This week’s review is of the Light Horse Tavern, in downtown Jersey City on 199 Washington Street. Elana and I felt like staying in Jerz for the night, yet with the nightmare that was Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day still fresh in our heads – we needed a change of scenery. A short drive to the seemingly quiet(er) neighborhood of Paulus Hook achieved just that.
The Scene: The interior is vast and the energy is vibrant. It’s a high ceilinged loft spot, with a porch like mezzanine providing a slightly more intimate setting for those patient enough to wait for a seat (which we were). The tavern itself boasts a full bar (which was quite packed) and flat screen televisions for the sports focused patron. It’s dimly lit, with lots of wood, brass ceiling fans, and artwork. Like the good looking love child of a sprawling law library and an Irish pub. Elana and I waited about 20 minutes prior to being seated upstairs.
The Grub: We kick things off with a Seafood special (half portion) which was still a generous offering of Blue Point Oysters, Muscles, Shrimp, and Clams – both little neck and cherry stones. We loved the freshness and perfect salt levels of the oysters. The shrimp were crisp and plump. And my muscles absolutely stole the show; larger than normal and impressive under the hood. As for the restaurant’s muscles… they were pretty glorious as well. (Hee hee) The clams, particularly the cherry stones, Elana and I struggled with. Very overwhelming and fishy – like I was making out with a sponge soaked in week old bay water.
We follow this up by splitting an appetizer of butter poached lobster gnocchi. The gnocchi was soft, yet had a great elasticity to it. Our lone complaint about them was that they had not been ultimately rolled with a fork, and thus did not have those subtle grooves to lock in extra flavor. But that’s just some Italian food snobbery, really. The accompanying sauce was creamy (but not too thick) and the lobster was sweet and meaty. The dish also included some mushrooms which delivered truffle-like taste.
For an entree, Elana ordered the Duck breast with a pear and fig shallot jam. The jam is a grainy glob of goodness. The duck itself is good; the middle section being a shade better than the ends, which were a touch tough. But the meat has a crisp skin, and a sweet tasting center. And it’s a big piece of meat. Lean too, not fatty, and wading in a sweet wine reduction sauce.
And then, I sank my teeth into the Pork Belly, which was honestly so good, that it almost could not be processed with a normal brain. It sat there, in a syrupy wine reduction sauce, looking like a layered lasagna of cooked up meat fat – threatening to call in a Lipitor subscription at the nearest pharmacy upon its mere ingestion. But I wasn’t scared. And I’m glad I wasn’t. It tasted like Bacon Filet Mignon, if it existed. It had a burnt, buttery crust and was light in weight, yet had a powerful and perfectly salty taste. When I go back, I’m getting this exact dish. It was surrounded by some fluffy and crisp spatzle, mixed in with flaky, fried brussels sprouts.
As for the bathrooms, Elana took one for the team and checked ’em out: “the Pepto pink, multi-stalled restroom sported an interesting (note mannequins!) array of art and extra furniture. The facility was very clean and orderly, but could use a bit of an update to bring it into the 21st century of bathroom design.”
A word about the service here. It was very good. Our waiter made excellent menu and beer recommendations, having a great familiarity with each. Food arrival was prompt and we never felt rushed. A definite plus.
For dessert, Elana and I cross the street to Satis (a newer restaurant to the area) for their gelato. Satis has an adjoining gelateria next to their restaurant which we scoped out earlier and vowed to try. So we did. The hazelnut and peanut butter chip gelato was smooth, creamy and not overly sweet. But Elana’s “cannoli” flavored gelato was grainy and sugary. The inconsistency among the flavors was puzzling, but we left feeling generally pleased (and we forgave them for using an ice cream scoop instead of a spatula to dispense our gelato).
Satis aside (the gelateria is pictured directly above), the Light Horse Tavern was a very pleasurably experience, consistent with the high praise I had been hearing for quite some time now from friends. It really is like a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-all type joint, very suitable for the casual beer and high caliber meal alike.
Overall Experience – The Shawshank Redemption