The story of Saddle River Inn told by chef Jamie Knott
Chef and owner Jamie Knott describes the history and cuisine of the Saddle River Inn.
Marko Georgiev / NorthJersey.com
The year has not started well. The coronavirus was a major health threat. Meals inside were limited, masks were mandatory, and restaurants, their limited-capacity dining rooms, had to close early. But today in North Jersey, we restaurant enthusiasts seem to eat out like we did before the pandemic put us under house arrest.
Vaccinated people can eat indoors without a mask. Outdoor dining is flourishing and restaurant dining rooms are filling up. And although the delta variant is slowing our progress somewhat, alfresco dining is always a delight (summer is barely over; hooray!) And let’s hope our progress against this disease continues.
While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that one of our greatest joys, one of the ways we celebrate our accomplishments (birthdays, promotions, graduations), one of the ways we keep our friendships and relationships strong, one of the ways to relax and rejuvenate is to eat out.
So what should you eat when dining out with your friends, coworkers, family, potential romantic partner?
Listen to the dishes that made me turn pale in 2021.
Angry Chicken in Corto, Jersey City
The philosophy of Corto, a cheerful neighborhood restaurant in Jersey City Heights, can be boiled down to the adage less is more: less fuss, less ingredients, more flavor, more delight.
Chef Matt Moschella, a self-taught cook who grew up in Morris County, uses as few ingredients as possible to prepare his delicious nationally acclaimed Italian dishes (Bon Appetit called his food “fantastic”). The ingredients he uses are, he says, “the best.”
“We let the ingredients speak for themselves,” Moschella said.
His pasta says a lot about the house, the quality, the freshness, the simple goodness. Mafaldine, thick locks with wavy edges bathed in a greasy cheese sauce speckled with speck, is, in a word, divine. His rigatoni in a tomato sauce with pancetta and Calabrian pepper are as good as they get. What about his ricotta and honey aperitif? It sings. Regulars (and anyone who reads Corto’s reviews) know this. It is heavenly.
But maybe the best dish of all (although the competition for this title is absurdly fierce at Corto) is the angry chicken sliding on the bone, tell all your friends, devour every piece of chicken in anger.
Chicken? This humble bird that few, if any, consider a haute cuisine treat?
It is the dream come true of an epicurean at Corto.
What makes it so good?
Moschella’s response should come as no surprise. He begins, he said, by using the “best high quality chicken,” one from an Amish Country farm in Pennsylvania, which he cooks in a large pot over low heat for three hours to get, he said, “this melt away, smooth, creamy texture.” He only uses dark meat – the thigh and the leg – because, he said, “breast meat will never behave that way.” That is, it will dry out. And it uses dried Calabrian pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and thyme to add more flavor.
Although the menu changes frequently at Corto, the chicken has been there from day one, along with the rigatoni and the meat and cheese platter. Not having the chicken risks missing a palpable culinary effect. A real shame.
Go: 507 Palisade Avenue, Jersey City; 201-420-6290, cortojc.com.
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Jamon’s Croquetas at Bodegon, Cliffside Park
Leave it to the Spaniards to transform the fried bites of French mashed potatoes known as croquettes into a tapas wonder called croquetas de jamon filled with rich bechamel sauce and sweet, smoked ham.
Leave it to chef and owner Alex Pineiro to turn this delicious Spanish staple into an even more delicious bundle of “ham goodness”, as Pineiro puts it, which he serves at Bodegon, his very fine Galician restaurant, which features Also a small bar with great cocktails.
Pineiro, who was born and raised in Ridgefield and worked at Spanish restaurants Toro, now closed, and Huertas, both in Manhattan, doesn’t fill his croqueta with just one ham – he stuffs it with three. Each ham is chosen because, he says, “they represent the convergence of my education”. (His parents are originally from Galicia.) The three are Serrano ham, the globally recognized meat; delicatessen-style ham “or as you would say in Spain, Jamon York”, which Pineiro remembers fondly during his visit to his father’s region of Galicia; and Taylor ham, the Jersey breakfast staple.
He put all three, he said, “in my favorite bite.” Give it a try; it can also become your favorite bite.
Go: 631 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park; 856-521-9135, bodegonnj.com.
Salted Caramel Popcorn Sundae at LT Bar & Grill, Hackensack
A maxim in the cooking world is that great savory cooks don’t necessarily make great pastry chefs.
Tell that to French chef Laurent Tourondel. The Michelin-starred chef, who has been nominated twice for a James Beard Award, excels in both. His desserts are so good that it’s almost a culinary sin to skip the dish with dinner at LT Bar & Grill, his American restaurant in Hackensack.
I loved all of the desserts I tried – a big thumbs up to the strawberry pie with sorbet. But maybe my absolute favorite is his popcorn sundae. I am obviously not alone. It is his best-selling dessert.
Salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy, this silky caramel ice cream wonder drizzled with a rich dark chocolate sauce and snow-white mounds of whipped cream and, yes, popcorn, is so heavenly as it is. out of the question to share it with others. . Tell your companion to eat to have his own and to avoid a food fight.
Go: 390 Hackensack Avenue, Hackensack; 551-287-6333, ltbarandgrill.com.
Hamachi Green Strawberry Crudo in Felina, Ridgewood
What a great way to entertain your mouth: fresh raw fish, thinly sliced and carefully garnished, known in Italian as crudo.
At Felina, Chef Anthony Bucco’s modern Italian restaurant in Ridgewood, crudo is offered off the menu, though it’s also often on the menu. Bucco makes his own with the freshest fish (a must!), With what is in season (always a good idea) and with fresh herbs and fermented spices (who can dispute that?).
Get one of Felina’s crudos. The last one I had was a hamachi with sliced green strawberries. One bite and I almost got to taste the ocean. My mouth was supremely amused.
You can get it in the spring when green strawberries are in season. But why not delight your palate with another crudo by then? Just ask the waiter for whatever crudo is available in the kitchen.
Go: 54 E. Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 551-276-5454, felinarestaurant.com.
Pastrami sandwich at Mikki’s & Al’s Noshery, Montclair
It’s huge. It’s fat. It’s probably not good for your cardiovascular system. But, hey, who thinks of health when, between two pieces of chewy rye bread, half a pound of some of the most delicious, succulent, and delicious cured meats is packed to delight your palate.
Is Mikki and Al’s Noshery’s pastrami sandwich as good as the legendary Katz’s Delicatessen’s, New York’s oldest and beloved Jewish grocery store?
Who knows? We do not care? As my Yiddish mom would say: “Think less, eat more”. There is wisdom in these words.
As for the accompanying homemade kosher sour pickle? You don’t have to be Jewish to love it. You just gotta love good sour pickles.
Go: 14 rue du Parc, Montclair; 973-744-7100, mikkiandals.com.
Sesame Uni Pasta Carbonara at Pasta Ramen, secret place
The dishes – 13 of them – keep coming to Pasta Ramen, a secret invitation-only restaurant run by a top North Jersey chef whose identity is a secret, as is where he cooks (and I I swear to keep it a secret). The sake keeps coming too.
What an extravagant feast!
Not only does the chef expertly combine the refined cuisine of Japan with that of rustic Italy, but he uses the best ingredients: black truffle, Wagyu A5 beef, kinmedai fish, sea urchin eggs. So choosing the best dish isn’t easy, not when the competition includes ricotta cavatellis bathed in a tender pork stew, wild tuna balls topped with plain butter and silky tofu topped with spreadable salumi. homemade and velvety braised pork belly with porchetta. But, maybe, just maybe, sesame uni pasta carbonara gets the gold medal. This exquisite pasta dish that features a wonderfully cheesy white carbonara sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds and topped with plain house silky butter almost made me cry, that is, if I wasn’t smiling so wildly with joy.
Cornbread at Cellar335, Jersey City
When chef and owner Jamie Knott of gourmet restaurant Saddle River Inn decided to open his hip tiki bar in Jersey City, he wasn’t sure what kind of bread service to offer. He made a batch of cornbread and considered giving it away. But then he changed his mind. “It was too good not to sell,” he said.
It is worth every greenback ($ 3.50 / each).
Made with roasted poblanos and two-year-aged Grafton Cheddar cheese, the lightly spiced, totally cheesy and wonderfully flavorful cornbread comes to your table wearing a flat hat of honey togarashi butter. No need to coat it. Just take a bite and try not to pass out too hard.
Go: 335 Newark Avenue, Jersey City; 201-222-1422, cave335.com.
Esther Davidowitz is the Food Editor for NorthJersey.com. To learn more about where to dine and drink, please register today and subscribe to our North Jersey Eats Newsletter.
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