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Top Chef Masters Recap: Season 3, Episode 8

Another gimmick show. Can't wait for this season to be over.

Jun 02, 2011
fpatrick in Features

Allen's Clam Bar - New Gretna

Was there earlier this summer. Not really impressed. About the only success food-wise was the steamers, and it's tough to screw them up. Service sucked - couldn't get staff's attention, and our waitress messed up details of sides and beverages. Wife's broiled fish was nothing to write home about, and my grilled shrimp caesar salad was populated sparsely with small shrimp. All in all, no plans to return.

(Maybe we should have had fried fish, but at looking at other tables' dishes, the fried stuff looked awful dark - overfried?)

Aug 19, 2010
fpatrick in New Jersey

restaurants in Somerset area

If you're willing to consider something from the western hemisphere as "ethnic", you might want to try Real Jamaican Jerk an' Ting on Hamilton Street. Watch for a bright green and yellow building on the way to New Brunswick.

Real Jamaican Jerk An' Ting
500 Hamilton St, Somerset, NJ 08873

Jun 16, 2010
fpatrick in New Jersey

Best Independent Donut Shops in New Jersey?

Dot's Pastry Shoppe
3148 Asbury Avenue
Ocean City, NJ 08226-2230

It's a seasonal shop, closed during the winter. Tender Jelly and Yeast donuts (glazed and chocolate icing), but with a perfect exterior toothiness when fresh. Super Cinnamon Rolls.

Apr 26, 2010
fpatrick in New Jersey

Best cities in Asia to visit for chowing?

Saba sushi - the local mackerel.

Reasonably priced & yummy places near Parsippany, Whippany, Morris Plains or Livingston?

Minado Japanese Buffet - large, excellent selection of both cooked food and sushi. Offerings vary between lunch (including great baked bluefish) and dinner (sashimi and something they call salmon tataki with a great cilatro-based sauce)..

Minado Restaurant
2888 State Route 10, Morris Plains, NJ 07950

Dec 01, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Need a good bakery in the Central Jersey area

Probably not practical for the Manalapan area, but our go-to bakery for cakes is Raritan Pastry Shop in Raritan.

Nov 03, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Skylark Diner

Is this the Skylark in Edison we're talking about?

Oct 19, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Bagel Recommendations in Central NJ?

Bagel Barn on 206 in Montgomery (north of Princeton) is my current favorite. Good chewy bagels and generous with the shmear.

Jul 13, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Ocean City NJ - moved from Pennsylvania board

Jun 07, 2009
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Best Italian Hot Dogs in NJ??

Can't say that I'm a current connoisseur of Italian Hot Dogs, given my struggles with cholesterol and diabetes, but the last time I had one at Hoagie Hut in Bridgewater, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hoagie Hut
357 Union Ave, Bridgewater, NJ 08807

Apr 24, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Rotisserie Chicken Central NJ

I'm generally with the Costco crowd, but, on the edge of the concept of rotisserie chicken - if you don't mind it butterflied, cut in pieces, and served with rice or salad - is the rotating Portuguese BBQ Chicken at 28 Barbeque in Bound Brook.

28 Barbeque & Restaurant
303 W Union Ave, Bound Brook, NJ 08805

Apr 14, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Tacos anyone???

Just south of Bound Brook.


Easton Ave or Weston's Canal Road exits off of 287

Mar 11, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Best egg tarts in Hong Kong?

The lard content in egg tart crust something my ovo-lactic fish-eating "vegetarian" egg tart -addicted wife refuses to think about.

BTW, when we were in HK last October, we came across a bakery on a corner in Sheung Wan (almost cross the street from the cafe, Graze, if my memory serves me right) that had excellent Portuguese style (like Lord Stow) tarts. Unfortunately I don't remember the name.

Under The Moon - Bordentown

Based on what I've read here, we stopped by UTM for lunch yesterday on our trip from Somerset County to Ocean City. We've been interested in alternatives to Mastori's in the area and had hopes for some good food. It seems most reviews here have been about dinner. The lunch menu is dominated by wraps, salads, sandwiches and pastas. Unfortunately, only half of the six components of our meals were successful.

Hopes remained high with the presentation of some nicely toasted bread and a parsley/garlic/lemon/hot pepper flavored oil for dipping - tasty.

We both ordered sandwiches, which came with a side salad with a balsamic dressing that was really quite harsh - a higher proportion of vinegar to oil than I'm used to, and at home I do go a little heavy on the vinegar myself. It was also dusted with some dried herbs that were still dry and not integrated into the salad or dressing. Oregano? Marjoram? Hard to tell, since they really only added a distracting texture and not a lot of flavor, being overshadowed by the strong vinegar.

For the sandwiches, my Cuban was excellent. The side dish of baby pickled beets were also quite good, only marred slightly by a repeat dusting of those dried herbs.

My wife's Veggie Delight sandwich was big loser #1 of the day. A small single layer of grilled veggies on an oversized roll of unimpressive bread, topped with a thin shmear of goat cheese was a big disappointment. Looking at the other sandwiches around us, that seemed stuffed with a good inch to 2 inches of fillings, the half inch of veggies made the $10 ($9?) price a rip-off.

We love good lemon meringue pie, and were impressed by the height of meringue on the one in the dessert case, but were not impressed by the custardy, barely lemon-flavored filling under it. While my wife's sandwich lost on quantity, this was the big loser on quality. Never had something so heavy in such a pie - it was more like a heavy key lime pie filling than a fruity lemon meringue pie filling. Even the meringue was uneven, with uneven strong hits of sugar encountered in a few separate bites. And the $7 price tag was really painful.

Maybe dinner's a different story, but we probably won't be stopping by again.

Jan 18, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Tokyo Japanese Hibachi & Sushi Buffet, Freehold

Based on comments like FoodDude2's on this thread, compelled to try Makolli - too much comment to add to this thread, so -

Jan 01, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

Makolli Seafood Buffet - Report - 0 Stars

I've been following the recent thread - - about the Tokyo Buffet in Monmouth County, where a lot of people seemed to be singing the praises of Makolli in East Brunswick. Someone even used the phrase "gold the local area" to describe it.

Living in Somerset County and formerly working up in the Parsippany area, my wife and I have become big fans of Minado in Morris Plains, so when I read about Makolli as a closer potential alternative, we decided to check it out today, when they were serving their full dinner for the holiday. Hopes high.

Hopes dashed.

Entering the place, the ambiance was dingy, ill-lit, and redolent of cooking smoke in the air. For a room of it's size, I didn't expect my clothes to be smelling like old frying oil when I left. They need some better ventilation. Shown to our table, service (even just asking us what to drink) was abrupt and curt. No "welcome" from either the hostess - just a "How many? 2?" - or the waiter.

Before loading the plate, took one pass around the serving areas to check out the offerings. Did not impress. Afterwards we decided it came off like a run-of-the-mill Chinese Buffet with stale, pre-prepared sushi added. (Minado also works from the pre-sliced fish as well, but they pull it off with a considerably higher quality end product.


Highlights: Nothing really grabbed me, but I've got to admit, for a "seafood buffet" they've got a good Chinese-style rib. My fishetarian wife enjoyed the seaweed salad. So much for the highlights.

Some specific disappointments...

(I know this is a buffet and can't be measured against any standalone sushi place, but I think I should be able to use Minado as a benchmark, since it's in the same price range for the dinner offerings.)

The presentation of the sushi was not helped by the less than optimal lighting. Nor was it helped by flecks of unidentifiable dark stuff on many of the plates. One of my favorite sushi fish is mackerel, when it's rich and flavorful. At Makolli, it was dry and stiff. So was the clam. At Minado, I'm addicted to salmon skin sushi; at Makolli, it came off like a dry slab of cardboard. More about presentation: at Minado, they add little extras to some of their nigiri, like a bit of ginger and scallion on the saba mackerel, or other little garnishes like tobikko (fish eggs). At Makolli, with the exception of the yellowtail, the fish was just slapped on the rice and jammed on the plates. The yellowtail did have a touch of scallion.

Salads and veggies were limited. The pile of mushrooms just looked so heavy and unappetizing, didn't even take any. My wife did, and left half on her plate.

On to the cooked food.

Again, whereas Minado puts out some interesting items like white fish with misago (?) sauce, great skewers of salmon and scallion, nice light tempura, and usually a whole bluefish to pick apart, Makolli just felt like - I mentioned before - a run-of-the-mill Chinese buffet. Tempura shrimp - a heavy half-inch thick coating of something that did not resemble good tempura around a skinny shrimp - my wife took two (admittedly dainty) bites of the end of one and still didn't hit shrimp. Seafood pancakes were not drained before being put on the steam table - greasy, very greasy.

They had some "Grilled Chilli Sea Bass". Since there was no evidence of any chilies in the preparation, they must have meant Chilean Sea Bass. Such an expensive (I assume this was part of the lineup that took the price from a 11.99 lunch to a 20.99 dinner) and endangered fish should have been shown more respect than was given here. Again, oil-laden and with some julienned scallions or leeks, the fish ran the gamut from chunks of bone to mushy. No sense of the richness one would expect from sea bass. $21 would not get a good piece of CSB at a real restaurant, so maybe I'm being too picky, but was just bad.

Stuffed jumbo prawn (again, probably part of "dinner") - so mealy I couldn't take a second bite.

Figuring they couldn't hurt the nice looking choi sum, they didn't. Just steamed. Might have liked a little seasoning, maybe some garlic and a touch of oil or soy, but given the preparation of the rest of the food, just steamed was good.

Bottom line - At Minado, I usually can't stop myself and load up 3 - sometimes 4 plates, suffering all the way back down 287 from over-eating. At Makolli, 2 plates were more than enough - one pass at the sushi and one pass at the cooked food. Nothing was calling to me for seconds.

I think the pertinent part of that other poster's "gold standard" comment was the "in the local area" part - like the local 1/4 mile strip of Route 18.

We'll continue to trek up 287 and 10 to Minado. A shame -- we were hoping for a closer alternative.

Jan 01, 2009
fpatrick in New Jersey

east brunswick for christening

Not a paragon of culinary excellence, but The Chateau (on Cranbury Road) has been good enough for some of my larger family gatherings, like engagements, anniversaries, and after funerals. Nothing fancy, but then nothing "too fancy" for the older and younger family members. If you're willing to go to Somerset/Middlebush, O'Connors on Hamilton St worked out well for my mother's 80th birthday last year - catered buffet was better than the restaurant.

Nov 24, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

inexpensive, quick, sit down in AC

Just a couple blocks south of White House subs is Little Saigon - good Vietnamese, not expensive.

Nov 09, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Hong Kong Peking Duck - But not the whole duck?

When I visited HK last year, my vegetarian wife humored me and joined me to watch me eat some Peking Duck. What turned into a problem was the fact that the restaurant we went to only served it as a whole duck. It was great going down as I ate about a half a duck, and we took the leftovers back to the minibar fridge in our hotel.

It was not so great coming back up, as the experience turned into a binge and purge situation later that day. I guess it was richer with the skin and fat than the mere quantity suggested.

I've only ever seen restaurants offering the quacker as a whole bird. We're returning to HK next month, and I was wondering if there's any restaurants that offer worthwhile Peking Duck in "serving portions" rather than all or nothing.

Stewarts Drive-Ins

Rt 30, Hammonton, NJ - Carhops, and does seasonal fruit-flavored milkshakes - they're in the middle of blueberry country (but it's all about the root beer and hot dogs for me.)

Sep 16, 2008
fpatrick in New Jersey

Pluckemin Inn Friday Night Club

Had a great anniversary dinner last week at Pluckemin Inn. (Won't go into details other than a beautiful piece of 2"x2"x2" swordfish was on my plate, with all the accouterments one might expect at such a higher-end establishment.)

While there, noticed they have a Friday Night Dining Club going on every other Friday through September...Communal table up to 14 (usually), accepting reservations for from 1 to 14, different themes of food and wine courses, $100 per person (plus tax/tip). More details on their website under events.

The one that caught my attention, and for which I've made a reservation for myself (since the wife's vegetarian), and that I thought could make for an interesting Chowhound dinner, is the one on September 26.

The theme is "Pig - From Head to Tail".

Need I say more?

I think not.

When I asked about how many seats remained after my reservation, I was told 3, but that if demand was enough, they'd be able to add another table of 10.

Like I said, this could be a good Chowhound evening. If you decide to make a reservation, let us know on this thread.

Aug 21, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Ocean City Restaurant Help Family!

Jul 25, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Steamers on the shore

Just guessing that "down the shore" might come from the fact that NJ population skews to the northern part of the state, and shore destinations are central and southern. If north is up and south is down, most Jerseyans go "down [to] the shore" or are "down [at] the shore."

Jul 18, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Flemington area eats

For a fancy dinner, at least a few years ago, very pleased with Harvest Moon Inn a bit down 202 in Ringoes.

Jul 07, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Zen Palate in Princeton

I wouldn't go so far as to say "horrible", but (based on when I visited the NYC location), Zen Palate's approach of creating soy protein versions of meat by its very nature, is doomed to failure on the palate of a carnivore, and runs the risk of disappointing vegetarians who have gotten used to, if not developed a distaste for ersatz "meat". Why go with fake meat that no one likes when there are so many real ethnic eateries that offer up great vegetable dishes for what they are?

Jul 07, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

The Incredible Shrinking Grocery Bag

I think I've noticed the same thing in the fast food world. I usually open up my $1 BK Whopper Juniors to add mustard, and recently have gotten the feeling that they've been maintaining the "dollar menu" status by shrinking the pattie.

Jul 03, 2008
fpatrick in Features

Cider in Central New Jersey

One of my favorite summertime libations (when cider is perhaps at less than its peak) can be found at Delicious Orchard's cider bar - I ask for a cup (or 2) of half cider half orange juice (which along with the lemonade, is also quite good at DO). Then take it down to Keyport to wash down a shrimp and scallop platter at Keyport Fishery.

Jun 20, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

Where to go?

A few years ago, we had a very nice meal and experience at Harvest Moon Inn in Ringoes. Have wanted to go back, but for some reason...

Jun 20, 2008
fpatrick in Mid-Atlantic

IS there any Good Sushi?

my better half and i have been known to go to Minado in Morris Plains - on Route 10 a mile or two west of 287 - from our Hillsborough home

Jun 06, 2008
fpatrick in New Jersey