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Posts Tagged ‘Jersey City’

This month’s Bathroom of the Month Award goes to Slice, The Perfect Food! While not the fanciest or most polished in terms of loo decor, I walked out of that bathroom feeling like I had visited 1 part carnival, 1 part artist studio, with a dash of wacky/artsy boudoir (see the red crystal chandelier). And with the renegade Muppet art, the only thing missing was this. The large mirrors, tidy appearance, and parquet ceiling sure helped too. But honestly, this bathroom is all about the experience. Go check it out, and while you’re at it, order a Miki.

And if you need other suggestions, let’s review our week’s adventures:

On Monday, it was Marmo’s Birthday, and we gave you a Marmo Special: Farfalle with Sausage recipe.

Tuesday was all about pizza, and we checked out John’s Jersey establishment.

On Wednesday, the Landmark Loews Theatre and Sapthagiri Indian Restaurant hit a home run double feature and make my millennium.

Finally, we hone our crane kicks for the Gramercy Tavern review on Thursday.

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Today we have a little treat for you – a Jersey City treat.

On a recent outing with some friends, our friend Justin waxed poetic about the Landmark Loews Theatre in Jersey City. He went as far as to say it was his favorite place in New Jersey.

Really?…

Well, it might now be one of mine. Opening its doors in 1929, the Landmark Loews is more “Movie Palace” than “Theatre”. It is a decorative masterpiece that seats over 3,000, complete with balconies and broad, winding staircases.

And they still show films there. You can check out the full schedule here, but I went for a viewing of Beetlejuice, which I haven’t seen in forever. Let me tell you, both Beetlejuice and the Landmark Loews have something in common: they stand the test of time. It was quite an impressive experience to watch Tim Burton’s 1980’s humorous horror flick in this film cathedral.

It even has a display case filled with vintage candy wrappers! Food, design, crazy decoration and 1980’s flicks all in one outing – I could barely contain my glee! In fact, I didn’t contain it, and was bouncing around the place like a child hepped up on old-school Root Beer Barrels.

Justin also mentioned an Indian restaurant in the vicinity that we should check out called Sapthagiri.

I will say two things:

1. I don’t know that much about Indian food.

2. I FRICKIN’ LOVED this place. And here is why:

All the food we tried was excellent: well-prepared, plated, and demonstrating a wide range of tastes from sweet and mild to spicy and tangy. And the people were incredibly nice. And I am referring to BOTH the waitstaff (who brought us bonus mango-yogurt drinks) and the patrons (a nice Indian family seated next to us offered to help us out with the menu and point out all the good stuff  – SCORE!).

Here are some stand outs:

The Dahi Poori: these were crispy little buckets of the thinnest dough filled with chana, potato, tamarind and mint sauce. Upon biting into them, the savory and sweet filling ran into your mouth – a fine combination of flavor and texture.

Onion Kulcha: White flour bread topped with onion, red bell pepper and cilantro and baked in a clay oven. This was like the Indian version of pizza. The dough was so soft and flavorful, I couldn’t get enough. And check out the char spots! Some Neapolitan pizzerias I know of should take note.

Mango Lassi: This was the mango flavored yogurt drink. I admit, I was skeptical of it at first. I don’t usually enjoy drinking yogurt. But I downed this thing mighty quickly. And would do it again.

The Experience: The Shawshank Redemption – The Happy Ending

In conclusion, take a trip to the Jersey side for the Landmark Loews/Sapthagiri double feature. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into those very helpful patrons to point out all the tasty stuff (hint: everything!).

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This week’s review is of café la rustique, located at 611 Jersey Ave in downtown Jersey City, a pizza joint with other basic italian dishes to offer as well.  This is our first “Pizzeria” that will be reviewed, but definitely not our last.  A brief intro about Pizza:  myself and Elana are pretty knowledgeable about Pizza.  Granted, there are a couple of pies within reasonable geographical range that, admittedly, we have yet to try… but we’re pretty good on the subject.  We make it, we study it, take classes on it and  argue about it.  There are various types, shapes and tastes which are now classified as “pizza” but I, myself, like to generally break it down into three categories – (1) American Pizza (such as Di Fara) and (2) Naples-style brick oven pizza (such as Zero Otto Nove and Keste) (3) a Hybrid of the two (such as Grimaldi’s or Lucali).   Sure, there are other niche categories that exist – but these are the main categories.  I love all kinds, provided it is well made stuff, but have a soft spot for categories (2) and (3) – types of pizza usually crafted in a brick oven for that charred yet chewy crust.  This whole fascination with Pizza intensified two years ago, when I was fortunate enough to eat at one of the world’s oldest and best pizzerias – Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples.

Just look at this effing thing.  A charred, yet chewy circle of fine crafted slop.   Yes, slop.  That’s how they roll in Naples.  No neat and defined slices.  Just a piping hot, flattish charred bread bowl filled with the finest tomatoes and mozzarella. It was absolutely delicious.  Nonetheless, the bar was substantially raised (and has yet to be reached since then), but there are good nearby options.

It would be unfair to expect café la rustique to meet such lofty standards as those depicted above.  Rustique is an interesting place, and we were suspicious from the start.  We entered this non-air conditioned establishment on a warm autumn night.  There was literally only one other patron there while one woman seemed to make up the entire staff.  Not typically the greatest of signs.  There was an old television set sitting on top of the bar and jeopardy was on.  You may recall our boy Trebek appearing in a previous post.  I took this to mean something.

Right out of the gate, it earned a pizza demerit by offering the dreaded Buffalo Chicken Pizza as one of its offerings.  This is typically just a bad sign.  Pretty sure this is one of Dominos best sellers. I’m just not sure if I can take your pizza seriously but, alas, a glance into the back room revealed a brick oven…so there was hope.  Keep an open mind, I tell myself.

A bowl of bread was first served in a curious fashion.  Curious, because the butter that accompanied the bread was just sort of smeared on the inside of the bowl.  It just looked weird. For an appetizer, we ordered the Fresh Mozzarella Salad with tomatoes, roasted peppers and olives.  The mozzarella was very good, it was very fresh and not too salty.  Also, it was warm which led me to believe that it could be homemade.  If so, props. The tomatoes, however, were sort of tasteless and not so tender.  Roasted peppers were adequate.  I just could not get a feel for this place.

On to the pizza.  Elana selected their white pizza.  I, on the other hand, selected the Margherita pie.   I think it is important that when going to a Pizzeria, a plain or Margherita pie needs to be eaten, for two reasons.  First – the taste; fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on perfectly cooked bread is still an unbeatable combination.  Second – the Margherita tells the story of the pizzeria.  Essentially, it is the easiest way to differentiate between the qualities of various pizza.  I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking here. How was this particular pie?  It was not bad.  The ingredients, particularly the tomatoes, were good.  As with the appetizer, it had good full flavor without a salty aftertaste.  The mozzarella had been carefully cooked in the brick oven.  It was not overcooked and was just right.

The crust, on the other hand, was pretty bland.  It just did not mesh well with the pizza.  It was also a little overcooked and tough for a brick oven pie which, traditionally, should be charred, yet fluffy due to its intense heat.  This was an average pie.

The service was fine i guess… the woman casually breezed in and out of existence and did what she needed to d0.  The atmosphere, as noted, was lacking.  Combined with being empty and hot, the door was left open for interesting stragglers to float in and out; some of which were mosquitos.  Mosquito count – Elana 3.  Me – 1.  I had been bit squarely in the center of my forehead.  This was no way to eat.

The bathroom, as Elana put it, was sort of like a supply closet and had the smallest sink imaginable.

If I end up living in the downtown jersey city area, I could see myself going back for a pie every now and then.  It is indeed located in a cool spot in town, and the pizza is decent.  But i can’t say I will go out of my way to go back.

Overall Experience – Vanilla Sky

Afterwards, however, I did have my first 3D HDTV experience at best buy.  Pretty damn sweet, minus the uncomfortable glasses.

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Our adventure this evening begins in Jersey City, NJ, in search of the Hamilton Inn.

Elana: Where is this place (as we are driving somewhere in its general direction)?

John: It’s at the corner of here and up (emphatic hand gesture to indicate both directionals).

Elana: I see…

The Hamilton Inn has a charming corner location at  10th avenue and Jersey Avenue in downtown Jersey City’s historic neighborhood of Hamilton Park ).  It looks like a bistro (complete with outdoor seating) with a Brooklyn hipster flair. The interior is has horizontal, modern wood paneling accented by wall décor that consists of large blackboards displaying the various menus, an arrangement of mirrors at the entryway and a collection of vintage vases, tins and ephemera.

We arrived at around 7:30-8pm. Even given the dinner hour, it was sparsely populated, so we were quickly seated and began perusing the extensive cocktail & drinks menu. While the Hamilton Inn is a restaurant, it is also a bar (a rather nice one with those handy hooks under the bar for hanging your purse and jacket). The cocktail menu features many infusions, muddled ingredients (like berries) and bitters. Something like what you might find on the Lower East Side of NYC at a place like Allen & Dellancy or Freeman’s.

I began with a Honey Mojito, while John ordered the Austin Mule. The Mule was definitely the standout: the ginger beer was sparkly and light and not too sweet. Mine was a bit on the sweet side, but I like that so I wasn’t complaining. It had lots of fresh mint and lime juice to balance the sweetness, however.

To start us off, they brought a small dish of bread with a ricotta and parmesan spread and some olive oil. The cheese spread was delicious with hints of lemon and a smooth, light texture.

On to the apps: fried calamari and perogies. A word about John and I and calamari: we are extremely critical of it. The calamari must be perfectly done, without a hint of rubberyness. The batter should be light, crunchy (never soggy) and perfectly seasoned. And the marinara sauce….well, it needs to be perfect. Fresh and light, not sweet . And we like lemon wedges on the side, please. The Hamilton Inn’s fried calamari hit the mark on all counts. The only complaint I had was that it didn’t include the tentacle  pieces. I like those.

As for the perogies , John summed it up best when he said, “Not a huge amount of taste.”

For the entrees, I ordered the Ferry St. Paella (get the full name from website) and John requested the special Filet Mignon Risotto.

With chorizo, lobster, shrimp, and clams, my paella was the standout entrée of the evening’s choices. The rice was perfectly cooked and the chorizo gave the whole dish a delicately smoky flavor. So much so that john could not stop sticking his fork in my plate.

The risotto was a bit more generic. “It’s risotto,” commented John, while it was tasty, it was nothing too special for flavorful. “I’ll eat it for lunch tomorrow.”

Now onto dessert. There are only two offerings for dessert at the Hammy Inn: Tiramisu and Key Lime Pie. We went for the Tiramisu, because like with fried calamari, we tend to be very picky about our Tiramisu. My first comment was, “WHERE’S THE RUM?!” In my mind, Tiramisu neeeeeeeeeds rum. And more than the few tablespoons that is usually requested by recipes for this desert.  Not that I am trying to get tipsy off my deserts, but it really does add something. Notably flavor. There was good espresso action, however I strongly suspect that the whipped cream on the side of the plate was Redi Whip. But it was tasty (ish) and we ate the whole thing anyway.

A note about bathrooms. John and I have decided that for every restaurant we review, we will also review their respective loos. We think it’s important to have a well maintained lavatory. We also think it’s funny. We may start a bathroom of the month club.  Anyway, the Hammy’s ladies and men’s rooms were very nicely kept. We even have pics! Nice white, gleaming subway tiles, new appliances. And also storage for baby highchairs (hey, you gotta put them somewhere). No points for extremely nice smelling soaps, but the mirrors were large and the lighting was good. And no extra amenities like toothpicks or hand lotion, or tissues.

All in all, the Hamilton Inn is a success, both in food and ambiance. The modern/eclectic look would be right at home in Brooklyn or parts of New York City. And while certain dishes were great, others were not. . Not every dish we ordered was a winner, but we are eager to go back and try a few more. Drinks too (half price on Wednesdays!!)

Overall Movie Equivalent: The Girl Next Door – The Predictable Surprise

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