Friday, November 9, 2012

Ya Ya Noodles Chinese Restaurant, Skillman

Ok. I have to be honest here. I did not have high hopes for this place... my reasons for this are twofold. One, their Yelp reviews are REALLY mixed. Super mixed. Not at all consistent. So that was a red flag. Two, a girl that I used to work with really liked it. Why is that a bad thing? 'Cuz I remember some of her other 'favorite' places that I had gone to with her, and they were bleh.

So why did I go? Ever get a craving for something and you know that you will NOT be satisfied 'til you get it? Everything else makes you wince a bit, and you can already taste what you are craving? Yea.. I got one of those cravings for sesame chicken, and it was NOT going away. I tried ignoring it, but it was sesame chicken or bust. Ya Ya Noodles is the closest place to my office that I didn't know for a fact was gross (surprising amount of bad Chinese food in the Princeton area!) so I went.

It was good! WHEW! Surprisingly tasty and fresh food, nicely decorated, and the staff was super pleasant. I was surprised to see that they had a sushi bar/ sushi offerings, and that spawned a second, smaller craving for sunomono. So I ordered one, along with my sesame chicken. and a good time was had by my taste buds, indeed.

The sunomono was good. Not too heavily dressed, but the perfect amount of tang and acid. A nice assortment of fish (octopus, white tuna, mackerel,crab, salmon, and yellow tail), a little skimpy on the cucumbers, but it was fish heavy so why the heck am I complaining? 'Wah, not enough delicious seafood in my salad, I want more greens'... anyone feeling bad for me yet? So yeah. It was tasty. And filling. I didn't NEED sesame chicken after it.... I just wanted it.

And it was awesome! Some of the best I have had in a long time. I am not sure if this was because I wanted it SO badly, or if it was just because it was that good. I will have to go again and report back. But they only used big pieces of white meat chicken... none of that chewy, mystery gristle that often claims to be sesame chicken. It was sour and sticky, salty and tangy, but not gloppy, and the chicken stayed nice and crispy. The portions were also gigantic. For a $7 lunch special I got a huge pile of chicken, a proper side of broccoli and white rice, and then my choice of a bowl of soup, an eggroll, or a can of soda (since I also had the sunomono I forwent the soup for a soda). Not a bad deal at all! Plus the portion was so generous that I had leftovers... like, a meal's worth of leftovers!

I liked this place enough to go back again. Which I will do. And then I will report back to let you know if I find them as great when I am not ready to claw my eyes out to get to some sesame goodness. Stay tuned....

Ya Ya Noodles
Chinese Restaurant
Montgomery Center
1325 Route 206 North
Skillman, NJ 08558

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Osteria Procaccini, Pennington

Oh how I do love pizza. All kinds. Every kind. But even better than just pizza? Perfect pizza. And folks, I believe we have found it.

Matt and I stumbled upon Osteria Procaccini's original location in Kingston, NJ last year, and fell instantly and deeply in love. Their pizza is nothing short of amazing.... crispy crust, luscious sauce, high quality toppings. Their salads are giant and full of interesting things.The staff was friendly. It was a true delight. The only problem was the place was tiny. Teeny tiny. Itsy bitsy teenie weeny tiny. We're talking about 8 tables for two, in a single line. This made us hesitant to go as much as we wanted to, since we would often have to wait (in cramped quarters, no less). And then the magical happened. A second location! Triple the size! Equally close to us, in Pennington! YAY!

As soon as we found out, we were on our way. Our friend Meesh joined us for our maiden voyage, which was wonderful... more people= more food= more things for me to try. We kicked the meal off with an apple, walnut, and gorgonzola salad and an appetizer special simply entitled "Mama's Meatballs". The salad was lovely... not over dressed, nice and fresh, every apple bright and crisp, loads of crunchy walnuts, and of course a heap of tangy gorgonzola. They certainly did not cheap out with the ingredients...I hate places that throw ya a slice or two of apple... gee thanks. The salad was enough for all three of us to have a decent size serving.

The meatballs were amazing. The sauce they were in was so full of flavor, so tomato-y and perfectly seasoned, and yet still let them meat shine through. I am almost positive we were dealing with a veal, beef, pork mixture (we know for sure it was at least beef and pork, we asked, because Meesh is anti piggy) but no matter what it was it was tasty. Darned tasty. The balls were nice and dense, but didn't feel too heavy. Adorned with little dollops of goat cheese, this was a wonderful start to our meal.

Dinner was three pizzas, as they only do one size (a 12" personal...  large for a personal, I know, but woo pizza!) I opted for the pesto pomodoro pizza... it was basically bruchetta pizza. Delicious. Crispy, thin crust topped with mozzarella, pesto soaked tomatoes, and then drizzled with a thick balsamic reduction. It was beautiful to look at and delightful to eat. I am often wary of balsamic reductions, usually finding them too acidic or too sweet. Osteria Procaccini had perfected the art of the balance, and it was pleasing to everyone. The pesto was very subtle, which allowed for the flavor of the tomato to really shine. Yum.

Matt went tried and true with the Margherita D.O.C. pie. Simple, classic, and perfectly executed.  For those that don't know D.O.C. stands for 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata', and is a measure of authentic pizza standards. It requires certain things to be true of your pie to be able to label it as such. 1. It must be cooked in a wood burning oven. 2. It requires the ingredients to be fresh, non processed, and all natural. 3. The dough must be kneaded by hand or low speed mixer. No mechanical dough shaping allowed! All of these things lend for a truly authentic, Napoletana style pizza. This was just that. Picture perfect, classicly executed, as tasty as all git out.

Meesh went with the pizza vongole... clam pizza! They offer it in red or white, and she opted for white. The pie was piled high with clams, garlic, and shaved parmigana cheese. While it was a touch dry, as it's a sauceless pie, there was a ton of flavor. The clams were sweet and plump, the cheese plentiful and slightly salty and nutty, and the dough was chewy and wonderful.

This new location also offers wine! Who knew!? It's so rare to find a restaurant that has a wine menu, with no full bar, so we were surprised. The wine was pretty reasonably priced (bottles ranged from $18 -$30 I believe), and a decent selection was available.

Osteria Procaccini is a serious gem. The menu is somewhat limited in that the only offerings are pizzas, salads, and sandwiches (the meatballs seemed to be a rare treat... we had never seen them offered before at the other location). That being said, you can still find something for everyone. With fresh ingredients, a beautiful new space, and interesting and unique takes on old favorites I think everyone will enjoy this place.

Osteria Procaccini
7 Tree Farm Road
Suite 101
Pennington, NJ 08534


4428 Route 27 North
Kingston, NJ 08528

I'm back, BABY!

Hey there! Remember me? I used to tell you where you could eat in NJ? And you liked it? And I liked you? Well, I'm back, baby! I took a little hiatus to get married, buy a house, and scope out some new places to eat, but I'm here, and ready to report on what tastes great in the Garden State! I hope you still wanna know.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Knife and Fork Inn, Atlantic City

Want a superbly competent waitstaff? Beautiful and historic surroundings? Delicious food? Extensive wine list? Then, my friends, it seems that you want to go to The Knife and Fork Inn in Atlantic City. Swoon. It's all of this and more! Plus, it has a rich history... it was a speak easy during prohibition, and a gentleman's club afterwards. Then they turned into into a restaurant and it's been well loved and well received ever since. We made a recent trek with DY&IK during their weekend visit to the shore house. I love when foodie friends come to visit :)

IK started off with an appetizer off of the specials menu... a crab and avocado terrine. It was good, but not spectacular, and here is why. Summer time crab is so delicious and sweet and suculent on it's own that it would be the perfect compliment to mild and creamy avocado without assistance from any 'enhancers'. The chef apparently did not think this was the case and tossed the crab with some seasoned mayonaise... completely unnecessary. It made the whole thing a bit too wet, and way too creamy. It was tasty, of course (how can crab, mayo, and avocado not be?) but too heavy. Good but not our favorite.

DY went with oysters. Nothing much to report. They were seasonal, fresh and delicious. Came with a jalapeno and citrus dipping sauce that was delicious but not needed.... nothing (to me at least!) beats the briney bite of an in season oyster... no horseradish, no cocktail sauce, no nada. Just me, oyster, and face. Done.

Matt has gotten adventurous, people. He ordered (hand to God) the softshell crab. This was done as almost a tempura, over top of a thai inspired coconut milk and pepper mixture. This was AMAZING. So much flavor. I love thai food for it's always happy combination of spicy, sweet, salty and bitter and this had each compenent in the perfect way. Sweet coconut milk, hot chilis, slightly salty softshell crab.. it was a treat. The crab was cooked to perfection, crunchy on the outside but giving way to sweet delicious meat on the inside. I love the snap of a properly cooked softshell crab. This was a serious treat. Sadly it was a special.... soooo.... yeah.

I went with the confit duck leg salad. Holy crap. This was amazing. Seriously succulent duck, cooked in it's own fat atop a bed of leafy greens in a dressing comprised of bacon, ducky drippings and vinegar? Yeah... don't mind if I do. Salty, crunchy, earthy, delicious. The duck leg was huge, too! I could have easily had this and a cup of soup and called it an evening.

Both DY and Matt went with steaks.... DY with the monster of the menu, the 18oz cowboy steak, Matt with the tamer but still giant 16oz sirloin steak. Both were cooked to absolute perfection with a delicious crust and a tender inside. Matt had been dreaming of steak at Knife and Fork Inn since our first visit, years ago, and knew what he was going to get months in advance. According to him it's one of the best steaks he has ever had, and they didn't dissapoint on this visit, either. DY seemed happy too, as his plate was completely cleaned and meat free by the end of the meal.

IK went with one of the dinner specials, a fluke fillet perched upon a bevy of sliced zuchinni and topped with roasted cherry tomatoes. It was light, summery, and completely season appropriate. The fish was really fresh and IK really enjoyed it. Personally I thought it was a bit bland, but I just never considered fluke a 'go to' fish for full flavor. Who knows, maybe its just me. Long story short, the person eating it was happy, it was cooked well and looked nice. The end.

My dinner was an absolute treat. Better than I ever remembered from any of my previous visits. I went with the crab cake, and this is the one that I have always used and will continue to use as my golden standard. Huge, giant hunks of jumpo lump crab meat packed into a towering cake, with litte, if any, filling sitting pretty surrounded by spicy Asian slaw and red pepper sauce. It's perfect. You get all crab and no BS bready smoosh nonsense. The slaw gives crunch, should you want it, but I was so focused on the delicious crustacean that it took me a while to remember to dip into the veg. So good. So very very good.
Too full for dessert (although they have an amazing confection refered to as a banana chocolate burrito... if you like your taste buds order it) we rolled out and hit the boardwalk. Knife and Fork Inn is a little piece of history in downtown Atlantic City. It's absolutely stunning, has a pretty lively bar scene, and the service is impecable (friendly and knowledgeable without being overbearing or creepy... good combo!)

Knife and Fork Inn
Atlantic and Pacific Avenue-08401
609 344 1133

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tula, New Brunswick

To be honest, some time has passed since we visited Tula, and I see that the website and menu have changed quite a bit. This being said, I will let you know about the experience we had, and then what looks new and different. Tula is on Easton Ave., the 'main drag' in New Brunswick, and is located next to Evelyn's, which is owned by the same people. The look is modern, but inviting... lots of open space, with very linear furniture, and a glass- mosaic bar. Tres cool.
Tula was boasting a prix fixe menu at the time of our visit. It was a pretty good deal, but I see now that they have done away with it (didn't want to get your hopes up, folks!) I'm going to give you the quick run down... Mom and I ordered the tuna tartare, Dad went with the white gazpacho, and Matt went with the (GASP) scallop. Yes.. Matt plus scallop happened. Weird. To be honest its because the only non seafood options for first course were the gazpacho or garden salad, and he didn't want to waste an order on a salad (his words, not mine!)

Breakdown: The gazpacho was delicious; Fruity, fresh and summery. It was made with green grapes and mint and cucumber and it had a nice crisp bite to it. A little sweet, a little bitey, herbacious and overall just good. Dad was pleased. (Note to reader: this dish remains on the menu to this day, despite the revisions! Get it!) Mom and I adored our tuna tartare. First of all, it was pretty to look at. Second of all, it was tasty. The caviar on top was (infused with, soaked in, mixed with?) wasabi flavored. It really lent a surprising, spicy bite to the sweet, supple tuna. Cucumbers on the bottom were attractive but unnecessary. The portion was large, too.... surprisingly so, especially for a prix fix menu. I enjoyed this. Tuna was fresh, caviar had that pop and sparkle, a bit of citrusy dressing.... all good things. Happy mouth, happy Mom and happy me. The scallops.... womp womp womp. Considering Matt has only JUST recently come around to ANY seafood at all, the scallop choice was already a risk. He likes them (as most people do) perfectly seared on each side, and soft in the middle. These were not that. These were cooked perfectly on one side, but squishy on the bottom and raw in the middle. There's nothing wrong with that in theory, but these were listed as pan seared scallops. It seemed almost like someone took one of those little brulee torches to the top of the scallop and completely neglected the bottom. It tasted good, but texturely, didn't do anything for anyone.

For dinner Dad went with the roasted chicken, Mom and I had the lamb chops, and Matt had the steak (sadly I do not remember the cut, and I see it's no longer on the menu... it was a prix fixe portioned thaaaang). Dad loved his chicken, but to me the star was the veggie mix in the butternut squash (or maybe sweet potato?) puree. So good. So creamy. So satisfyingly sweet, while playing so nicely with the crispy skinned chicken. Yum. Mom and I both thought that the lamb was out of this world. Cooked perfectly (read: pink in the middle with a meaty crust on the outside), it was tender, and full of flavor. It was over a bed of couscous that was better than any I have ever had (to be fair, know that I don't usually like it at all I don't eat a lot of it... but this was still absurdly good). It had all sorts of fun stuff in it... raisins and pistachios and tomatoes. I really enjoyed this dish. A lot. Matt's steak was good, too. A biiiit small, but it was a prix fixe menu (as if you don't remember by now) so of course this is forgiveable. Cooked just as he ordered, it was soft in the middle and had a great meat flavor. Nothing super special or worth noting... just a nicely cooked piece-o-meat.

Desserts were all delicious. Dad got some super rich chocolate thing, Mom and I got a fantastic bread pudding with white chocolate, but Matt picked the winner (BONUS! it is still on the menu, too!) It was a banana empenada, and it was downright insane. Crispy flakey outside, warm, sweet, creamy banana inside, topped with dulce de leche ice cream.... such a treat. So incredible. Hot vs cold, smooth vs crunchy, sweet, rich, so good. Yum. Get that.
While the prix fixe menu has been done away with, it doesn't mean that Tula is not worth a visit. It is SO reasonable (actually it is much cheaper now than it was when we went... Now no entree over 20 bucks! Hooray!) It also seems that the 'lighter fare' (sammiches, namely) are served during dinner hours too, where I do not think it was the case before. It has a much more 'bistro' feel to it now, ya dig? Comfy sounding food as opposed to hoity toity. The space is beautiful, the food is good, the service pleasant... what more could you want?


47 Easton Ave

New Brunswick- 08901

732 246 0014