MercerChow's Profile

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Any restaurant reccomendations in Utrecht, Netherlands?

It has been a couple of years, but I had two remarkable meals at Amberes. Highly recommended.

Sep 07, 2012
MercerChow in Europe

Portuguese Wine Merchants in Ironbound?

Thanks, jmoryl. I visited Lisbon Wines and Ferry Wines and both had good selections without too much overlap. Lisbon was spiffier and more businesslike, Ferry darker and dustier, but friendlier, and with slightly higher prices. Both offered 10% case discounts. Ferry has off-street parking. Parking near Lisbon was a challenge. This was a weekday, mid-afternoon.
Will try the other two on the next journey.

May 12, 2010
MercerChow in New Jersey

Portuguese Wine Merchants in Ironbound?

I will be making a trip to the Ironbound neighborhood this week with the goal of picking up some Portuguese wine (Douro and Dao reds - not Port). Are there specific wine shops that might be recommended?

May 09, 2010
MercerChow in New Jersey

vidalia's in lawrenceville - anyone?

Vidalia's is not bad, but is a small and crowded room - not necessarily the best choice for an anniversary dinner. Within a couple of blocks are Acacia (as mentioned), the new Dennis Foy, and Chambers Walk. Any of these three would have a more relaxed atmosphere and comparable or better food.

For other area BYOBs I concur with Blue Bottle in Hopewell and Brothers Moon just down the street.

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Brothers Moon
7 W Broad St, Hopewell, NJ 08525

Chambers Walk Restaurant
2667 Main St, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648

Vidalia Restaurant
21 Phillips Ave, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648

Blue Bottle Cafe
101 E Broad St, Hopewell, NJ 08525

Mar 23, 2010
MercerChow in New Jersey

Hanami Princeton (ex-Sunny Garden): promising food, service not quite there

I was a regular at Sunny Garden for almost 20 years - from the old location on Emmons through their sojourn in South Brunswick and then the "palace" on Farber. Like many, I was dismayed at the recent deterioration of the place under the new ownership, though encouraged by would-be successors like Elements Asia and Kenji Fusion.

So with the hype surrounding its re-opening under a new name (though it still says "Sunny Garden" on the credit card slip), it seemed appropriate to check it out, which four of us did on a recent weekend.

The basic layout is unchanged, though the décor has been updated (e.g., white leather and chrome in the waiting area - not to mention an overwhelmingly huge TV screen tuned to the Food Network). There are some nice touches, like a pot of tea for those waiting for takeout or a table and a free cotton candy machine for the kids on the way out. The place was pretty full and finding parking was, as ever, an issue.

The menu is large and varied, and we did not even try to explore some of the sections, like the sushi. We started with soups: miso, "best wonton," and hot and sour. All were fine, though the menu does not mention that the "best" wontons are filled with shrimp rather than pork. This was not appreciated by the member of our party with the shellfish allergy, but the rest of us got to eat his wontons, which were yummy. We then split two appetizers, the japanese eggplant with sweet miso and the ceviche of the day. There were four nicely cooked eggplant slices with a light glaze and a little pile of tiny crunchy potato sticks. The ceviche was substantial, with octopus, cuttlefish, a white fin fish, and vegetables. The marinade did not have much zing, however.

The entrées were black pepper lamb chop, Peking duck, stir-fry seasonal vegetables (with goji berry), and sesame dusted grilled shrimp (with miso carrot puree and furikake). The presentation of the lamb chops was lovely and they were pronounced good. The Peking duck was Peking duck. The shrimp were large and well-cooked. And the veggies were nice but late late late. We had already waited a little too long for our mains when three of them showed up. It was another ten minutes before the fourth plate appeared (with all of the usual "go ahead - no, we'll wait" in the meantime). We split two ice creams (green tea and pistachio) for dessert. They were fine.

While we were in no hurry, with the pace of service we did take three hours to finish the meal, a long time for an Asian restaurant. Hanami clearly has some serious service issues (which are only magnified by memories of the quick precision of Sunny Garden). With luck, these are startup problems that will work themselves out. Sooner rather than later I hope, because the food is promising and I would like to go back.

Another post on Hanami complained about portion sizes. Soups, two appetizers, mains, and two desserts filled us up quite nicely, though there was nothing left to take home. Hanami is definitely not a two-or-three-entrées-for-a-table-of-four kind of place, but the per-person tab was $35, including tip, which I do not consider excessive.

Jan 06, 2010
MercerChow in New Jersey

Restaurant Nicholas Disappoints and Under-Delivers

We recently made our very first visit to Restaurant Nicholas and so should chime in on this thread.

Our reservation was on a weeknight and the place was not full. We sat at a banquette on the east side of the dining room, but the traffic outside on route 35 was not that noticeable.

We ordered a bottle of the 2006 Meursault, Les Gouttes D' Or, Domaine Colin-Morey, which was wonderful. The amuse-bouche was a generous portion of a terrific cold lobster-melon soup, with nice chunks of lobster in a delicious melon broth.

We wanted to try more than the regular menu but weren’t quite up for the six-course tasting menu, so we settled on the Late Summer Four Course Garden Menu – all veggie but looking interesting. There were two choices for each course and we each took one of each so we managed to try everything.

For the first course the offerings were (1) baby field greens, caramelized hazelnuts, Beaufort cheese and (2) heirloom beet salad, pickled miho pears, walnut cream, mâche. The greens were fine but ordinary. The beets were good, though the presentation was odd, essentially chunks of beet and balls of pear strewn across the plate with the walnut cream drizzled underneath.

The second course comprised (1) green asparagus, portabella mushroom ragout and (2) roasted sweet corn soup, chanterelle mushrooms, oven-dried tomatoes. Mrs MC and I both agreed that this was a very successful course. The combination of flavors and textures in the corn soup was exceptional.

The third course was (1) hand rolled cavatelli, summer grilled vegetables, olive oil emulsion and (2) asparagus risotto, saffron & piquillo pepper foam. We also agreed that this was the least successful course. The cavatelli was fine but unexceptional. I tried really hard to taste the asparagus in the risotto but came up empty. It was also quite salty (to the point that I woke up thirsty in the middle of the night).

A palette cleanser of pineapple sorbet on shortbread with chunks of pineapple and mint then appeared. This was nicely done, with the unusual pineapple/mint combination surprisingly good.

For dessert Mrs MC had the vanilla & white chocolate parfait, strawberry jam, ginger biscuit, strawberry lemonade sorbet, which was very good. I opted for a cheese plate, with the four choices of 24 Month Mainland New Zealand Cheddar, Humboldt Fog, Epoisses, and Morbier. This was a nice presentation. I supplemented it with a glass of the 2006 Monbazillac, Domaine Petit Paris, which was a good choice.

The service was on the slow side of leisurely – about two hours for the meal. There was a long wait between the second and third courses. There was also a small hiccup at the beginning, when the amuse-bouche arrived before the wine.

The servers were professional but not overly engaged. For example, I asked for some guidance on which of two Meursaults to order and the best that could be mustered was that one was premier cru and the other wasn’t. Likewise, when ordering the cheeses I asked if I had missed anything especially good and there was no response.

Overall I would say that we were disappointed but not devastated. The meal had some exceptional points, including the amuse-bouche, the second courses, and the desserts. But a couple of things were really mundane, like the cavatelli and the green salad. And the risotto was really not acceptable. My view is that if you’re paying $59 for a meal that contains no meat, you have a right to expect creativity and execution.

So we’re glad we went but given all of the other options around I doubt that we will be back.

Sep 16, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Lawrenceville Inn

Unbelievable. Part of the saga is in this news report:

http://blog.nj.com/artful_diner/2009/...

Sep 10, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

settimo cielo in Trenton

Have been a couple of times since the original posts and nothing has changed my opinion.

For those interested in hobnobbing with the well-connected, their headwaiter, Henry Mendez, was named #98 on the PolitickerNJ.com 2009 Power List!

http://www.politickernj.com/files/Pow...

Aug 30, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

New elements restaurant- princeton, nj

Well, now we've been three times, most recently as the very appreciative guests of bloggers The Wandering Epicures. They don't get out to The Jerz much, but made the trip to try Elements.

We had the six-course tasting menu, and their post provides immense detail and nice photos. I really have nothing to add:

http://epicures.wordpress.com/2009/08...

Aug 19, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Eno Terra - Kingston NJ

Positive write-up on Eno Terra in the NYT today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/nyr...

Aug 16, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Best Choice for group business lunch in Lawrenceville/Princeton area?

If you're really in Lawrence then the round trip to Tre Piani could carve 35-45 minutes out of your available time. But it's a good option otherwise. Main Street is a little closer but not much.

Chambers Walk is good and local, but a party of that size would be a stretch unless you made advance arrangements. For example, at lunch you order at the register and they bring out your food.

Not on your list but a new option might be BT Bistro on Route 1. I haven't been but it has got some favorable notices here and elsewhere.

Aug 12, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Two Princeton Restaurants Destroyed by Fire

Unfortunate. Tom Yum Goong was one of the better Thai options in Princeton. Apparently the adjacent Whole Earth Center and CoolVines wine store were spared:

http://www.packetinsider.com/blog/njs...

Aug 01, 2009
MercerChow in Mid-Atlantic

New elements restaurant- princeton, nj

Well, this certainly seems to be Elements week!

Four of us returned this week (see earlier post in thread above) for a family celebration, so the dining notes were not as extensive as they might have been. But here goes anyway.

The downstairs room was full, but seemed even fuller because there were two 8+ tables underway. And yes, it was noisier than a place of this caliber should tolerate.

We ordered a bottle of Alsatian Pinot Noir, the 2005 Bott Freres. (This is one of the pet producers of Laurent Chapuis at Princeton Corkscrew.) I had enjoyed several of their whites and wanted to try a red, which turned out to be a good decision.

Totally agree with RGR on the interesting bread selection (though I don’t take issue with the olive oil). They then brought out a three-part amuse-bouche, comprising opah sashimi on cream cheese and herbs, a minced bluefish salad on a bread crisp, and a little cup of broccoli soup. All were fine, especially the soup. One of us later had the Jersey corn soup as a starter, and I had a taste of that, too.

These two soups, combined with the vichyssoise referenced in my earlier post, have convinced me that these guys get vegetable-based soup like no one else. Totally creamy, yet the pure fresh vegetable essence shines through. Amazing.

In addition to the Jersey corn soup, the other starters were the market salad, the Portuguese octopus, and the grilled sardines. Everyone was happy. The corn soup was garnished with spiced popcorn, a cute touch. The octopus was gorgeous and cooked nicely. The sardines were filleted and served with chorizo slices and wilted escarole.

The mains were veal chop, local scallop, and Griggstown spring chicken. One of us decided to go with two appetizers instead, which were the vegetable terrines and the Dungeness crab. The veal chop was beautiful, cooked medium rare, garnished with sun-dried tomatoes and Thai basil, and served with a massive spinach raviolo filled with mascarpone and herbs. The scallops were laid out so as to look like a roll, served with broccoli and trumpet mushrooms. The chicken was as ever, cooked perfectly. The terrine appetizer comprised two smallish terrines, one of summer vegetables and the other of beets and goat cheese, and the crab salad contained lots of crab.

We closed with a cheese plate and two orders of the chocolate composition, which included a soufflé, a sorbet, and chocolate “air.” The chocolate eaters were delighted. The cheese plate was sourced from Valley Shepherd but seemed a little skimpy. Also enjoyed a glass of the Hidalgo fino sherry.

Mignardises then appeared, white chocolate truffles filled with a passion fruit (?) cream, little brownies topped with whipped cream, tiny muffins, and squares of a raspberry gel. And on our way out we were presented with slices of pound cake wrapped to take home.

The service was attentive and professional though not especially engaged, and the pace of the meal was leisurely.

Everything at this meal served to reinforce my earlier conclusion regarding Elements, “the potential to set a new standard in Princeton and environs.”

Jul 22, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Greek/Middle Eastern Places in Trenton Vicinity?

Well, poo. I really liked 7 Hills.

Anyway, this is the new tenant:

http://www.zeinarestaurant.com

Jul 13, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Greek/Middle Eastern Places in Trenton Vicinity?

Unfortunately this is one category of cuisine not well-represented around here. Shame, too.

Can't disagree with anything the other posters have said. I have been disappointed at both Erini and Basil's. The closest real Greek food is at Pithari in Highland Park, but the service can be spotty. Sahara is mediocre but gets the job done and is not too far away.

If Turkish is on the radar there is also Seven Hills of Istanbul in Highland Park, which is good. Evelyn's in New Brunswick has been recommended but I have not tried it.

There is a Turkish community over in Bristol, PA, and I once had an exceptional meal at a place there that subsequently closed. Wouldn't be surprised if there were others.

Addendum: Noticed this place, looks like about 30 minutes south of Trenton, just past Burlington:

http://mediterraneanrestaurantnj.com

Jul 13, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Asheville - help us cut one from our list

So the original poster finally weighs in. . .

First, thank you to all of the Asheville hounds who opined on our original post. Good to see such an active and thoughtful community. If you’re ever in central NJ, check out our local crowd on the Mid-Atlantic board.

So what were the results? We did end up with four dinners at Nova, Rezaz, Table, and Zambra. Our overall impression was good. Generally when we travel the question is: Would we go here if this place were in our home territory? And the results this time were a 4-for-4 “yes,” though we did like some more than others. So, on to the detail.

Nova: We were lucky to hit this place on half-price wine night. We went with the 2003 Travaglini Gattinara Nebbiolo, which was a good value at half-price, though I’m not sure I would have been that happy with it at full price. It was still a bit young. We shared small plates, including the grilled romaine salad, mushroom tart, lamb porterhouse, and a WNC trout special. The lamb and the trout were the highlights. We finished with a nice sorbet trio and a glass of the Ramos Pinto LBV port. Service was fine, though not especially engaged. The room was not too full.

Rezaz: Arrived here after a long, hot day and ordered a bottle of the Alsatian Meyer-Fonne Pinot Blanc, which was perfect. We started with the grilled Caesar salad and the gnocchi, both of which were good (the gnocchi especially). We continued with the seafood paella and a red snapper special. I thought the snapper was good (though my spouse thought it a bit dry), but I was not terribly impressed with the paella, which was bland. We finished with a slice of baklava, which was baklava. Service was fine, but a bit distracted at times. The room was packed.

Table: Interesting and eclectic wine list here, which triggered some questions and resulted in an informative discussion of the Grüner Veltliner grape. We ended up ordering the Prager GV, which was terrific. Kicked things off with a bowl of house-marinated olives, which were tasty and mild (therefore not interfering with the wine). We continued with the arugula salad and the sweetbreads, both recommended. For entrees we had the roast chicken and a special, whole NC porgy. The chicken was good, but the porgy was exceptional, some of the best fish I have ever eaten. We finished with a nicely presented cheese plate and a glass of the Broadbent Madeira. The service was engaged but relaxed. We arrived at 6:00 and the place was empty, but it filled up quickly.

Zambra: I know it’s a tapas place but nonetheless it has one of the most extensive Spanish wine lists I have seen anywhere. Very impressive. We ordered a bottle of the 2006 Casar de Burbia Mencia from Bierzo, which was a little young but opened up nicely as the meal wore on. Our tapas were the mixed greens, sautéed mushrooms, the octopus (excellent!), the sweetbreads (good, but not as good as those at Table), and the boquerones (marinated anchovies). Everything was good. We finished with a nice cheese plate. The service was attentive and interested.

So for once the spouse and I were in agreement, in order of preference: (1) Table, (2) Zambra, (3) Nova, and (4) Rezaz, with (1) and (2) definitely on a higher plane than the other two. All of the usual footnotes apply, e.g., these are single data points, etc. But thanks again to all. We couldn't have done it without you.

Jul 09, 2009
MercerChow in General South Archive

Eating Local: Princeton

Along these lines don't forget this weekend:

East Coast Food & Wine Festival at Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington
http://www.slowfoodandwinefestival.com/

Also in a few months Outstanding in the Field will do an event at Cherry Grove with food by Scott Anderson (@$180/person!
)http://www.outstandinginthefield-rese...

Jun 26, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Moustache- Middle Eastern in Lambertville

Kalustyans in Manhattan does mail order but it's more fun to go in there. They also have the several regional varieties of za'atar.

http://www.kalustyans.com/

Jun 25, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Moustache- Middle Eastern in Lambertville

"Zatter" sounds like an alternate spelling of the traditional Middle Eastern spice and herb mixture usually spelled "Za'atar." See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Za'...

Jun 21, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Under The Moon - Bordentown

Interesting discussion. I recently read a book on the history of cuisine and the spice trade in the late middle ages and was fascinated to learn how many of the flavors we now associate with dessert were used for the main meals in those times. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, honey, dried fruit, it was all there. So these UTM recipes, which I found noteworthy when I ate there, are really throwbacks.

FWIW, the book is called The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice by Michael Krondl.

Jun 08, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Asheville - help us cut one from our list

Such unanimity is so unusual for Chowhound! I'm speechless!

Anyway, thank you. I promise a full report...

Jun 07, 2009
MercerChow in General South Archive

Asheville - help us cut one from our list

We will be spending four nights in Asheville and are looking forward to four nice dinners. We have narrowed our list to five restaurants. Believe me, it was an ordeal getting it down to five.

But we still have to throw one over the side. So which will it be: Corner Kitchen, Nova, Rezaz, Table, or Zambra?

Any thoughts on which one does not belong on the list?

You may be tempted to suggest alternatives, and we will try to be open minded, but we are really trying to make the list shorter, not longer. Thanks!

Jun 07, 2009
MercerChow in General South Archive

New Jersey Chefs who bicycle, or bicycle-friendly NJ restaurants

Some of the lighter fare places along the D&R towpath in Lambertville/Stockton/Frenchtown would be worth looking at.

There are many rural general-store type places that are popular with cyclists. Sorry I don't know the names of them but here are a few locations:

"downtown" Sergeantsville
corner of Wertsville Road and Lindbergh Road in East Amwell
downtown Ringoes
Main Street Eatery in Kingston

May 28, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Atlanta- Saveur

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Atlanta suburb where I was staying for a few nights happened also to be the home of one of Saveur magazine’s “12 Restaurants That Matter” featured in the April 2009 issue. So I made a reservation at Watershed Restaurant in Decatur.

This happened to be a Monday, which is half-price wine night. I asked the server about the 2005 Kenneth Volk Sierra Madre Pinot Noir, and he was unable to give me any information. I ordered it anyway and was happy I did. It was a good value at half-price, but would not have been at its regular price, which was about 3x retail.

I started with the Creamy Stone Ground Shrimp Grits and Pullman Plank, the latter being a long (4”x10”) piece of crispy buttered toast. The grits were a little chunky and nicely cooked, although the shrimp flavor was subtle.

I continued with one of chef Scott Peacock’s signature dishes, the Southern Table Salmon Croquettes, with a side order of Gingered Beets. The croquettes were served with more grits (sans shrimp), collard greens and roasted tomatoes. The croquettes were mildly flavored, the grits good, and the greens nicely de-veined. The low-key flavors of these were more than offset by the overwhelming flavor of the roasted tomatoes. One bite of those and it was necessary for the palate to recover before continuing with any of the others. The beets were heavy on the beet flavor and light on the ginger.

I finished with the Selection of Southern Cheeses, although only two of the three were actually southern, those being the Lumiere and the Eden, both goat’s milk cheeses from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, GA. A drizzle of honey and some pecans were served alongside.

The place is in a converted service station with high ceilings (high enough to accommodate an auto atop a hydraulic hoist) and plenty of windows, at least in the front room. The walls are lined with blue glass bottles. It is roomy with plenty of spacing between tables. The service was competent but indifferent. There were no “extras,” e.g., bread, amuse-bouche, etc.

Overall I thought the food was good but generally bland, like refined versions of the steam table fare that used to be found at cafeteria chains like Morrison’s throughout the South.

But my reaction is almost certainly colored by the inclusion of Watershed on the Saveur list. My expectations were high and they were not met. I have had occasion to eat at a couple of other places on the list (Gramercy Tavern and Commander’s Palace) and I am bewildered that anyone would consider Watershed to be in the same league. So either Saveur is nuts or I hit Watershed on a really off night.

Would be curious to learn whether baldwinwood ever got there.

May 25, 2009
MercerChow in Atlanta

Anchorage: Orso, Sacks, Southside, Kincaid (long)

I had occasion to spend a few days in Anchorage recently and offer the following report on four dinners plus a quick lunch. Please note that I don’t usually order halibut so much, but I was curious about how it would be prepared so close to the source.

Orso: This place is right downtown. I ordered a bottle of the 2007 Rex Hill Pinot Noir, which was fine but not exceptional. They brought out some nondescript bread slices with a very nice dip of white bean hummus and olive oil. My starter was a salad of pickled Matanuska Valley beets, manchego slices, crushed almonds, and greens, with an orange vinaigrette. This was billed as a beet salad but was relatively light on the beets. Good, though. This was the only locally-sourced reference at any of the places I ate. The Matanuska Valley is about 50 miles northeast of Anchorage.

My main was the grilled halibut, which was served with zucchini and a spicy sauce of tomatoes, olives, capers, and onions atop a crisp saffron risotto cake. The halibut (a thinnish piece) was right on the verge of being overcooked. Overall not bad, though. I finished with a cheese plate of coastal cheddar, French feta, gorgonzola, walnuts, dried apples, figs, and prunes with Oregon honey—good, but the cheese was served cold. The service was fine, the server herself sweet but distant. The room was energetic, with several large parties.

Sacks: Also downtown, right around the corner from Orso. I ordered a bottle of the 2007 Martin Sanchez Rueda Verdejo, also fine but not exceptional. They brought out some nice bread with a rosemary crust, and olive oil. I started with the calamari salad with polenta croutons, baby spinach, olives, capers, grape tomatoes, artichokes, onion, and warm herbed vinaigrette. This was good, with strips of calamari steak done nicely.

I continued with the grilled sockeye salmon, with “deconstructed” spring roll, soy maple glaze, chili oil, wasabi aioli, jasmine rice, sashimi marinade, and pickled ginger. This was a dazzling presentation. The “deconstructed” spring roll turned out to be flash fried rice paper embedded vertically in a mound of cabbage and onions with the salmon overlaid. All good although, again, the fish was very close to being overcooked. I ended with the baked brie en croute, with sherry poached apricots, caramelized walnuts, olive tapenade, roasted garlic, and balsamic reduction. This was very good. Plus a glass of dessert wine, the Yalumba Viognier. The service was good and engaged, the room mellow with Coltrane’s Giant Steps as background.

Southside Bistro: This place is way south, right off the Seward Highway about 15 minutes from downtown, in a strip mall next to an Ace hardware store and a very good bicycle shop. They had the 2007 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc at a reasonable price, so I ordered one. It was good as always. They brought crusty bread and olive oil. I started with the crab ravioli in grilled fennel and sweet corn broth. This was not successful. The fennel was limp and the whole preparation overwhelmed by the corn flavor.

The main course was oven roasted halibut with saffron cream and wild mushroom relish, served with “bistro” rice (a mix of Arborio and wild rice), and steamed al dente zucchini, carrots, yellow squash, and broccoli. The halibut was cooked properly but the piece was also on the thin side. The saffron cream was yummy. At that point my tooth was more savory than sweet, so I finished with the appetizer I should have ordered in the first place, grilled eggplant with tomatoes, capers, garlic, onions, chard strips, sun dried tomato-red pepper relish, and goat cheese. A mouthful of flavor. The service was perfunctory and almost robotic. Also, they can put in all the shades they want, but the room still looks out on a parking lot with a view of a busy gas station.

Kincaid Grill: This place is also in a strip mall, just off the road to Kincaid Park, near the airport. Fortunately the view beyond the parking lot is of the Chugach Mountains to the east. I ordered a bottle of the 2007 Chateau Ste Michelle-Dr. Loosen “Eroica” Riesling, which was very good, although “Dr. Loosen” is an odd name for a food product. They brought crusty bread and butter and immediately offered to supplement it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I started with the scallop chowder with leeks, potatoes, and white truffle oil. There was one nice, perfectly cooked scallop, topped with a mound of thin strips of fried leeks, which were chewy. An excellent choice.

They brought a palate cleanser, watermelon granita with a mint leaf. Very subtle flavor, but good. I continued with the halibut special – the fish pan-seared with a porcini crust with sautéed green beans and sun dried tomatoes, all drizzled with a wine reduction and a Dijon sauce. On the side were horseradish mashed potatoes. This was a substantial piece of fish, cooked wonderfully, easily the best fish of the four meals.

The only problem was the horseradish mashed potatoes, which were so horseradish-laden they could have been served with gefilte fish. One bite and it was almost impossible to go back to the delicate halibut. I asked the server to try a bite and after she recovered she agreed and comped me a dessert. This was a massive cheese plate – suitable for four, really – comprising many large slabs of gouda, gorgonzola, and petit Basque, plus dried figs, currants, and walnuts. I packed the leftovers to take on the plane home. The service was good and engaged.

I also want to mention a quick bite I had at Savannah Grill downtown. This is the local tapas place (!). I ordered a glass of the Tilia malbec/syrah, plus two plates, the fried calamari with tomato dip and spicy mayo and the patatas bravas on skewers with chorizo sausage. Good stuff. This was on my last afternoon in town and I immediately wished I had had a dinner there instead of Orso or Southside.

When I dine while traveling my usual question is “would I eat here if it were close to home?” So for Anchorage the answer is “yes” for Sacks, Kincaid Grill, and Savannah Grill and “no” for Orso and Southside Bistro. That said, my overall impression is that the dining is pretty good for a metro area of ~350,000. And all of the places had interesting, thoughtful wine lists.

May 13, 2009
MercerChow in Pacific Northwest

Eating Local: Princeton

On the subject of local fishmongers, don't overlook Hillsborough Lobster Dock on Rt 206 (in the midst of that highly congested area). Unfortunately I rarely get up there. My take is extremely high quality, though not always the widest selection, and the love of fish shines through everywhere. It's the place to go if you want to talk about/learn about fish. If it were closer to home I would go nowhere else.

Apr 25, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

The New Calico Grill in Princeton--Anyone Go Yet?

Sorry to report that our first dinner at Calico Grill turned out to be a disappointment. We were fully prepared to like it – hoping in fact for a fish-oriented alternative to the long waits at Blue Point down the street. Sadly, Calico did not handle its fish very well and so it does not seem to be a real alternative.

We started off splitting the Calico’s Sampler Platter, which featured portions of three appetizers: fried calamari (fine), crab cake (also fine), and seared Hawaiian poke, which comprised chunks of yellowfin marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, green onion, and red chili. The yellowfin was way overcooked, chewy in fact, and had that gray complexion I usually associate with steam tables at Chinese buffets.

I ordered one of the specials, a yellowfin steak with ginger beurre blanc. It was billed as “black and blue” – meaning blackened on the outside but still very rare on the inside. When it arrived (served on a bed of rice with spinach on the side) the interior retained only the slightest hint of pink and was not very moist. In hindsight I should have sent it back. The sauce was good, though.

Mrs MC ordered the fresh seasonal fish, which gives a choice of any of the fish of the day (four offered on this particular day), with the sauce of the day (beurre blanc), and choice of preparation (steaming, grilling, broiling, sautéing). She chose the salmon, grilled. It came out nice and crusty, but the interior was just on the verge of being overcooked, though it was still moist. It was served with chipotle mashed yucca potatoes, which were tasty.

The room is small and cheerful and the service friendly if not too polished. It is BYOB, and we were happy to see the server appear immediately with a corkscrew. He opened the bottle and set it down. Unfortunately there were no glasses and we had to wait several minutes before they showed up.

This was just one meal and perhaps the kitchen was unusually aggressive with the heat on this particular evening. If you choose to go, I would recommend making yourself very clear on how you like your fish prepared.

Apr 19, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Eating Local: Princeton

You can download the PDF of the Edible Jersey article here:

http://www.ediblejersey.com/content/p...

Happy to see Brothers Moon in Hopewell get some recognition. Although the Princeton area now has several fine restaurants with a local focus (e.g., Eno Terra, Blue Bottle, Elements), Brothers Moon was out there years ahead of the rest.

Mar 25, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Chowhoundish places around Long Branch?

Bringing the family over from Mercer County to an evening event at Monmouth University.

Where's a good place to grab a bite beforehand? No fine dining, just classic Chowhound fare. Any ethnic is fine, as is veggie. Food trumps ambiance. Timing will be tight, so we want to stick close to the venue.

Mar 21, 2009
MercerChow in New Jersey

Thai in Princeton/Trenton area?

There's a thread on Tom Yum Goong:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/384211

Mar 08, 2009
MercerChow in Mid-Atlantic