, so the chance to eat a dish prepared by a Chef that potentially could be the next James Beard is just too good to pass up.  Not to mention, their menu is quite extensive! If my ass lands in one of their seats I will be dining on the Country Pate with Truffles, Pistachios, and Cornichons and The Roasted Duck Leg served with House Made Pappardelle.  I don’t care what Daffy says, for me it is always Duck Season.

Le ColonialLe Colonial:  Both the decor and the menu serve as a “tip of the hat,” to a forgotten time when Southeast Asia was colonized by France.  The fare is generally traditional Vietnamese but possesses a French flair that adds a subtle, yet wonderful uniqueness to each and every one of their dishes.  If you choose this spot I recommend the Suon Nuong: Grilled Baby Back Ribs served with Lemongrass and a Sweet Soy Sauce paired with The Trio: Grilled Prawns, Beef Brochettes, and Cha Gio Herbed Vermicelli Salad.

Miss Lily'sMiss Lily’s:  My Boxador, half Boxer and half Labrador, is named Lilly, so I immediately checked this restaurant’s menu out  when I saw it was participating in Restaurant Week.  Furthermore, ever since I got back from the Caribbean I have been craving Jerk, just about anything.  Enter Miss Lily’s, bringing Jerk BBQ Ribs, Jerk Grilled Corn, and Jerk Chicken to the RW world.  To top it all off their is a Curried Goat dish that needs to be in my belly immediately!

Mr. Chow'sMr. Chow’s: This ain’t your corner Chinese Restaurant!  The menu is not delivered to your door, nor is it depicted by 1970’s photos on a giant back lit rectangle that hangs above the counter.  The menu at Mr. Chow’s is comprised of a combination of old Beijing cuisine and original recipes that have been delighting New York’s fashion and music elite for damn near 30 years.  The name of the game here is Family Style Dining, so bring people that like to share, and don’t miss the Famous Mr. Chow Noodles.

Park Avenue SummerPark Avenue Summer:  Talk about trendy!  This epic eatery not only seasonally changes their menu but they change the entire decor as well.  P.A.S. makes my top 15 due to the amount of choices they offer on their Restaurant Week Menu.  Most places offer a very limited selection but Park Avenue Summer is offering 6 different options for both the appetizer and the entree portion of the meal.  If you are looking to hit up RW with a semi-large group, I assure you that everyone will be able to find something that tickles their fancy. However, if someone doesn’t order the Dr. Pepper Baby Back Ribs you have failed Restaurant Week and you should be ashamed of yourself.

RaymiRaymi:  Raymi is an upscale Peruvian Restaurant that blends the flavors and culinary traditions of Spain, Japan, Chinese and Peru itself. The star of Raymi’s Menu is the Ceviche that captures the savory yet elegant taste that only this delicacy can deliver.  Not only can you score some of this amazing seafood but you can pair it with some Carapulcra, or Roasted Pork Belly.  If you are not into Ceviche, I suggest you rock the Pulpo Meloso, or Charred Octopus, which I might suggest Kat gets when we go, so I can try both.

Roots and BonesRoot and Bone:  No food sticks to your bones like Soul Food, and even though it is summer time I simply can’t say no to this Uber comfort food.  If you enter this restaurant and don’t order the Award Winning, Fried Chicken and Waffles you are no longer allowed to read my blog, so lucky for both of us it is on the RW menu!  I am sure the other items are solid but FRIED CHICKEN AND WAFFLES!!!  As a bonus, if you are ginger and eat here enough, you might acquire a soul…  I kid, I kid, there is no way for gingers to get a soul.

smogas chef Smorgas Chef:  Raise your hand if you knew a Scandinavian Restaurant resided in the Big Apple.  Keep it up if you can tell me what the hell Scandinavians eat. Unless your name is Thor or Dag I doubt you are well versed in the viking way of life.   Well one night out of this establishment and you can school all your friends about this obscure cuisine. I highly recommend The Classic Smorgasbord from the menu simply because I can’t pronounce half the items that are on it and that is how I roll! Furthermore, I am like 80% sure it will taste as good as most Scandinavian ladies look.

Yerba BuenaYerba Buena:  Yerba may be somewhat small compared to other restaurants in NYC, but their flavors are gigantic.  Not to mention their menu had me drooling all over my keyboard.  They are dishing out Duck Confit Empanadas and Suckling Pig Carnitas during this session of Restaurant Week and if that doesn’t make you wanna jump on the Subway right the fuck now, I feel like I don’t know you anymore.

That is my list ladies and gentleman!  Remember, Restaurant Week is all about exploring the greatest city in the world and sampling the amazing culinary treats it has to offer.  The summer session is running from July 21, 2015 until August 15, 2015 and I highly recommend not only stepping out of your comfort zone while dining at these establishments but leaving it so far behind you that you never think about stepping into it again.

 

Holy Hell, Habit Burger, May Be Habit Forming

I am what some people might label a food snob. Although, we prefer to be called Foodies, Epicureans, and Gastronauts, I have accepted that there are individuals that see my chosen perspective on food to be mildly pretentious. To be honest, I am sure those D-bags in Fedoras, fashion glasses, and tight jeans would rather not be called hipsters, but if the ironically worn croc fits…

As with any personality quirk that some people perceive to be annoying, once you accept it and embrace it as part of how you are, it seems to grow exponentially; hence the unequivocally maddening progression of the selfie.

My growing love affair with the foodie realm has an unfortunate price though, and that price is my increasing abhorrence for the gastronomically challenged grub that is served at almost every chain restaurant in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I know what you are thinking, “Mr. Blue Collar Foodie that does not seem like a problem at all.” It may not seem like an issue at first glance, but there are two reasons being on this epicurean soap box which is teetering on the fence of smugness is not the best place to be.

The first issue is most of your friends enjoy restaurants such as The Olive Garden, T.G.I.Fridays, Chili’s, and all the other flair wearing, slop slinging, chains that litter the highways, and therefore you tend to alienate yourself from the group by shunning these establishments. Secondly, no one likes a hypocrite, and I don’t care how much of a foodie you claim to be on your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram page, every single one of us have a weakness. It may be a Big Mac, a Whopper, a Crunchwrap Supreme, or a 7-11 Taquito, but every now and again that craving hits and until it is satisfied, that Duck Confit Cannoli tastes bland and ordinary.

My edible Achilles Heel comes in the form of an infamous fast food hamburger so gastronomically filthy that by merely writing this sentence I could be thrown out of the League of Extraordinary Eaters for life. (That club does not exist, but it does now! Hit me up to Join!)

To paraphrase A Clockwork Orange , “And the thing that always flashes into my gulliver is that I’d like to have one, right down there on the floor, the old In-N-Out, real savage.” That is right; my foodie transgression is none other than an Animal Style Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger. Unfortunately, not only is In-N-Out a chain restaurant and dining there could get me black balled from every farm-to-table this side of Pennsylvania, the closest In-N-Out is in freaking Texas! So even if I decided to give in when the hankering hits, I am shit out of luck, and my only recourse is to visit one of the many east coast clones that fail to compare to MY PRECIOUS!!!  That is until NOW!

Welcome to Habit Burger

Welcome to Habit Burger

The Habit Burger Grill, another California based burger chain, just fell from the heavens and landed smack dab in my hometown! The address for this new burger joint is 3101 Promenade Blvd. in Fair Lawn, NJ 07410. When it first arrived, I have to admit it; I believed it to be just another trend following fast food chain serving sub-par, salty meat pucks to the masses one stale bun at a time. I honestly did not give them a second thought.   That is until the buzz began. Slowly but surely like the well-deserved hatred for Ray Rice that swept over America, a phrase was being uttered in Bergen County. A phrase that once bounced off my ear drums, made this uninformed Habit Hater enter the newly constructed burger spot and literally eat my words.

What was the phrase you ask? It was very simple but insanely incendiary, “Habit may very well be better than In-N-Out.” This sentence echoed in my head, rattled around like a bouncy ball in an elevator before snuggly resting in my frontal lobe. I pass by The Habit Burger Grill twice each day, and every time I drove past this utterance reverberated once again. Until one night I made the executive decision that Kat and I would visit The Habit for dinner.

Eventhough quite a few people with appetites that I trust were talking up Habit, I still had my reservations. In my eyes, comparing a burger to my Double-Double is like comparing a common man to Jesus Christ, or a comedian to Robin Williams, you don’t do these things lightly. However, as Kat and I entered The Habit Burger Grill, the wafting smell began to seduce us. It did not smell of grease and fat. There was actually a scent of grilling meat that permeated the air. Furthermore, the set up of the restaurant had a familiar Californian feel, with an open kitchen and simplistic yet diverse menu hovering above the cashiers.

I felt it was somewhat busy for a Monday night, but that will happen when a new restaurant comes to town. Even though the line was decently long, the staff handeled it with ease and kept us moving at a brisk pace. When it was our turn to order, Kat and I decided to try what The Habit Burger Grill was most famous for, their Char Burgers. Our thought was basically if we like their original creation then we will have an excuse to come back and try their other offerings such as the BBQ Bacon Char Burger, Teriyaki Char Burger, Veggie Burger, or Fresh Albacore Tuna Sandwhich.

The fixins'

The fixins’

I ordered a Double Char Burger with a side of Onion Rings whereas Kat decided to go a little smaller. She ordered the single Char Burger with the Californian flair of avacado and a side of Tempura Green Beans. You heard that right, Fresh Cut Green Beans, lightly battered and flash fried at a Fast Food Burger Joint. While waiting for our food to be made fresh to order, we grabbed a table, filled up our drinks, and visted the Fixins bar. The Habit offers various hot peppers and numerous different dipping sauces that we helped ourselves to while we awaited our meals.

Double Char Burger

Double Char Burger

When our buzzer, well, buzzed, we approached the counter and gathered our food. It was the moment of truth for The Habit Burger Grill in this foodies’ eyes. I quickly snapped a bunch of photos to utilize for this post and then without hesitation grabbed my Double Char and chowed down. My friends, it was love at first bite. In my head, the act of chewing on this sandwhich played out like a cheesey romance movie, where the couple runs in slow motion towards each other for their first embrace. The Mayonnaise, pickle, and carmelized onions joined forces with the melty cheese and expertly prepared burger patty to create a burger that was equal, if not better than the crack-cocaine that is my In-N-Out Double Double.

Onion Rings

Onion Rings

After almost demolishing my entire Double Char before even trying the sides we ordered, I was able to gain control of myself and put the burger down for a moment. My first stop was the capital city of Onlandia, the Onion Rings. They were battered and fried quite well and came with a ranch dipping sauce that paired nicely. The best part of these fried wonders were the onions that were choosen to be used. I believe it was a sweet onion, it may have been a Vidalia, but whatever it was, it was chock full of yummy goodness.

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

As per usual, my lovely wife was extremely generous and allowed me to sample her Tempura Green Beans.   Not only are these a healthier option than the sterotypical fries and onion rings that usually accompany a fast food burger, they were extremely flavorful as well. Furthermore, they only got better when dipped into the the Ranch sauce that I mentioned earlier.

Once our meal was resting ever so nicely in our bellies awaiting its eventual digestion, Kat and I began to discuss how The Habit Burger Grill faired. We both enjoyed the hell out of the Burgers and appreciated the variety of sides that could be ordered to compliment it. The fixins bar is always a plus, because you can, as the Defecting Monarch Of Burgers says, Have it your way. We also respected the history behind The Habit, which started out as a small endeavor by two brothers with big dreams.

Single Char Burger

Single Char Burger

When everything was said and done, we left The Habit Burger Grill happy and full. As for the burger and how it compares to my clandestine long distance love affair with the Double-Double. I give the Char Burger the highest praise I can bestow on a fast food burger, it is different than yet equal to my beloved In-N-Out, and I assure you, there is not enough Michelin Stars in this world that will ever bypass that endorsement.   RESPECT THE BURGER INDEED!

Click to add a blog post for The Habit Burger Grill on Zomato

Muscle Maker Grill Is A Welcomed Change To The Often Mundane and Unhealthy Fast Food Culture

 Your Health In Mind

     For some foodies the rudimentary idea of calorie counting, dieting, and eating healthy is an unfathomable notion.  These words and phrases in the foodie community can be met with the ire of a grandmother that just heard their innocent little angel drop the C-word, and you all know what C-word, I am talking about, THE ONE AND ONLY C-WORD!  The thought that any meal that is good for you, simply could not taste even half-way decent, is extremely widespread throughout the foodie community.  So, as I got older, and my pants got tighter, I thought my days of being a foodie were over.  I grieved longer that Artie Lange did, when he found out that Hostess Cakes went out of business, thinking I would have to eat turnip salads with okra nuggets for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, I learned through necessity that this notion is and always was completely untrue.  Not only can healthy food be just as delicious as unwholesome food, but one can splurge every now and again on bacon wrapped bacon bites, as long as it is not every day.

RIP TWINKIE

Rest In Peace, Indeed

For those of you who still are under the impression that nutritious food can’t tantalize your palate I suggest that you make a voyage to Muscle Maker Grill and check out their healthy yet scrumptious offerings.   I will pause for a moment to allow the grumpy cat fan club grumble and murmur about chain restaurants, and how they destroy the very fabric of foodie culture, and blah, blah, pretentious know-it-all gibberish, blah.  Are you good now haters?  You got that out of your system?  Can we move on?  Sure, Muscle Maker is a chain restaurant, but my problem with franchises has nothing to do with the idea of them ruining some silly pompous notion of the epicurean elite, I have always found that they tend to scrimp on ingredients, forget about freshness, and serve calorie laden unimaginative meals, once they turn to the dark side of the gastro-force.  Thankfully, this is not the case with Muscle Maker Grill.  The Muscle Maker Grill that I chose to visit for the purpose of this review is located at 14-29 River Road, in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that is the beauty of franchises, you can search to find one closer to you.

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

Before ordering from Muscle Maker, Kat and I went for a rather vigorous two hour hike and neither of us was in any mood to cook, so we decided to get take-out, before we started Googleing recipes that involved cooking and eating our dogs and cats.  (Relax PETA people, I am joking, I love my pets like family.  Furthermore, why are you reading a foodie blog? Go eat some kale that is dressed with your salty tears because you are crying about how the pesticides that treated your organic shrubbery that you are eating most likely killed a dozen bugs.)  Kat and I inspected the menu and found that the selection at Muscle Maker was much larger than we expected, and to add to the robust selection, when ordering most of the menu items, you can choose the type of protein you would like to have in your meal.  In addition, every menu item lists the caloric intake for the entire world to see, unlike many other “fast food,” restaurants that conceal the nutritional information of their food, as if they were protecting Carmen San Diego.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

Carmen San Diego

Kat and I both chose the El Mexicana, which is described as fajita grilled chicken breast or steak, sizzling onions and peppers, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and salsa over brown rice and beans, garnished with tomatoes and scallions for $9.99.  Kat decided on the chicken breast, while I chose to upgrade my order, and went with the shrimp.  As I was on my way to pick up the order, I began to have orders’ remorse,  I was very nervous that healthy merely meant small portions that are designed to fill up a dainty bird like lady, not a large land mammal such as myself.  I fretted and worried the entire drive over to the establishment, and then even more while I fidgeted with my phone at the counter while my food was placed into bags.  With our Muscle Maker Grill in hand, I raced back to the house, filled with apprehension and foodie anxiety.

As I removed our meals from their plastic confines, I was relieved to see that my trepidation was all for not.   The food not only smelled and looked fantastic, which is a feat in amongst itself while be housed in take-out containers, but the portion size was extremely generous.  I began to eat my entrée and observed that the ingredients all fused together flawlessly to create a tremendous amalgamation of zesty flavor.  There was no one ingredient that overpowered the dish, and half way through eating it I completely forgot that this flavorsome meal was low in calories and chock full of nutritious morsels.  I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the menu, that each of these entrees is large enough for two servings, but I was definitely full when I was done with my meal.

El Mexicana from Muscle Maker Grill

Our Meal

All in all, Muscle Maker Grill provides healthy food at the speed of most fast food joints, and the prices are sensible to boot.  As the heartless cold nights of winter give way to the warm embracing days of spring, even foodies have to begin to think about shedding some of the winter weight their hibernation has welcomed.  So, next time you are too tired to cook, don’t grab a Big Mac or some Lo Mein; give Muscle Maker Grill a whirl, your belt and pants will thank you.

Muscle Maker Grill Fair Lawn on Urbanspoon

Old San Juan Makes The Blue Collar Foodie Say ¡Wepa!

One of the phenomenal luxuries of living in Bergen County New Jersey is the never ending list of culinary quests that one can embark on, within mere minutes of their residence.  There are very few cuisines that a simple Google search cannot turn up five or more restaurants within a reasonable proximity.  So, when I do have the opportunity to visit a restaurant that is sharing a scarce delicacy that I normally have to venture into New York City for, I get rather excited, especially when I score a Groupon for said indulgence.   The style of gastronomy that I am referring to is none other than Puerto Rican food, and the establishment that is delivering this tantalizing fare to the Bergen County area is Old San Juan, located at 165 Route 46 West in Saddle Brook, NJ.

From the outside, this restaurant seems quite unassuming, mainly due to ear defiling noise and the unpleasant eye contamination that occurs when your next door neighbor is a bustling freeway.   Thankfully, once you enter Old San Juan you are whisked away from this suburban netherworld and brought to a veritable wonderland of peace and tranquility, complete with the heavenly aroma that only accompanies the wonderful cuisine of the islands.  When Kat and I entered the restaurant we were instantly greeted by a smiling face and escorted to our table promptly, which is always appreciated.  Furthermore, the modern, fresh, and clean interior design seemed to comfort Kat and I, almost immediately.

Old San Juan

Old San Juan Exterior

Once we were seated we were given menus from our waitress and she took our drink order as well.   Old San Juan, like most non-chain restaurants in New Jersey does not have a liquor license but they do allow you to bring your own bottles of wine or beer.  In addition Old San Juan offers an added bonus of B.Y.O.B Sangria, which allows you to supply the wine which they will serve with their own blends of fruits, creating an island inspired cocktail that pairs perfectly with Puerto Rican Food.   Kat and I perused the menu and after some serious deliberation we made our selections and signaled the waitress to join us once again.

If you have ever used a Groupon before you are well aware that there are specific guidelines to follow for each and every Groupon that you purchase and in order to take advantage of the substantial discounts, these rules must be followed.   I always present my Groupon to the server before I begin the ordering process.  The reason I do this, is because some of the regulations can be somewhat convoluted and the wait staff will be able to guide you down the path that allows you to use your Groupon at the end of the night.  There is nothing worse than attempting to pay for a bill with a Groupon and finding out there is an issue with using the deal, because of something you ordered.  Our Groupon stipulated that we could order 1 appetizer and 2 entrees, so we chose the Tostones Rellenos de Pernil , Stuffed Plantain with Pork, for $10.95.  Kat then ordered Churrasco, Skirt Steak, for the reasonable price of $21.95, while I decided upon the Pargo Rojo Entero, Whole Red Snapper, in a garlic sauce, for a sensible $23.95.  Each of our meals came with a choice of rice and beans, plantains, or a salad as a side dish, but considering that going to a Puerto Rican restaurant and opting to not try the rice and beans is tantamount to giving a purple nurple to a UFC fighter, we wisely chose the rice and beans to accompany our meal.

Roast Pork stuffed Plantain

Roast Pork Stuffed Plantain

When our appetizer arrived, I knew we were in for a treat.  Not only was the presentation of this traditional Puerto Rican dish exquisite, it smelled so damn good I almost divorced Kat on the spot so I could marry the chef, regardless of his or her sexual orientation.  Kat and I each took a forkful of the mountain of roast pork that was erupting out of the crispy fried plantain, which soon joined the pork on our fork, and took our first bite in unison.  The noises that we made after that first bite are usually heard in sleazy hotel rooms located on highways, not restaurants, but we did not care, because it was that good.  The textures married perfectly with each bite while the flavors hopped, skipped, and jumped across our taste buds.   When our waitress delivered our appetizer she pointed out that our table was equipped with homemade hot sauce that she warned was very hot.  Kat and I might as well be the co-presidents of the Hot Sauce Fan Club, so we did not heed the waitresses warning at first and added a little bit too much hot sauce to one forkful of yummy which started a five alarm fire on our tongues that was not easily quenched.  After our battle, we experimented with different amounts of this forceful yet flavorful sauce and found just the right quantity to use, which added tremendous taste without scorching the earth.

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Shortly after we finished our appetizer our main courses arrived.  As our dishes were delivered, we noticed that once again the presentation was lovely and the portions were generous to say the least. Kat’s skirt steak was at least 12 ounces and my Red Snapper probably weighed in at 2 pounds.  Kat and I began to eat our entrees and all semblance of conversation ceased for at least 5 minutes.  We were mesmerized by the food that was brought to our table.   My fork tender, juicy, Snapper was swimming in a butter garlic sauce that heightened the snapper’s natural flavor tenfold.   Kat’s expertly prepared, tender steak was served with a Chimichurri sauce that was delicate yet delicious, not overpowering like so many others I have tasted.  As for the rice and beans, it would not be a complete Puerto Rican meal without them; they were the perfect side dish to an amazing meal.

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

If you are like me and you are looking to explore the world one plateful at a time, I highly recommend Old San Juan.  Everything we tried was terrific and prepared exactly how we asked for it.  In addition, even without the Groupon, the prices are reasonable and the service was fantastic.   In the lovely words of the land that inspired this beautiful meal, ¡Wepa!

 

Puerto Rico

Even the Fish Loves Puerto Rico

Old San Juan on Urbanspoon

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Takes Some “Sage” Advice From a Fellow Fair Lawn Foodie

As a foodie, I am always looking for new and alluring places to fill my craw with tempting culinary treats, and therefore I am continuously taking advice from other epicurean adventurers about restaurants that I “must try.”  This time around, this sage advice, you will soon see why that pun was horrendous but I could not help myself, came from one of my friends on Yelp.com named Mark C.  Mark suggested that I bring my stomach, and my wife, to Sage, see I told you that pun was bad, located at 17-15 Broadway, in Fair Lawn, NJ for as Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say, “A real Italian treat.”   It took me a while but I heeded this advice as Rihanna should have in regards to her punch drunk beau Chris Brown, and visited Sage last Sunday.

Welcome to Sage

From the outside this restaurant is slightly unassuming, due to the fact that is highway adjacent and the facade of the building itself if somewhat old and shabby looking.  Please do not let these shortcomings taint your overall impression of this establishment; because once you cross the threshold of Sage’s doorway, you are transported away from this meek and dated ornamentation, into a contemporary land of fresh clean paint and modern furnishings.

The first thing I noticed after the décor was the ample and plush seating that filled the rather spacious dining area.  If you know me, you know that I like confined spaces like Jim Jones likes shoveling his sidewalk, in order to understand this joke you may have to read this Patch.com article that was mentioned nationally on TMZ.    So when Kat and I were offered the choice between a table and a pimpalicious, my words not the servers, booth, we immediately opted for the booth which was damn near cavernous and uber comfy.

Once seated our server Jason approached our table and handed us our menus and informed us of the specials for the evening, before taking our drink orders and leaving us to peruse the bill of fare.  Since Kat and I are fat kids at heart, we had already scoured the interwebs for reviews and the menu for Sage’s dinner offerings, so we had a decent idea of what we would be ordering.  Once we placed our closed menus on our table, which is of course the international signal telling our server that we were ready to order, Jason was there faster than you can say Unique New York three times fast, go ahead give it a whirl, I will wait.  Okay, that was just for my enjoyment, that phrase is really hard to say and you probably did it at your desk at work and now everyone knows you are crazy, so let’s just say Jason was good at what he does and move on from this embarrassing moment in your professional life shall we.

Sage's Olive Bread

Olive Bread

I ordered the Veal Luigi which is described as veal topped with spinach, mozzarella and a sun-dried tomato sherry wine sauce for $23.00, and Kat decided on Tortelloni Bolognese special described as cheese tortelloni topped with homemade meat sauce and fresh grated Parmesan cheese for $20.00.  Each of our meals came with a house salad which of course came with our choice of dressing.  Furthermore, my meal was supposed to come with a side of potatoes but being that I knew I was going to write this article I had to upgrade my side dish to a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce, because seriously a food critic that goes to an Italian place and does not try the house gravy is about as trustworthy as a skinny chef!

After our orders hit the kitchen Jason returned to our table and delivered a basket of bread that at first glance seemed to be quite ordinary.  Before leaving, he lit a candle and placed it on our table, recognizing that Kat and I were on a “date,” which was extremely appreciated and enhanced the ambiance of this establishment even more.   With the guidance of the romance inducing flicker of the candlelight I lifted the napkin that was covering the superficially conventional bread and I realized why Jason added the candle to our table.  The soft light the candle provided had little to do with my wife and more to do with the loaf of homemade olive bread that I just uncovered.   As I reached for this stunning temptress, I could have sworn I heard the pleasant sounds of a harp playing a melody, while my hand slowly extended towards my prize.  This 1980’s movie cliché was completely necessary because words cannot express the explosion of flavor that this bread packed per slice.  Sage already had a hold of me and the entrée had not even touched the oven yet.

Sage's House Salad

House Salad

While savoring my second piece of the simply divine olive bread, our salads arrived and Kat and I were offered fresh ground pepper which we gladly accepted.  The salads were not robust but a decent size for a side salad.  The house dressing was expertly made and the salad was dressed to perfection with just the right amount of this flavorful concoction.   Kat and I made short work of the greens and I of course needed to splurge and have one more sliver of the olive bread before awaiting our main course.

When the main course arrived I could tell just from the aroma wafting off the plate that Sage was going to complete its almost flawless performance in style.  Both entrées looked and smelled remarkable, and appeared to be fairly large portions which this foodie loves to see.  Jason offered, Kat and I fresh grated Parmesan cheese, which we graciously accepted.  When our dishes were garnished Italian style, we only had one option, and that was to dig in.  My veal was tender and succulent and seasoned to perfection, topped with a sauce that most likely cascaded like a waterfall from heaven into the kitchen of Sage.  Kat’s tortelloni tasted amazing as well, thanks to the skillfully prepared Bolognese sauce that had just the right consistency.

Veal Luigi

Veal Luigi

In addition to the wonderfully attentive wait staff, the soothing ambiance, and the delicious food, while we were eating our main course, not only did the owner come by our table to check on us, but the Chef himself made his rounds just to make sure our food was prepared to our liking.  After our meal was complete, we opted to decline desert because we did not want the essence of the meal we had just consumed to be washed away so quickly.  With the check in our hand we paid our bill, a modest $50.00 might I add, and left Sage with full bellies and happy souls.

Tortelloni Bolognese

Tortelloni Bolognese

I implore all the foodies in the Bergen County area to visit Sage not once, but often.  This area is littered with mediocre eateries that linger far past their expiration date, yet we are constantly losing incredible restaurants due to apathy.  Sage is not only quite inexpensive for the quality of food they are serving, but they, like most New Jersey eateries, are a bring your own bottle establishment, which saves you even more money.   So, in the immortal words of Billy Joel, grab “A bottle of red, a bottle of white.  It all depends upon your appetite.  I’ll meet you any time you want, in our Italian Restaurant. “

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