Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Jersey City's gastronomic best...an evolving review

I have lived in JC for over a year and a half and I have not eaten out at nearly enough of its restaurants. With that in mind, I'm sure my opinions will change over time. However, I have tasted enough of what JC has to offer to write a semi-educated overview.

First, and most importantly from my perspective, JC has a large Indian population and therefore a delectable selection of Indian restaurants from fancy to pared-down take-out. Most of them are congregated on Newark Ave in the area called India Square, a couple of blocks northwest of Journal Square. I have yet to try a restaurant on that strip that does not have something tasty to offer. That said, I have my favorites. The Village is a nice sit-down restaurant with fantastic everything. I am a bit of a samosa junkie and theirs are exquisite. The prices are reasonable. You can get dinner for two plus leftovers for about $40. You might even be able to split a Taj beer. Other notable joints on the strip are Paratha Junction, which specializes in different kinds of breads some of which they stuff with savories ("paratha" means flat or layered bread), and Sapthagiri Restaurant, offering vegetarian cuisine from North and South India. Technically I have not tried Sapthagiri but I have heard rave reviews from several people and plan to try it very soon. Both Paratha and Sapthagiri are very affordable to the tune of meals under $20 for an individual.

Marco e Pepe might be JC's crown jewel, though I don't want to jump the gun. Still, the fact is, this place can easily hold its own in terms of quality against some of the better high-end offerings in Manhattan. The food is probably best described as French and Italian-influenced, but there is definitely a lot of creativity happening here. I once had a butternut squash soup with apple and pesto that still makes my mouth water every time I think about it. The menu changes slightly now and then but they have regular fare including a shaved fennel and arugula salad for $9 that I absolutely cannot resist. During my last meal there I had the herb-roasted market vegetables with creme fraiche. It is their only veggie entree (apart from mac 'n' cheese) but it's a winner. Marco e Pepe also has an excellent beer and wine menu.

Wild Fusion is a Thai-Japanese restaurant with a few other East Asian influences on Grove Street, just down the street from Marco e Pepe. I was pleased to discover recently that they deliver all the way to our Lincoln Park neighborhood. Wild Fusion is not always fabulous but it is reliably good and being reasonably priced, I really have no complaints. Their sushi is fresh and they have some excellent Thai dishes. The other Asian fusion place on the street, More, is also pretty good but so far I prefer Wild Fusion.

Pho Binh is my favorite Vietnamese place in JC. Granted, it's the only one I ever eat at, but Pho Binh is pretty authentic stuff, especially the pho (soup!). If you are a vegetarian, you should be aware that all of the soups (probably) have a beef or chicken broth, but there are many other veggie options such as my favorite, the tofu with lemongrass. It has peppers, strips of thick tofu, a sweet lemongrass sauce, onions and garlic. I try to stretch it out so I can have it for two meals.

Ddeul Restaurant on West Side Avenue, near Lincoln Park, offers traditional Korean bbq. This is a favorite haunt of my sweetheart who is the more carnivorous of the two of us, but they also have some great seafood dishes such as a squid stir-fry with veggies. It seems to be a family-owned place and is usually not busy at all. Ddeul is the real deal - unassuming, excellent food, without all the glitz of NYC's K-Town.

Liberty House Restaurant is a moderately-priced seafood restaurant situated at the end of the marina in Liberty State Park. The view of the Hudson and the Manhattan skyline is worth the cost of the sometimes overpriced food. That is to say, they do not have the best seafood in the tri-state area, but it is quite good. They have a decent selection of seafood appetizers including an excellent ceviche taster as well as oysters and sushi. Their prix fixe dinner is only $32 Tuesday through Thursday and includes three courses. For someone in my rather low income bracket it is not a place I can frequent, but now and then when the weather is nice, it is a lovely way to spend an evening.

There are several places I have yet to try but hear are excellent: Skinner's Loft, Madame Claude Café and Taqueria Downtown for starters. I'm sure there must be others. If you have suggestions for me, send them my way and I'll try to check them out.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who made suggestions for my new domain name. I will let you know what I decide to do!


wired said...

Nice post. For more restaurant listings & reviews, check out WiredJC, Jersey City's Finest Community Forum.

Julia said...

just found this and thought of you, might be interesting: http://www.newschool.edu/eventDetail.aspx?id=44635

Pammer said...

Thanks Julia. I'm a New School alumnus so maybe I can get a discount.