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Everything posted by cwhatley

  1. I never went to the pre-renovations Sakura Bana, but we dropped in last night. I have to say I was pretty unimpressed. The high points were the special soft shell crab roll and the lobster sashimi. Everything else was pretty much middle-of-the-road. Regarding the lobster sashimi, it was really just the sashimi that was good. The miso soup they made with the remainder of the lobster was pretty disappointing. That miso soup was one of the things I was looking forward to having. We ordered a mixed tempura for the kids and it showed up barely warm. Their cold soba noodles were very average. I ordered sashimi a la carte and just was not impressed with the quality of the fish and especially not with the size of the pieces. Very stingy! Their wasabi was awful! Hardly any actual wasabi in there... just a bunch of white horseradish. This just makes me appreciate Koyama in Cliffside Park that much more. They always deliver on the sushi and sashimi there. Their wasabi is usually a very mild and creamy grind with (I think!) lots of the real root in there and probably not cut with much regular horseradish. Two adults, two kids (4&7) -> $156 and I was not very full. Blah. The service was fairly good though you could tell they were struggling to keep up. I feel bad about being critical of the place because the waitresses sang a very nice happy birthday for my daughter and gave her an ice cream on the house.
  2. I just tried Koyama on Palisades in Cliffside Park a few weeks ago. We were more there to test out the home cooking (which was excellent), so we just asked for a chef's choice plate of sushi. It was really great. First off, the rice is a little different than most places. I think the chef is using a different vineagar. It is not amazingly better, but it is different and quite good. The fish itself was great. Large pieces that felt like the chef warmed them in his hand or something before serving. The temperature seemed just right and the flavor really came out. The wasabi they use seems almost whipped up into a cream which added to the whole melt-in-your mouth feeling of the sushi. We didn't get any rolls, just fish on rice. Uni is always kind of a good metric and theirs is good. I've been having a lot of nice sweet uni lately though, so maybe that's not as good a litmus test as it used to be.
  3. Shutting down! Bummer. I'd heard rumors that Tamaya was going away for a while (the building was in a real estate ad at one point too), but tonight it was confirmed by the waitress. They are closing at the end of March. I live in Tenafly, and Tamaya had the best of Japanese home cooking in the area. If you like the place, try it once more before they go. We went tonight and had some of our favorites. The kids go for eel over rice (una don), wife for kakiage don, and I had katsu don - simple, but I've been craving it. My wife doesn't like me to, but I had to have my regular natto tempura. It will give you bad breath, but it tastes great. They prepare a nest of onions and natto (stinky fermented soy beans) and deep fry it like a kakiage tempura. Also, we had tofu dressing salad, tofu goma (sesame sauce plus great mushrooms), and a funky little "moichi pizza". To finish up, the kids had green tea ice cream while my wife and I had zenzai (sweet red bean soup with a blob of toasted moichi and savory seaweed on the side for contrast). Other favorites: Wasabi steak, sukiyaki, octopus balls (balls of octopus meat, not an octopus' balls ), squid balls, ... Anybody know where else you can get this kind of food around here? I have heard that the restaurant next to Mitsuwa is OK, but I'm reluctant to try it after having a really bad meal there about 7 years ago. Mitsuwa's food court has this kind of stuff and it is good, just not great.
  4. I took the family to Mama Mexico on Friday. I was hoping for something along the lines of a Rosa Mexicano experience. While we certainly paid a Rosa Mexicano price, the meal was a lot more like Taco Hell. Our bill came out to nearly $100 before drinks for three dishes, guacamole, and nachos. Sheesh! They do the guacamole at the table thing and it was fine. The ingredients were fresh. The chips were also fresh and crisp. Nachos are one of my two kid's favorite foods and they wouldn't touch them. For some reason, they drizzled a red sauce all over them. A warning would have been nice since the menu just said bean and cheese. The nachos arrived only slightly warm, but did have a nice scoop of guacamole on them. I somewhat enjoyed them until I did the math and realized I was paying about $1 per chip. I had the enchiladas mole poblano. Oof. It was like they made it with Hershey's syrup. Too sweet! It was like a chicken sundae. $24! My wife had some tacos. I was too disturbed by my meal to notice any more than her saying this was the worst. My kids had the chicken and beef fajitas. They were in tears when a big steaming pile of onions and peppers arrived with three flour tortillas. $22! Finally we dug out about 5 pieces of meat that were bathed in the same red sauce used on the nachos. After threatening "no dessert for a week", the kids finally choked it down. I haven't had fajitas since leaving Texas 10 years ago, so I'm not really sure what to expect. Aside from the very unsatisfying meal, the upsides were the decor and service. Our waitress was really nice and attentive. We had some virgin strawberry margs for the kids and pomegranite margs for the adults. They were good. My biggest regret is that I could have fed the family four times at La Batalla for that amount of money and we would have eaten far better food. Screw the fancy decor and the valet parking (oh man, I hate that).
  5. When I was a kid in Texas, Dickie's was actually a great barbecue place. Then they got the great idea to franchise and stamp out a bunch of third rate drive-thru places. Very sad.
  6. Not sure what Whole Foods you go to, but the one in Edgewater in particular as well as any other one I've bought coffee from has a sticker on the coffee bin or barrel that tells you when it was roasted.
  7. I have had pretty good luck at Whole Foods. They have a good range of fresh stuff. My current fave there is the Mexican blend. I'm sure there are better places to go, but since I do a lot of grocery shopping there, it works for me. Also, my back-up to fancy-pants coffee when none is available is Dunkin Donuts. It is a little too mild for my tastes, but is dependable. They sell beans there too which is good if their coffee floats your boat. I too am not thrilled with Starbucks most of the time. I only get lattes there, not the drip. I find that freezing the coffee picks up freezer taste no matter how well I seal it. Instead of grinding and freezing, I have a grinder with a hopper and grind just before brew. I do it very low-tech and rotate between a press or a melitta/chemex manual drip. Automatic coffee makers get really gross after a while.
  8. I second the high praise for this place. The dumplings are amazingly good, large, and have a very nice skin on them that is very tender and holds up in the fridge nicely for a day or two without getting dry. I usually don't do anything to them. I just eat them as is with maybe a little soy sauce or chili garlic sauce. I love the steamed Kimchee buns.
  9. If only the food was good enough to merit all the heavy lifting going on in this thread. Baumgarts is supremely mediocre. Within 100 feet are better versions of most of what they have. Side note: Directly across the street, I had a dreamy hot pastrami, sauerkraut and russian on rye the other day. Makes me regret even more the time I had a turkey reuben at Baumgarts.
  10. I went in there on Saturday and got great kimchi, kimchi dumplings and soup. It was all fantastic. I especially like the dumplings because the kimchi, while noticable, is not overpowering. For overpowering kimchi dumplings, I head for Won Mandoo in Cliffside Park (big Kimchi pork steamed buns there too). I guess I met the Mrs. at the deli who was really nice. At one point, she called up her son on the cell and he talked to me about how best to prepare her dumplings - in soup, not pan fried.
  11. Picnic, Parisienne & Gateaux on Main in Fort Lee have limited selections of bubble tea. Gateaux is also in Closter and a few other towns. None have the broad menu of Saint's Alp's (never quite figured out the double-possessive there). If you want a wider selection, there are also a number of places in Flushing that are easier access than Manhattan Chinatown. I live in Tenafly and can usually be out my door and sitting in a restaurant in Flushing in around 30 mins (traffic permitting). I don't recall the name of the place I'm thinking of, but it is at the southwest corner of 39th Rd. and Main. Lots of snacks too.
  12. cwhatley

    China 46

    Why would you want to become a regular when you have to start out eating mediocre dishes?
  13. cwhatley

    China 46

    I'm glad to see I'm not totally missing something about this place. Based on the raves here, I have tried China 46 three times over the last year and always came away disappointed. It did not seem to be even close in quality to Little Soo Chow on Route 46 in Lodi. Unfortunately that place closed down and was quickly replaced by another restaurant that tried and has failed to copy their quality - Big Soo Chow (or something like that). Nothing I've had at China 46 is even close in quality to Shianghai Garden, Shianghai Cuisine or Joe's Shianghai in Manhattan's Chinatown (listed in order of my preferences).
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