While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst. There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!
Best List / Must Eats
Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters. However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees. The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal. So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie. It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was. I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.
Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks. Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant. The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had. The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:
- All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99! It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
- The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness. So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.
Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area. I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too. However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)
Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments. The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani. And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too. I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more! AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA! (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)
Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew. Who would?? However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough. It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood. Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew! Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!
Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey
Westwood, NJ 07642
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY
Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
This weekend was CP’s birthday and after much deliberation, I settled on a place I have been trying to get us to for some time – Shimbashi Izakaya. The restaurant is in downtown Del Mar, tucked upstairs, in a nook of the shopping area by the shores. Only reason why the restaurant came under my radar was because my fellow foodie co-worker had told me about it.
When we arrived on Saturday, the entire shopping area was packed, including Shimbashi. However, we were seated immediately for our 8:15pm reservation. The restaurant was simple and beautiful, though small so I would highly recommend having reservations especially during Saturdays.
As we settled down at our table, we flipped through the menu. I knew going in, that I wanted to try their sushi (naturally), but also their Paitan Ramen. Paitan broth generally is made from stock of boiled down pork (or chicken or both) bones, to give the “milky” and rich flavorful soup. A good broth takes a lot of time and patience, with just the right amount of spices, and so hard to find in San Diego. When I saw that Shimbashi had a “Paitan” ramen, I just had to try!
First up – the sushi! We ordered the Lobster Salmon Roll: Lobster, masago, and cucumber, topped with salmon, garlic oil, ponzu, sesame seeds, bonito flakes and red onions. Quite a mess of food, but my goodness! It was utterly melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I could not believe how one bite of this made me go: HOT DANG!
Fresh salmon, plus sweet lobster in my mouth was worth a squealing ovation. Then the bonito flakes contributed the salt in the equation, while the red onions gave it a little spice kick and was rounded out by the ponzu’s citrus. Great sushi roll!
CP ordered the Tempura Udon and take note that this bowl was quite small. Their portions for noodles were quite small (you’ll see mine). The udon was simply dressed with nori, scallions, and the cute little fish cakes. What I did like was that they kept the tempura off on a separate plate so that the batter would not get soggy. CP really like his udon and since I did not try it, we’ll just have to go with his word! I mean…it IS his birthday ;).
Here is my Paitan Ramen and boy was I excited when this came out! Take a look at that white, milky broth! However, here’s where my trepidations came: notice the lack of blobs of fatty oils that I would expect from a good paitan broth. With hesitation, I took a sip of the broth and was relieved to find it was quite good. Not to the level of the one (THE best one) CP and I had while in Hawaii, but still worthy of noting.
The broth was rich tasting and coated my mouth nicely, but the flavor did not overwhelm which I had hoped it would. The ramen noodles itself was the usual egg-based noodles that were cooked al dente. Accompanying the noodles were bean sprouts, bamboo, corn, boiled egg (not marinated), nori, chashu, and scallions. The accompaniments were good yet, the non-marinated egg made me a little sad. I love a good salted/tea egg.
We also had ordered some Chicken Karaage, and the reason why I don’t have a picture of it…it was terrible. Don’t bother yourself with this item. The chicken pieces were huge (by appetizer standards), the breading was flimsy and oily, and that whole dish was a hot mess.
Another issue I had with Shimbashi Izakaya was that their servers were not very good at working the floor. We were left completely unattended for a solid amount of time after the food was delivered by one server, and our waitress came to check to see if we were ok at that point. Well, of course we were. We just got all of our food with no issues, so naturally we were ok. After that point, our waitress (or any of the servers) failed to notice we had empty plates and empty drink cups. Also, CP and I had wanted to order more food, but it took the waitress too long to bring a menu, and then again too long to come and ask what we’d like, that we just decided to go since we had a movie to catch.
Other than that chicken mishap and sub-par service, CP and I had a lovely dinner. The sushi is definitely great and a must have when going to Shimbashi Izakaya. I would come back next time just for the sushi and also just over order because apparently that’s the only way one can ensure they get food.
1555 Camino Del Mar, Suite 201
Del Mar, CA 92014
CP and I were in Hawaii for almost a week and we both are missing it desperately. It was the hardest thing for both of us to do: come back to our day jobs. However, as I browse through the pictures that I had taken (all 600+), I fondly reminiscence the places we visited and the food we ate. Since there’s so much to talk about and show, I’ll just start on Day 1:
We had a morning flight and by the time we landed in Honolulu, it was the afternoon and a storm had just rolled through. By the time we checked into the hotel and walked to the beach right outside (it was beach front resort). Well, since both CP and I were starving from the mini lunch we had for our in-flight meal, we decided to just get a snack at the resort:
A nice bowl of yakisoba on the beach. The yakisoba was not bad nor stellar, but it was at the beach. Can’t complain! 🙂 After we had our snack of noodles, we took a dip into the sea. I had imagined the water being a LOT warmer than it really was. However, given that the San Diego coastline’s water temperature is approximately 60 degrees on average, the water there in comparison was warm. It was a lot of fun and CP had the best time getting me into the water with him.
When we saw this in the distance:
We decided it was time to go in and get ready for dinner. However, by the time we had cleaned up, we saw our first sunset of the vacation from our room’s balcony:
For dinner, what else would we have other than…SUSHI!!! Naturally, I did my research online while CP was cleaning up and found this place a little further in-land from the coast (not by much). However, given it was a new city with new roads…we had some troubles navigating to it. Like seriously Hawaii…can your road signs be possibly any harder to see at nights? Long story short…in our attempt to get there, we almost had gone onto the freeway and also went the wrong direction on a one-way street. Yea…it was a really exciting trip to dinner.
We made it to Imanas Sushi/Izakaya. The restaurant’s small and warm, with a large communal table snaking down the middle of the curved dining room. Once seated, it did not take us long to figure out what we wanted for dinner:
The rice ball in broth was only ok, mostly due to the fact that the rice ball was not crispy enough. It should be pan-fried til a nice crispy shell forms, to keep the rice from getting too soggy. Alas…this was not the case sadly.
The sushi was fresh and amazing. I could’ve eaten just this all night, but I was so full from everything already, that we could barely finish the last bites (which was the roll). The spider roll was only ok. However, given that I am me, I needed something sweet to satisfy my sweet tooth. Thus, we headed to Bubbies Ice Cream & Desserts just down the road for a cold, sweet dessert:
My ice cream scoop was soooooo creamy and fresh! I couldn’t believe that it was that creamy and it was not gelato. They also had other desserts in their dessert case that looks like are made from their awesome ice cream flavors.
So that was our first day in Hawaii!
Imanas Tei Restaurant
2626 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826
Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts
1010 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826
My first time in New York was a complete culture shock and I just didn’t have enough time to do everything a tourist does in the city, PLUS touring all the eateries. However, my second trip to the city was just one of two things to do: go to work and eat. Guess what I liked doing more?
I must say though, one down side for a foodie in such a huge city with so many options for meals and snacks, is the hard question: what should I eat?!
So again…I will let my pictures do all the talking :):
Momofuku: má pêche
15 west 56th street
new york, ny 10019
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
357 6th Ave
New York, NY 10079
Rice To Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
88 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
International locations and limited locations within US
Wafels & Dinges Truck (and Mini too)
Various locations in Manhattan (dependent on day and time)
Tasty Dumpling Inc
54 Mulberry St # E
New York, NY 10013
It was a whirl wind of a week of training and food! My favorites this time?…
- Locanda Verde – this restaurant really surprised me by the quality of food and the simple, yet dazzling flavors. This restaurant will be a must visit here on out whenever I find myself in the City!
- Rice to Riches – I now understand all the rave about this place…it’s freaking delicious (and I used to make rice pudding by the quarts).
- Morimoto – the toro tartare of course…the congee that came with the braised pork was soaked with pork goodness, amazing.
- Tasty Dumplings – um…duh, dumpling filling were great, but needed more to the ratio of wrapper. Also, their dumpling wrapping was too thick in my opinion.
I will be back New York! I love you and the whole city’s talent for creating some of the best morsels!
The past two weeks I have been on travel for training and have been getting as much as I could in every aspect: knowledge, networking, and most of all – FOOD.
Last week, I was back in the great city of Chicago and this time, I was actually in the city versus my first trip to the Second City where I was mostly there to sleep. Granted, it helped that my fellow colleagues all wanted to go out each night to get the most we could together.
However, when I first arrived in the city on Sunday night I was on my own since I had yet to know who was in town. I quickly checked in and headed straight out to take the metro to my first food destination: Blue 13.
I found this restaurant from researching online and had great ratings, along with fabulous raves from foodies like myself. When I arrived, it was quaint little restaurant with a warm overall feel to it in its minimalist interior design. As far as I could tell, there was only one server and one host who bus tables when it became busier through the night.
To begin the meal, I ordered a simple Mixed Green salad:
The salad of mixed greens, shaved carrots, and radish tossed with Dijon vinaigrette and topped with a generous amount of pecorino. A great, refreshing start to the meal. There is little for me to say about the salad other than it was a great salad. Plus, the fresh, hot bread that came out along with olive oil to dip in made a delish start to the meal.
For my entrée, as I was dining for one, I ordered the highly recommended “3 Birds” Lobster Pizza:
I know what you’re thinking already. Yes, I did know I was ordering a thin crust pizza in the city known for deep dish. However, if you come here, I am going to echo what I had found during my online research – this is a must have dish.
The crust was charred perfectly and thin so that you would have to do the fold right down the middle to make sure everything stayed on. This is a white pie with a roasted garlic puree base, caramelized onions, chunks of lobster, and manchego cheese to hold it all together with a sprinkling of herbs. This pizza has the sweetness that reminds you of a cheesy, yummy, lobster bisque. It all balances so well together that I couldn’t stop eating it. I pushed myself beyond the point of bursting because it was that delicious. However, I sadly left behind two slices that were stripped of their lobster pieces because my stomach said, “Please…no more!!”
Despite my comatose state at that moment, I still ordered a dessert because how can I call this meal completed until I did?! So of the 3 dessert choices, this was the one that perked my interest: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Waffle.
Understand that I had no more intention of stuffing myself, but when I saw “candied bacon” I knew I had to try it. What came out was a waffle, drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with candied bacon and hazelnut, and paired with butter pecan ice cream.
First off – the candied bacon was the best part of the dessert. You’re wondering what did it taste like right? Just imagine breakfast, where you have a side of bacon with your pancake/waffle, and the maple syrup drips over to the bacon. It was sticky, sweet, crispy, and salty. The waffle did not have chocolate chips and needed more peanut butter. Overall, I would suggest you skip this dessert, try a different one, or just order yourself another lobster pizza.
This is the type of restaurant you go to with friends to just catch up, share some good food, and enjoy the evening. The two servers were great and attentive, but when it got a little busier by the time I had finished my meal, the lack of staff was apparent. Still, friendly service and great food is the equation for a satisfied customer who will return.
416 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654-5714
The following night, after our first day of training, a group of us went out to grab dinner at The Publican where if it oinks, it will end up cooked at this restaurant. I loved the open space design which was to resemble a barn. To add to that, their booth seating had little doors to encapsulate diners as if they were in a pig stall. The rest of the restaurant was set up with communal tables where you could be sitting next to a complete stranger on one side and your friend on the other.
We went family style and ordered various dishes off the menu to share. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, with a few inserts by me, so enough grazing through the pictures!
Beets with Clementine segments and yogurt – this was my favorite side that we had ordered that night. Sweet and tart, great palate cleanser.
Charcuterie plate: pork pie, trotter-foie gras terrine, head cheese, milano, morteau sausage, pickles & mustards
Turnips with rosemary
Cajun Shrimp with Grits – the grits had soaked up all the Cajun spices and shrimp juices.
Fried Smelt with mustard greens and raw onions
Country Ribs with mustard greens & grilled red onions
Sweetbread with sweet potatoes, black trumpets & green garlic-watercress pesto
Pork Belly with fresh chickpeas and stuffing – decadent and you feel so guilty for eating this fatty yet delicious piece of the pig. (*gurgling sound*)
Lamb Sausage with lentils, mint, meyer lemon & yogurt – I love lamb…I love sausage…I loved, LOVED this dish. The mint and yogurt balanced out the gamey flavor of the sausage and the casing had a great snap to the bite.
Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with crème – heaven in one’s mouth.
Waffle with pear butter & plum marmalade – highly suggest that you do not waste your time with this one. It was nothing special at all.
Dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream – a darker heaven in one’s mouth. Then again I am the biggest fan of dark chocolate, so if you don’t like dark chocolate (WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!) then this is definitely not for you.
The Publican also has a wide beer and wine selection, as well as servers who are willing to mix you up a great cocktail if you desire it. The restaurant has a fun atmosphere especially for big groups. Just make sure you don’t have any vegetarians in the group otherwise they will most likely go hungry.
837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
On our last night in the city, our dining group only grew to an even larger number than the previous night. This time around, upon my insistence on move to more ethnic flavors, we decided upon a restaurant that has several locations throughout the country, but still supposedly made great food. That night…we our taste buds did the samba at SUSHISAMBA!
Once again, we ate family style and tried a little bit of everything.
This dish was the sunshine of my night (wait…um…yea, I’ll still stand by my description)! It was fresh, bright, sweet, spicy, turns your life around because it was just that amazing. It would even put a smile to the worst Debby Downer that you know! (Unless he/she doesn’t like fish…but even then! This dish may convert him/her!)
Of the 3 seviches we ordered that night, this was the most disappointing for me. It didn’t have the vibrant flavors of the salmon nor yellowtail seviches. 😦 However, our fish adventures had just started because out came our platter of various sushi rolls:
Unfortunately, the mussels did not taste fresh (consistently) and so we asked for them to return it and traded for:
Spicy Popcorn Shrimp – sweet and spicy, fried tempura shrimp.
We also ordered the churrasco “supreme” (aka meatfest) with: rio grande grilled hanger steak, ribeye, pork tenderloin, chorizo and linguica. This was served with sides of white rice, black beans, collard greens, and farofa. Additionally, various dipping sauces including malagueta pepper oil and chimichurri:
The Miso-marinated Chilean sea bass roasted organic vegetables is one of those dishes that I still think about. This is the perfect example of a perfectly cooked fish that is so smooth, so fresh, so buttery, so fracking delish that I gurgle as I giggle with giddy.
Whole crispy red snapper spicy red curry sauce, scallion, ginger, coconut rice – the rice was good! The fish staring at me…not so much.
Side of Peruvian corn – it’s like hominy; I wasn’t much of a fan.
And of course, we had to have desserts. Note the plural form of that: desserts. We really went all out for dessert and there were no regrets what-so-ever afterwards because they were all delicioso!
Carmen Miranda: seasonal fresh fruit, pop rocks, lemon sorvete…sorry, no pictures for this one :(. I can describe to you what it was: a bowl of fresh berries that included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, with a sprinkle of pink pop rocks (not enough apparently since the tasters didn’t feel the effects of it) and a scoop of lemon sorbet.
I don’t know which one I liked more, but I did know I had a taste of everything and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like! Even though it is not a local restaurant, this place has a fun atmosphere and serves stellar food with great service. SUSHISAMBA…I think you will have to be part of my favorite small, national chain! One note though: of all the food we ate, it unanimous that the “sushi” part of the restaurant was something that fell short on with the exception of the “seviche.”
Several locations in the US
Thank you Chicago for showing me yet another good time! 🙂