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NYC Foodies, Get Thee to New Jersey


Fat Guy
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I have to say that if I was somehow in the area I'd be happy to check out Moksha but the odds of that happening are slim to none (I didn't grow up in this area so I have virtually no reason/excuse to go anywhere in the tristate area except for the occasional conference at Princeton or the Hamptons in the summer).

Speaking of which, I'll be in Princeton this Saturday...anywhere within walking distance of the campus that's good for lunch? I've never found anything interesting.

Cucharamama I will visit. Since I live in the WV, it's literally easier for me to get to than the UES or Murray Hill. It took me six months to get to Resto, I should be able to find my way to Cucharamama in less than that!

Nothing else has sounded remotely worth a trip except for maybe something in the Ironbound?

Edited by Nathan (log)
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I'm curious:  Is there a single metro-NYC Jersey resident who has good familiarity with both NYC and Jersey dining who, were he or she to relocate to Manhattan, would still travel to Jersey for food?  Possibly via public transportation?

i consider myself fairly well-versed in NNJ restaurants, Manhattan restaurants, and traveling between Manhattan and NNJ via mass transit (quite often, to say the least, and everyone can be assured that the 22 minutes stated on the NJTransit schedule for a train ride certainly does not paint the entire picture) and by car (more often than most of my peers) both on weekdays and weekends.

to answer your two questions: unlikely, and, very unlikely.

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If I understand it correctly, Sam's position is that even if there are X number of restaurants in New Jersey that are categorically superior to their New York City equivalents, it's still not worth going to them because New York City "is so rich in culinary possibilities that it is inexhaustible to any other than the very most dedicated epicure."

No, this is a mischaracterization of my positions.

How so? You've casually accused me of mischaracterizing your positions and of disingenuousness, but haven't justified either allegation. Indeed, after claiming I mischaracterized your position, you went on to state the same position!

Furthermore, while I stipulate that it may be a shame that I haven't been exposed to the pinnacle of South Indian food, it's also an equal shame that I haven't been exposed to tons of restaurants and culinary styles that are available right here in Manhattan. I mean, I'm a serious cocktailian and haven't even been able to find the time to visit all the bars on my list, never mind all the restaurants. For example, Eben Freeman is supposed to be doing amazing things at Tailor, and I haven't been there yet. I'm certainly going to have a drink at Tailor before I spend half a day driving over to Jersey to eat South Indian food. And that's the point I'm making about Manhattan's inexhaustible culinary possibilities.

Nor is your example on point. You've tried to prop up the argument about "inexhaustible culinary possibilities" by pointing to one of many cocktail places, which only a die-hard fan of the cocktail niche would consider essential. What I said was that New York has a small number of best-in-category places -- that the description "inexhaustible culinary possibilities" ignores the reality that once you cut the list down to the very best then New York City is a very small town. The list is small enough that, from my perspective, if you add a few New Jersey places to the places in Queens and Brooklyn then they're just as essential for at least one visit as Sripraphai or Di Fara's. Since you are a die-hard lover of cocktails, however, you might want to check out SM23 in Morristown, also Mehtani-owned, with its Grant Collins-trained staff and Asian-influenced cocktails (e.g., giant Japanese-style ice spheres, apple-and-thyme martini, etc.). Probably not worth a trip for the average person, but maybe worth it for someone who really wants to cover all the interesting cocktail ground in the region. Then again, since the trip can be combined with dinner at Ming -- the only Bombay-Chinese restaurant I know of in the region (particularly strong lamb offerings) -- it could be a worthwhile outing. An hour on the train from Penn Station, goes very close to the restaurants (they're in the same complex, same ownership). Or get a friend to drive you, as you've noted I've done for you many times to other destinations in New Jersey. It's really no big deal.

The disingenuousness claim is particularly bizarre given that 1- you haven't evidenced a sufficient factual basis to engage in a discussion of public transportation to New Jersey, 2- I've taken public transportation to New Jersey to eat many times and for combined eating-shopping-visiting day trips probably on the order of 50+ times, and 3- I did so plenty of times while working 3,000 hours a year as a lawyer. An inability or unwillingness to relate to someone else's priorities doesn't establish disingenuousness.

There's not much else I can say without repeating the same arguments I've already established. I believe they already respond fully to your post, so that's it from me on this tangent. Rest assured, though, I am being absolutely straightforward in everything I say here. And I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're being straightforward when you say "I stipulate that it may be a shame that I haven't been exposed to the pinnacle of South Indian food."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Conversely, there is at least one restaurant in Westchester that I have made a special trip for from upstate and would do so again - Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I would make the same trip from NYC without hesitation.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Conversely, there is at least one restaurant in Westchester that I have made a special trip for from upstate and would do so again - Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I would make the same trip from NYC without hesitation.

indeed the Ryland Inn, in its heyday, would likely also fit into that category, if not just for the change of scenery. but it was an anomaly.

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Most restaurants everywhere suck, so by definition we're talking about the anomalies.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Nathan is correct. I should have said the only excellent Bombay-Chinese restaurant in the region.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've been a little disappointed at the lack of response with respect to Japanese cuisine.  I was assuming (or maybe wishing) that the presence of Mitsuwa suggested a large Japanese population in the area, and that it would also mean that there were lots of hidden gems representing any of the hundreds of types of Japanese cuisine (other than standard sushi places).  Has anyone with serious knowledge of Japanese cuisine heard anything about this?  Are any of the NYC eGulleters familiar with any rumors of any kind of Japanese places in NJ that are really worth checking out?  Any leads are appreciated.

Dammit, dude, you had to drag me into this quandry, didn't you...

Like Sam, I've resisted in on this one as well, but I meant to write about Mitsuwa because it is the singular example of a NJ foodie destination that I will self-transport to or find someone who is driving to.

I think I'm qualified to weigh in on your question, not just because I'm a prodigious consumer of the full variety of Japanese cuisine, but because I grew up among the largest native Japanese population outside of Japan - this is in the 80s, during Japan's bubble economy, in Westchester, as in north of the Bronx, not NJ. This is when Japanese banks, when not bidding on Rockefeller Center, sent their employees and their families to NY on what is called "kaigai chuzai", 4-8 year rotations, and the Metro-North GCT to Scarsdale was split Jewish and Japanese.

As a matter of fact, you can definitely attribute my focus on Japanese cuisine to this occurrence; as I was growing up, the heads of my schools would ask me to essentially take care of all the new incoming Japanese students, so I grew up with this 4-year rotation of Japanese friends and their families, which meant I grew up with their video games, their culture, and got fed a lot of authentic stuff at an early age.

The ingredients for that food came from the Meiji-ya and Daido supermarkets in Westchester - none of which were as big as Mitsuwa but collectively a lot more volume. There are remnants of this past but it wasn't quite as huge as it was in the 80s.

Those who chose to, could afford to, or were otherwise able to stay, seemed to spread out evenly around Westchester and Northern New Jersey, and to a lesser extent, Long Island. I'm not sure when the Mitsuwa opened (it will always be the "Yaohan" to me), but what you find there was the opportunity for a single Japanese complex (it's not just the Mitsuwa, it's also a book store, Japanese gift store, riverside restaurant, food court, etc.) to be built from scratch to service all the Japanese families spread out around Northern NJ, who are most likely passing through on their way into the city on a regular basis anyway... It's no coincidence where it's located. I was first taken there by Westchester-based Japanese friends in the 90s, as the complex as a whole can keep you busy all day vs. the supermarkets of Westchester.

"Yaohan" was a Japanese supermarket conglomerate that went belly-up in 1998, had nothing to do with the NY outpost. They were all over Japan and SE Asia. Korean interests bought them out and changed the name to Mitsuwa, but thankfully, nothing really changed. It's not like you could suddenly only get Korean white rice there.

It's also important to note how much crossover between Japanese, Korean and Chinese cooking there is in terms of ingredients. You can find many Japanese products at Chinese and Korean marts all over the NYC area, and conversely, many many Korean-American and Chinese-American families shop at the Mitsuwa. So, unlike all the Japanese supermarkets in Westchester which DO serve a relatively large population in a relatively small 20-mile square radius, the Mitsuwa makes it seem like there's a much larger population than there really is.

In terms of restaurants, sorry FG, but good Japanese restaurants in New Jersey (and Westchester and LI for that matter) are really the exception to the rule. There is definitely good Japanese cooking, and suprisingly good sushi, in New Jersey, and a simple browse of the NJ forum should yield those results, but Manhattan is really where it's at and you're not going to get that level anywhere else. Let me put it to you this way; when Ushiwakamaru's owner realize he had erred and opened in NJ rather than NY BY MISTAKE, he got out and crossed the Hudson right-quick.

Part of this is because Manhattan is the business-center and a lot of Japanese fine-dining is business-related, or for going out, or to go with friends from out of town, while the wife and kids are back at home where it's simply better to cook it yourself then go out for mediocre suburban Japanese food. Besides sushi, there isn't much Japanese food that can't be reproduced at home with a small array of Japanese home-cooking gadgets. Takoyaki-makers, anyone? Also, keep in mind how dependent on stellar ingredients Japanese cuisine is, and as a result, it is much better to be in NYC.

Anyway, Mitsuwa is the only place I'll make it a point to get to in Jersey. They still have the best ramen in the tri-state area, until Hakata Ippudo opens up :-) You can get great laquerware, cheap. Ito En has an outpost and you can probably buy 100 tea varieties between there and the super. They have a Parasienne bakery where you can get that stupidly delicious Japanese whitebread, among other things. You can get a Japanese rice-cooker (perfection), okonomiyaki/takoyaki set, sushi-kit, any kitchen gadget you ould need. Their Japanese groceries are on average a full dollar lower than Manhattan; that adds up. Part of appreciating Japanese cuisine is trying to cook it at home, and that means building a pantry; Mitsuwa has everything you could possibly ever need, fresh and cheap. And could you really ever have enough Japanese sake, shochu and beer?

For Japanese these are all things they cannot live without - so it's a no-brainer for them. But given the acute interest in Japanese cuisine and culture lately, only lately being eclipsed by the same amount generated by China, it's a NJ Foodie destination because what's more it's a cultural experience that makes it actually worth it to ship yourself over to (although it's by FAR the most painless of any of the NJ destinations to get to), one that you could only reproduce through a walking tour of Midtown East including the Japan Society, the kind you'd get in Jackson Heights, Flushing, or any other ethnic neighborhood... The unfortunate thing is, besides Oak Tree Road and Korean parts of north Jersey, it seems like everything we're talking about is located in a strip mall somewhere.

I'll write later about South Indian food, being my soul food, because the whole Oak Tree Road thing is enticing, but Edison is frickin' HAUL. I might consider it the next time I'm headed down south.

There's also a reason I wrote so much about Westchester; I think it's equivalent in terms of accessibility to NJ, but probably has more to offer cuisine-wise. Westchester, NY might as well be New Jersey to most in the city. Not to complicate the conversation; just sayin'....

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Conversely, there is at least one restaurant in Westchester that I have made a special trip for from upstate and would do so again - Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I would make the same trip from NYC without hesitation.

Full disclosure, I didn't see Doc's post until after I had posted mine...

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Don't worry. The Long Island, Westchester and Connecticut topics are coming.

It's amazing how many people are saying "the one place that's worth the trip is X. It's the exception to the rule." When you add those up . . .

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's amazing how many people are saying "the one place that's worth the trip is X. It's the exception to the rule." When you add those up . . .

i'd like to see them added up, or listed, as well.

as far as my "one", it not longer exists as it did in its heyday (hence my qualifier), which i would put back in the 90's somewhere. additionally, NYC fine dining (the category in which one would put the Ryland Inn) overall has, to my mind, ramped up in quality (and quantity) since then. in 1997 the Ryland Inn would have been the "one" place. in 2007, it's off the list.

Edited by tommy (log)
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Don't worry. The Long Island, Westchester and Connecticut topics are coming.

It's amazing how many people are saying "the one place that's worth the trip is X. It's the exception to the rule." When you add those up . . .

Drive me to to Edison! I'll even chip in for gas!

New York, NY 10036

Edison, NJ

Drive: 35.0 mi – about 47 mins

up to 1 hour 50 mins in traffic

Thing is, I'm trying to agree with you objectively, but logistically the transit issue really is a whopper. I mean, to extrapolate a little, Alinea should be on every NYC foodies map too, especially if Delta were running a shuttle there - we could do Jersey, or Chicago, in 1 day, right?

I'm a born-and-bred NYer, I know a whopping one NYer who owns and maintains a car in the city (not counting SI). Sure I have friends with cars in Westchester and Jersey, but they don't count. That one person makes bi-weekly trips to Mitsuwa to stock up which means we get to go to what should be the only Japanese entry to your thesis, Santouka Ramen, offering what I will maintain is the best ramen in the NY-metro area; without that car, I can't carry any decent amount of groceries home, so unless I really have time to kill, it's not really worth it to go out there with out a ride. I can't say that on a whim I'm going to take public transit either to get to Hoboken or Jersey City or Newark, I've got to make plans. If it weren't for the Hoboken Grimaldi's, the ratio of us going to see a sibling in Hoboken vs. them coming into the city would be radically different. Maybe what we're trying to say is that BECAUSE we're foodies we don't go to Jersey enough!

That all said, I coudln't have said it better than Sam did:

So, I guess I weigh in on the side that says: There are some rewarding places in NJ worth checking out if you happen to find yourself over there for whatever reason, but unless you're a hot dog or South Indian cuisine fanatic, or someone who frequently travels long distances for food, there aren't too many compelling reasons to plan a food-focused trip to Jersey.

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Speaking of which, I'll be in Princeton this Saturday...anywhere within walking distance of the campus that's good for lunch?  I've never found anything interesting.

I didn't go to Princeton University, but I've spent almost as much time there as if I had. In high school, my best friend lived there, and he went to college there, so I've been down to Princeton on the train literally a hundred or more times. After 9/11, when some of the WFC buildings got wrecked, my sister (who works for the Wall Street Journal) relocated to Princeton along with many other employees. So I've been there a lot. Princeton is not a great eating town. People in Princeton who are serious about eating take in a lot of their meals in places like Trenton and Edison. Conte's Pizza, 339 Witherspoon Street, behind the medical center building, is the one place in Princeton that I'd put up against serious competition in major cities. You'll have to investigate the hours, however -- last I checked they didn't open until around 4 on Saturdays. Here's the recent review from the New York Times.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If I understand it correctly, Sam's position is that even if there are X number of restaurants in New Jersey that are categorically superior to their New York City equivalents, it's still not worth going to them because New York City "is so rich in culinary possibilities that it is inexhaustible to any other than the very most dedicated epicure."

No, this is a mischaracterization of my positions.

How so? You've casually accused me of mischaracterizing your positions and of disingenuousness, but haven't justified either allegation. Indeed, after claiming I mischaracterized your position, you went on to state the same position!

The mischaracterization is that you imply that my argument would be the same if Jersey had 50 "categorically superior" restaurants instead of a handful or less. But, of course, it doesn't.

As I understand it -- and please correct me if I am mistaken, because it would make much of what I have written entirely moot -- your argument is, more or less, that Jersey is so rich in oustanding "categorically superior to NYC" restaurants that it is incumbent upon Manhattan-dwelling foodies to make a trip to Jersey to experience these restaurants, indeed even going so far as to devote and entire day to such a trip and possibly traveling by public transportation. Surely you're not suggesting that someone should take some combination of train/bus/foot travel for a round trip time of several hours to visit Jersey restaurants that are only a little better than their Manhattan or near-Manhattan equivalents. Presumably there is a trade-off between excellence and the travel time/pain in the ass factor, right?

So, that to me is the rub. It's one thing to say that there are lots of good and some great restaurants in Jersey, and that people should visit them if they are presented with a good chance. I'd agree with you 100% if that were the case. It's another thing to suggest that the Jersey offerings are so outstanding relative to Manhattan offerings that NYC foodies are missing out overall by not engaging in planned food travel across the river. Leaving aside the obvious fact that the perceived quality and interest of the food offerings in Jersey, the perceived nuisance/inconvenience/expense of travel to Jersey, and the trade-off between the two are entirely a matter of opinion, preference and constitution -- it still strikes me as a highly tenuous argument.

Manhattan has at least 200 restaurants that are better than any restaurant in Jersey. What Jersey has going for it is a handful of restaurants offering a higer level in a few specific categories. But even then, there are still 200 NYC restaurants better than the best restaurant in Jersey, and that includes these standouts. You still can't tell me that the Bombay-Chinese restaurant you like in Jersey is better than Momofuku or any one of a zillion other restaurants I could name in the City. All it has going for it in comparison to Manhattan restaurants is that it's perhaps better than the Bombay-Chinese restaurants in Manhattan. Okay, fine. But I wouldn't say that I'm "missing out" by choosing to go to Momofuku Ssam Bar instead, and to spend the hours I'd spend traveling to Jersey sharing a cold bowl of punch in Death & Company instead. And I'm not convinced that I'm "missing out" by having the Chang Dog at PDT instead of going to Rutt's Hutt in Jersey.

None of this is to say that the Bombay-Chinese place and Rutt's aren't good places. But there is no convincing argument you can make that it's incumbent upon me to visit them or that I'm culinarily deprived by choosing to spend my time and dollar exploring the multitudinous NYC possibilities.

On the Manhattan side of the scale we have hundreds of outstanding restaurants within 45 minutes of my door. On the Jersey side of the scale we have at most a dozen oustanding restaurants an hour and a half or more from my door. It's pretty simple to see which side way the scale is going to tip. This huge imbalance means that, while one might make the argument that it is incumbent upon a metro-NYC foodie living in Jersey to visit NYC for food, the opposite argument fails.

You have some points. There are good places in Jersey. It can be fun and rewarding to visit them if you're over there. But you overreached in suggesting that it's incumbent upon NYC foodies to make culinary trips to Jersey and that NYC foodies are materially depriving themselves overall culinarily by not doing so. It's as simple as that.

If this is not reflective of your argument, and we're more or less saying the same things as I about being amply rewarded for visiting Jersey places as you find yourself there or feel like making a trip anyway for the fun of it, then I take it all back.

I mean, I'm a serious cocktailian and haven't even been able to find the time to visit all the bars on my list, never mind all the restaurants. For example, Eben Freeman is supposed to be doing amazing things at Tailor, and I haven't been there yet. I'm certainly going to have a drink at Tailor before I spend half a day driving over to Jersey to eat South Indian food. And that's the point I'm making about Manhattan's inexhaustible culinary possibilities.

Nor is your example on point. You've tried to prop up the argument about "inexhaustible culinary possibilities" by pointing to one of many cocktail places, which only a die-hard fan of the cocktail niche would consider essential. What I said was that New York has a small number of best-in-category places -- that the description "inexhaustible culinary possibilities" ignores the reality that once you cut the list down to the very best then New York City is a very small town.

What New York City does have is an inexhaustible supply of "extremely good" and "better than you can get in New Jersey" restaurants. Of course NYC is a "very small town" if you limit yourself to only best-in-category places. There can only be one in each category. But why on earth would you want to limit it that way? If we say that Per Se is the "best-in-category of fancy fine dining places," does that mean that we should no longer consider Daniel, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, etc? If we say that Una Pizza Napoletana is the "best-in-category" pizzeria, where does that leave Franny's, Patsy's, Grimaldi's, Fornino and Di Fara? If we say that Tabla is the "best-in-category of fusion dining," does that mean we aren't allowed to "count" Momofuku Ssam Bar? Or, rather, does that mean that NYC has an unusually large number of great restaurants in these categories (among many other categories, of course)? Whereas your outlook seems to adopt the former viewpoint, mine adopts the latter. And from where I'm standing, New York City is a very large town indeed.

My example was intended to highlight the incredible density of high quality places in a huge number of categories that we have in NYC. Jersey simply doesn't have that. Period. Yes, I guess I have to travel to Jersey if I want top notch South Indian food. But it doesn't follow that I am "depriving myself" if I choose to stay in NYC and go to a restaurant that is equally excellent, or better in its own way than the South Indian place in Jersey. What I am doing is choosing to enrichen myself in a different way -- and in a way that doesn't involve considerable travel time and/or expense.

My example was also intended to demonstrate why I don't understand the argument that says "it's incumbent upon you to explore Jersey restaurants" when the bottom of the barrel of NYC restaurants I want to try is nowhere in sight, and the water keeps on rising. If I was getting around to so many NYC restaurants that I found myself casting about for new culinary experiences, sure I'd look in Jersey. That situation probably comprises no more than 50 residents of Manhattan.

...if you add a few New Jersey places to the places in Queens and Brooklyn then they're just as essential for at least one visit as Sripraphai or Di Fara's

I would only consider Di Fara worth the trip for a Manhattan dweller who is a serious pizzaphile and who, on top of that, enjoys a certain amount of culinary adventure travel. Plenty of people I know who have gone to Di Fara have come back feeling like it wasn't worth the trip. If I took my wife to Di Fara on the train, I'd be sleeping on the couch for a month. As for Sripraphai, I can walk out of my day job, hop the #7 express train at Grand Central and be sitting down at a table at Sripraphai within 30 minutes -- faster than it takes for me to get home. I doubt you can name one place in Jersey operating near Sripraphai's level of excellence or with its huge lead over its peers that's as easily reached by public transportation.

Now, if one is the sort of person who doesn't mind lengthy travel by public transportation or to someplace like Di Fara and there are certain outstanding culinary destinations in Jersey at least as convenient via public transportation or car (respectively), then your argument makes more sense to me and I would agree with you. But, really, plenty of NYC foodies are not interested in being the culinary version of Indiana Jones.

Since you are a die-hard lover of cocktails, however, you might want to check out SM23 in Morristown, also Mehtani-owned, with its Grant Collins-trained staff and Asian-influenced cocktails (e.g., giant Japanese-style ice spheres, apple-and-thyme martini, etc.). Probably not worth a trip for the average person, but maybe worth it for someone who really wants to cover all the interesting cocktail ground in the region.

Grant Collins is a cocktail consultant from Australia who, as far as I can tell, designs "themed" corporate restaurant cocktail lists. And I've seen too many "trained by so-and-so" places that suck (including some supposedly trained/designed by the King himself, Dale DeGroff) that that sort of thing doesn't hold much water with me. Looking at the menu, it appears to be "Asian themed" suburban alcopop.

But, you are right that, if by some miracle Dave Wondrich were to open a little bar in Jersey, I'd make it a point to visit there. On the other hand, I am a serious cocktail enthusiast. I wouldn't consider all of Manhattan to be "missing out" by not making a similar trip. Similarly, a South Indian hungry for the taste of home or a hot dog fanatic seems to have good reasons to make a culinary trip to Jersey. But Jersey's culinary excellence and culinary competitiveness with NYC is not broad enough to make Jersey an overall culinary destination for those who don't have specific and narrow areas of interest. I mean, I like Indian food as much as the next guy, but I just can't get "4 hour trip excited" about that restaurant.

The disingenuousness claim is particularly bizarre given that 1- you haven't evidenced a sufficient factual basis to engage in a discussion of public transportation to New Jersey, 2- I've taken public transportation to New Jersey to eat many times and for combined eating-shopping-visiting day trips probably on the order of 50+ times, and 3- I did so plenty of times while working 3,000 hours a year as a lawyer.

1. My wife lived in Jersey for 10 years, I have several friends over there who I visit from time to time, I've done something like a half-dozen opera and classical singing gigs in Jersey which required weeks of commuting by train and/or bus for rehearsals, and I have taken at least a dozen public-tranportation trips and another two dozen by car to Jersey with friends specifically for food, which trips I was given to understand were not in any way extraordinary or unusual in the time/trouble involved. Is that sufficient factual basis?

2. Of course, I could also say that I've been out there 50+ times on public transportation (which, now that I add it up, is probably true), but so what? You'd have to take my word for it. You know whose word I like to take? The people who live in Jersey and say it's not worth it.

3. I think it's pretty clear, considering that you left your high earning career as a lawyer to pursue a low-earning career as a professional foodie demonstrates that you have priorities that are not the same as most people working a 9 to 5 (or 9 to 9 as the case often is). If it's really true that you took multiple-hour 100% public transportation culinary trips to Jersey while working 60 hour weeks as a lawyer, I think most people would characterize this as ardor bordering on fanaticism and would consider it "unusual" -- on a factual basis it is ususual. Not that there's anything wrong with that! After all, you found your calling. But I don't think it's reasonable to hold others to this standard. Similarly, I don't think it's realistic or reasonable to expect that NYC "foodies" should share your own enthusiasm and interest in "covering all the interesting ground in the region." Several of the greatest epicures I know, whom I am privileged to call my friends do not share these priorities and would be highly unlikely to travel to Jersey to visit a South Indian restaurant or shop at an Asian megamarket. On the other hand, some of these friends regularly do things that you aren't likely to do, like making long trips to procure produce from a specially favored grower upstate or contracting for a whole baby lamb. Some of them do all of those things. But I don't think I could say that it's incumbent upon all NYC foodies to help a Long Island farmer slaughter heritage turkeys so you can get a really fresh one, or buy a case of $6 peaches instead of availing yourself of the inexhaustible supply of excellent products that can be found right her in NYC.

An inability or unwillingness to relate to someone else's priorities doesn't establish disingenuousness.

We know you're not unable, so what you mean is unwilling. If you're going to make arguments that apply to all people, then you should be willing to relate to their priorities. Note that I said relate, not agree. But, really, we already know that 2.4 million Steven Shaws living in Manhattan would be driving their cars all over the city and metro-New York, including Jersey. The fact that they are not means that they don't share your priorities and the lifestyle that makes these priorities possible. If you understand but are unwilling to relate to someone else's priorities, and make statements blithely implying that these priorities don't exist or are not valid -- that they're "red herrings" and "that excuse just doesn't work" because "plenty of public transportation is available -- that strikes me as disingenuous (which some people seem think is the worst thing in the world, but please... everyone does it all the time -- it's not meant as an insult). To be disingenuous is to assume a pose of naivete or give a false appearance of simple frankness. Like, for example, suggesting that the time commitment and other inconveniences and obstacles associated with taking public transportation to New Jersey constitute a "red herring" because the priorities that place a higher value than yours on those commitments, inconveniences and obstacles don't exist or are not valid.

I don't consider, nor do I think most people would consider, a multiple-hour time commitment during a precious weekend day on unfamiliar public transportation with uncertain and expensive remedies should the public transportation prove to be less than optimal a "red herring" -- and I can't believe you truly believe it's nothing for most NYC residents either. It may not be a big factor for you, but I trust your intelligence and understanding of others enough that I can't believe you don't know that you are somewhat extraordinary in this respect. My friend Eric, for example, thinks nothing of traveling several hours for a great bowl of noodles. But he understands that, for most people, the trip carries a much higher cost than it does for him.

A four hour round trip to the Ironbound on the train (which I have done), is not a trip undertaken lightly for most people in the City, and I don't believe it is unreasonable to expect that the payoff be commensurate (it wasn't). On the other hand, Eric thinks it's no big deal and makes the trip all the time -- sometimes by himself.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Sam, thanks for expressing my views much better than I could have. I think I would consider it a great idea to go to Moksha once as a special trip, if I feel like it on a given day and have someone who wants to go with me (and that isn't likely to happen soon). Otherwise, since I have yet to even make it to Saravanaas, what with Madras Cafe being a few blocks from my apartment, I think it would make more sense for me to walk a mile and a quarter or so than make a big excursion to Edison. But I'll keep in mind the existence of this great restaurant, in case I happen to be in the area. Just as I'll remember that I should visit the Cathedral if I have the chance to travel to Cologne. No way am I gonna go back and forth to Edison to explore the menu of a place. And that doesn't make me "lazy," just someone who prefers to eat good food closer to home and work most of the time and has access to excellent restaurants in those areas. Remember that I have no professional obligations to travel for food, and think of me as someone who prefers to eat well wherever I am, not usually to make big trips just for food.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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please correct me if I am mistaken, because it would make much of what I have written entirely moot

You most certainly are mistaken. Here's what I said in post number one:

I submit that anybody who hasn't done at least a highlights tour of New Jersey Indian, Chinese and hot dogs, plus Japanese and Korean food-shopping, lacks a fundamental element of cultural literacy about food in the New York metro area.

And Sam, when I referenced an inability or unwillingness to relate to someone else's priorities, I was noting that, because you seem unable to relate to the priorities of someone who would travel that extensively for food, you've chosen to accuse me of disingenuousness. And you've continued to do so. I'm afraid I can't assign a very high priority to answering your posts when you persist with such accusations.

[insert standard list of previously established arguments here.]

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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please correct me if I am mistaken, because it would make much of what I have written entirely moot

You most certainly are mistaken. Here's what I said in post number one:

I submit that anybody who hasn't done at least a highlights tour of New Jersey Indian, Chinese and hot dogs, plus Japanese and Korean food-shopping, lacks a fundamental element of cultural literacy about food in the New York metro area.

Well, that's certainly a far cry from it being incumbent upon NYC foodies to travel to Jersey for food -- which seems to be the point you've been arguing throughout this .thread. Would you say that this is not your argument? There are, as I have also said, certainly reasons to travel for food in Jersey if one is interested in that sort of thing.

And Sam, when I referenced an inability or unwillingness to relate to someone else's priorities, I was noting that, because you seem unable to relate to the priorities of someone who would travel that extensively for food, you've chosen to accuse me of disingenuousness.

I don't know where you are getting that impression. I have made a point several times of mentioning that culinary travel to Jersey makes sense for people who enjoy traveling for food (or at least that it doesn't make sense for someone who doesn't have those priorities).

But, if I were a marathoner and said to you that "A transportation lockdown is a red herring and shouldn't affect your ability to get to White Manna. You can jog. We've been writing down the running, biking, rollerblading and skateboarding paths" -- that would be... well, a little disingenuous (again, hardly the worst thing in the world, for goodness' sake).

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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5 - What's the best Southeast Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, etc.)?

For Malaysian cuisine, Taste Of Asia in Chatham serves food that's unlike any other place I've ever been.  If there's as good, or better, Malaysian food to be had in the region, please share!

Oooh, how could I forget Penang in East Hanover? It's worth the Jersey trip for sure. It's not Nyonya, but they're the best (if not only) serious Malaysian restaurant in Jersey. The char kuey tiow brings tears to my eyes, it reminds me of the little noodle joint in Brisbane I went to while I was studying there for a semester.

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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And Sam, when I referenced an inability or unwillingness to relate to someone else's priorities, I was noting that, because you seem unable to relate to the priorities of someone who would travel that extensively for food, you've chosen to accuse me of disingenuousness. And you've continued to do so. I'm afraid I can't assign a very high priority to answering your posts when you persist with such accusations.

I'm sorry. I can't help myself.

How can you say that, when Sam hasn't called anyone "lazy" for failing to share his priorities?

The disingenuousness comes, not from failing to "relate to" other people's priorities, but from denigrating those who don't share yours.

(I understand you were just trying be provocative. As Sam keeps saying, "disingenuousness" isn't the worst thing in the world.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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5 - What's the best Southeast Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, etc.)?

For Malaysian cuisine, Taste Of Asia in Chatham serves food that's unlike any other place I've ever been.  If there's as good, or better, Malaysian food to be had in the region, please share!

Oooh, how could I forget Penang in East Hanover? It's worth the Jersey trip for sure. It's not Nyonya, but they're the best (if not only) serious Malaysian restaurant in Jersey. The char kuey tiow brings tears to my eyes, it reminds me of the little noodle joint in Brisbane I went to while I was studying there for a semester.

Hold it. It's not even as good as Nyonya? Nyonya is not that good. And Skyway is much better. Do you still think it's worth a trip for me? I doubt it. How do you suggest a carless, driver's licenseless person get from the East Village to East Hanover, and why, if the restaurant is inferior to Nyonya? Rather, it sounds like a place I might try if I have any reason to be in East Hanover, wherever that is. :biggrin:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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How can you say that, when Sam hasn't called anyone "lazy" for failing to share his priorities?

Nor have I. What I believe I've noted is that, for a population that claims to be dedicated to food, New York foodies as a group are surprisingly reluctant to invest a couple of travel hours to broaden their culinary horizons. I compared that to the attitude of the LA foodies I know, who think nothing of that sort of travel. I regret it if the term "lazy," by which I meant disinclined to bother with the inconvenient (we're not talking about the biblical sin of sloth here), is being interpreted by anyone as an assault on his or her character.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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