A Taste of NICO Kitchen + Bar

Newark, NJ

NICO Kitchen & Bar is an hidden Italian gem nestled in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. The restaurant is owned and operated by Culinaire and its acclaimed Executive Chef is Ryan DePersio.

Once you enter NICO Kitchen & Bar, you instantly feel a shift in the atmosphere as the decor exudes a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. Although the restaurant is spacious with many tables and a tall ceiling, you still get an intimate feel from the dim lights and warm colors that bounce off the walls.

A friend and I were sat in a comfy, leather bonded booth with a spacious table just ready to be filled with delectable plates of food. The waitress explained the menu to us, as she was very knowledgeable about the menu and made several suggestions.

We ordered an array of several dishes coursed throughout our meal experience. For the first course, we ordered Pomegranate Chili Wings, Lamb Meatballs, and Polenta Fries.

The flavors of the wings with creamy gorgonzola fonduta served my palette well with the  tartness of gorgonzola, light sweetness of pomegranate, and a hint of chili spice. The succulent lamb meatballs was served in a savory tomato sauce with roasted red peppers and crumbled feta cheese. Lastly, the toasted polenta fries was golden and crisp with a creamy interior.

NICO Kitchen & Bar has a brick oven and as noted by the server that the pizza dough was a family recipe often tested and perfected so I had to try to it. So we ordered the Magherita, a classic favorite with fresh ingredients.

For our third course we ordered PEI Mussels, Grilled Lamb Chops, and Buttermilk Baked Chicken. As the entrees arrived, the aromas were so inviting. The mussels were pan roasted in spicy shellfish broth with Sardinian fregola, fresh herbs, and served with a char grilled bread to dredge up the rest. The chicken was sous-vided then baked with a black truffle pesto, accompanied with broccolini and whipped potatoes. The grilled soy-paprika lamb chops were my absolute favorite, the textures of eggplant puree, wilted spinach, and sauteed turnips served as mouthwatering adventure.

Lastly, after eating all of this delicious food I was determined to make room for dessert. We ordered the chocolate sour cream cake and sundae. I must say that I’ve been to several restaurants and pretty much always have an idea of what the dessert is going to look like but not this time. The plate presentation was both surprising and appealing. Pure genius!

Come check out NICO Kitchen & Bar for both lunch and dinner. It is ideal for large functions, after-work cocktails, or an intimate date. Great food for fair prices.

NICO Kitchen + Bar
New Jersey Performing Arts Center
One Center St., Newark, NJ
973-642-1226
nicokitchenbar.com
Reservations accepted  by-phone or opentable.com  
Free Parking with Validation
Lunch Hours: Mon.-Fri.: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Bar Menu available 3-5 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 5-11 p.m.

– Isaiah Kelsey


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Fried + Pizza = Best Of Both Worlds

New York, NY —

If you are a fan of thin crusted pizzas that you can fold into fourths and eat like a small Lego, then you will be sorely disappointed. But perhaps not. Because eating a pizza from La Montanara is unlike anything you’ve ever had before. Be wary of the fact that you can’t indulge like this every night unless going up a size in jeans every two weeks is your type of thing.

The menu is straight forward and small. There are basically four types of pizzas you can order with some various side dishes and appetizers. I tried the Salame Piccante and Tartufo (which is strangely not listed as a pizza on their website menu but as a pizza sandwich.) However if you go into the shop you can get this as a pie. As I’m a sucker for anything mozzarella doused in truffle oil, I bit the bullet and paid the $12 for this indulgence personal pizza. Topped with their specialty-made mozzarella and ham without any marinara sauce, it’s a very rich flavor to try and finish. But my will of an appetite drove me to complete the task and in a few minutes somehow all I was left with was a greasy plate that now only held the memory of some delicious fried bread. You may be a little put off by how much grease gets soaked into the plate, but you can perhaps rest easier knowing that it’s in the plate, not in the pizza. The pizza dough itself is not at all greasy but in fact just light and crispy especially at the crust. I could have made a perfectly satisfying meal out of just eating the crust. If you’re more of a fan for the classic marinara flavor the Piccante should do the trick, however it seemed that the whole pie was a lot floppier and flimsier than the Tartufo. Not sure if that was because of the sauce or “weight” of the salame, but the toppings tended to slide right off the dough like a water park slide. All the same, once you get to the crust, well, you remember why came to see what the fuss is about.

The dining room is a little small and you’ll almost be eating in a narrow hallway. But everything is clean and bright and has that new car smell. They’re just starting out and while I was there the inspection team came in and from what I could tell they got their A rating. Both the owner and main chef are quite nice and friendly, eager to accommodate and answer your questions.

Make sure to bring your dollar bills because it’s cash only.

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La Montanara
168 Ludlow St.
http://www.lamontanarapizza.com/
 
Diana Tsuchida                                                                                                                        U.F.P Contributor
 

Meatball Obsession: Get Your Fix On!

New York, NY

If you’re searching for a Italian fix on the go Meatball Obsession has what you’re looking for. I discovered this small meatball shop right off the NJ Path Train as the savory aromas drew me up the steps quickly.

Meatball Obsession offers large grandma-style meatballs with the option of pork, beef, or turkey in a homestyle marinara sauce. You can order these meatballs in 1-3 quantities with prices ($4, $7, $10) , which comes with toasted focaccia breadsticks that you can dip into your hearty sauce. For a small additional fee you can add toppings such as mozzeralla pearls, crispy pasta, or shredded cheese.

These meatballs can be served as not only just a quick bite but a meal as well. If you don’t have time to stop pass they will deliver for free starting April 30th with a minimum $10 order. Delivery zones range between 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue and 18th Street to 8th Street. You can place an order at http://meatballobsession.com/or call at 212-260-8646. Meatball Obsession is open daily 7am-11pm, located at 510 Sixth Ave. [at the corner of 14th St].

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Get Your Taste Of Italy On The Go!

Isaiah Kelsey                                                                                                                                                    

Hello Doggy! Japanese Dogs in the East Village

New York, NY –

And I don’t mean Shiba Inus walking down St. Marks. Japadog is definitely all the rage and the concept is simple: taking Japanese ingredients and traditional flavors and smothering it all over the classic American hot dog. The result is an indulgent fusion of everything a down-to-earth foodie would love, especially if your taste buds are fond of the many standard meats, sauces and condiments that hail from Japan.

Their menu provides an array of choices for the hungry and adventurous New Yorker, and you can choose from any level of plain dogs to fully loaded buns with extra meat and cheese. If you order a combo meal, you get fries and choice of drink. I ordered the okonomi which is covered with so many toppings and sauce you would hardly know if you were about to eat an open-faced sandwich or a stuffed hot dog buried in a bun. Okonomi is inspired by the seasonings of okonomiyaki, an earthy Japanese street food that translates to “what you want,” and consists of making a savory yam and flour pancake stuffed with whatever your heart desires like shrimp, mochi or beef. The defining moment of every pancake is the mayonnaise and bonito flakes that top off the comfort food and thus commences your indulgence. Now take that and put it in hot dog form. Oyishii! (Delicious.) A great little foresight in the construction of Japadog’s buns is that they’re slightly closed at the bottom to catch the drippings and droppings of sauce, juice and overall messiness to spare your hands from wasting more napkins.

Their fries are shaken up in a bag with seasoning and generously placed on your tray next to your boxed up dog (which, I might add is made of styrofoam, definitely knocking a star off their green efforts. But I digress.) You can choose from a variety of seasonings when it comes to the fries like butter and shoyu (soy sauce), aonori (dried seaweed), teriyaki, wasabi and shichimi-garlic (hot pepper). I ordered the curry seasoning was fantastic and had just the right hint of sweetness that always characterizes Japanese curry. The fries are a little limp yet perfect for spearing with a fork and eating it like a fried potato salad, minus the mayo. Unless of course you dip it in some of their wasabi mayo which I highly recommend. In fact, make sure you check out all their free sauces (a rarity it seems in some fast food restaurants) like sriracha, honey mustard and bbq.

With a bright, clean dining room and very friendly service, these dogs will satisfy a hunger that always seems to surface during aimless walks in the heart of St. Marks.

Check out Japadog today, its located 30 St. Marks Place. For more information and menu selections check out www.japadog.com

 Diana Tsuchida                                                                                                                               U.F.P Contributor

“Get Your Fry On!”- Village French Fry Favs

Greenwich Village, NY

French fries are typically burger side notes: empty, cheap potato fillers that are used to use up plate space and make customers feel like their getting more bang for their buck. But what if fries could take on a whole new meaning? I’ve found three French fry experiences in the Village that have the distinct possibility of changing your life. They prove that when carefully crafted and eaten in the right atmosphere, fries can turn your lunch into an exceptional event that shockingly won’t cost you much at all. These aren’t your typical fried potatoes. They each provide something a little extra that turns your fry into a statement.

1) Pop’s of Brooklyn–167 N. 8th Street (corner of 8th St. and Green St.)

Pop’s, a cozy, grungy feeling burger joint near NYU, that only has two options for fries on the menu: cheese and regular. Clearly, the restaurant does not intend to make fries a focus. But aside from the ridiculously good Cholo Burger ($9.95 and highly recommended), the $4 cheese fries are star material. The skinny and wonderfully crispy fries are not just doused but positively drowned in gorgeous white cheese with green garnish. Perfectly greasy and deliciously over indulgent, they will send you over the edge. Sit and devour a bowl while enjoying good music blasting overhead and people watching at the busy corner. The waitresses are kind and atmosphere has a rustic feel. There are charming touches like a green glass bottle of water for each table, a bar, and brick walls. Forget your worries. Take minute to stop and smell the cheese.

2) Pommes Frites–123 2nd Ave

Pommes Frites is more famous for it’s sauces than it’s thick, wide-cut fries. The packed and tiny establishment feels more like an English tavern than a fry store with it’s dim lighting and wooden countertops. In the case of Pommes Frites, fries are the one and only item on the menu (the smallest size costs $4.50 but gives you plenty), with which you choose a variety of unique dipping sauces like Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo, a superbly thick and creamy Black Truffle Mayo, and Pomegranate Teriyaki Mayo. Each sauce costs a dollar besides the Black Truffle, which is $1.75 and worth it. Pommes Frites is fiercely popular, always with a line that goes out the door, and the space is limited for seating. But wait around long enough and you’ll get get one of the snug booths. One warning: don’t go to Pommes Frites for a quick snack. Go for a whole meal. These fries demand full attention and will rock your world and fill up your stomach faster than you can say “but they’re so unhealthy!” Don’t think. Just Eat.

3) Bao Haus–238 E. 14th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Ave)

Bao House makes your fries into a crazy culture fusion. Uncensored rap plays in the background, this superb restaurant is a mix of chinese and taiwanese street style food. The seating is simple and understated, with stools and counters, where you can stare at walls of images that weave traditional chinese photographs with cartoons, collages of basketball stars, and animated murals. Here, you aren’t just experiencing fries. You’re participating in a part of the urban melting pot, a historical and political space that speaks volumes. Order the Taro Fries ($3.50), which have a purple tropical root in them from Southeast Asia with a side of sesame sauce, or be daring and go for the Bao Fries (also $3.50), chunks of sweet fried dough coated with thick black sesame sauce, which redefine “fries” completely. Forget your typical Coke and be a part of the cultural experience by ordering an imported Chinese Apple or Chrysanthemum Soda, which will sweetly compliment the intense flavors. This is a part of urban life you don’t want to miss.

Gabriela Garcia                                                                                                                                   U.F.P Contributor

What’s Crackin’ At Joe’s?

CLIFTON, NJ –

It is often that we see restaurant commercials on television with grilling steaks and sizzling pans filled with succulent seafood and fresh herbs that catches our attention, draws us to the screen, and entices us to want to go there right away. It is also a teaser when you quickly google the restaurant and the nearest location is in the next state. When I heard that Joe’s Crab Shack had opened in Clifton, NJ just 20 minutes from my house, I was ecstatic of a new seafood restaurant option other than Red Lobster & Legal Seafood that I could dine at.

As I arrived in front of the restaurant I smelled steamed shrimp tossed in Old Bay seasoning, immediately I began to salivate and it put me the mindset as if I was at the Jersey Shore. The restaurant had a beach theme with outside seating, dock props, loud music, and casually dressed staff. As expected, the line was outside the door which I didn’t mind because it was nice day out and the restaurant atmosphere put me at ease. Once I reached the host stand, the hostess promptly took my reservation on an iPad, retrieved my phone number, and informed me that I will receive a text once my table is ready, I thought that was pretty cool. After a 25 minute wait, I was taken to my table and greeted with a smile by my server Tiffany. She was very informative about the menu and made me feel welcome. Everything seemed normal until the “Cupid Shuffle” song came on and the entire staff around the restaurant stopped what they were doing and began to do the Cupid Shuffle dance, I thought it was hilarious! It reminded me of a scene from the Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller” or some sort of musicial. [Check out the video below and share a laugh with me!]

The menu was very extensive and everything looked fresh and flavorful. As I flipped through the drink menu, I was drawn into this interesting drink called “Coronita Rita”, a magarita made with el Jimador Blanco 100% Agave Tequila on the rocks, topped with an inverted Corona. I decided to try it out, as it arrived it was very messy and practically overflowing. I noticed that the longer the drink sat, the beer bottle emptied into the margarita, I wasn’t a fan of the flavors of tequila, beer, and salt mixed together. My interpretation was that the beer was capped and once I finished my margarita, then I would drink the beer. I sent it back and just settled for an Arnold Palmer [half lemonade / half iced tea]

Once my guest arrived, we decided on the Classic Sampler, which included a crab dip, crispy Calamari, and “Great Balls of Fire“. As your probably wondering what are “Great Balls of Fire”, they are shrimp, crab, and jalapeno balls that have a creamy filling with a spicy kick tossed in a Panko crumbs for a crispy crust. Once the sampler arrived the food was steaming with great flavors. The crab dip was Parmesan cheese encrusted with jumbo lump crab probing out of it, accompanied with warm tortilla chips. The calamari was surprisingly very good, seasoned well and tasted fresh off the shore. My preconceived notion with calamari in franchise restaurants are that they are frozen and slightly rubbery, but I’m glad Joe’s proved me wrong. After completing my appetizer I couldn’t wait for my Steampot entree.

I decided on the Joe’s Classic Steampot that is filled with tasty dungeness crab, sweet Snow crab, boiled shrimp, sweet corn-on-the-cob and smoked andouille sausage. As most know I don’t indulge in eating pork products so they gave me extra shrimp. You are given an option of flavors like BBQ, Garlic Herb, Old Bay to be put into your steampot. I decided on the Garlic Herb flavor. Due to the restaurant being very busy, it took a little while for the entree to come but yet the Cupid Shuffle dance kept me occupied and entertained. Once my steampot arrived , they gave me a “Crab Crackin” bib to dive in with. The crabs were succulently sweet and tender, which I dowsed in drawn butter.  The shrimp was slightly overcooked yet still flavorful, but I wasn’t going to let that go to waste. All and all I was completely wowed with the freshness of the seafood that was in front of me.

I would recommend this to anybody who loves seafood, for non-seafood lovers they do have burgers and chicken options as well. This restaurant has a family friendly environment with fair prices. Joe’s Crab Shack will definitely be my summer local hangout spot for great seafood when I can’t get out to the shore!

405 Allwood Road
Clifton,NJ 07013
http://www.joescrabshack.com

See Videos & Photos Below!

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Beyond The Apron with Top Chef Alum Angelo Sosa

NEW YORK, NY

Angelo Sosa, as best known from both Bravo series Top Chef DC Season 8 and Top Chef All-Stars. Angelo recently opened Social Eatz in Midtown East, an American style bistro with an Asian spicy kick. Since it’s been open it has become an instant staple and I was fortunate enough to grab some his time right before his daily lunch rush. The vibrant colors of orange gave the restaurant great energy. Angelo and I started the interview with [non-alcoholic] Ginger Beer, which had great spicy flavors.

The Interview

When did you begin cooking?

Well being of an Italian & Dominican decent, my family took food very seriously. I began helping my father, as sort of a “sous-chef” making platanos and hand-sorting 25 pounds of rice grain by grain. I think that’s why I’m so meticulous.

Who inspired you to begin your culinary journey?

My late aunt inspired me to begin cooking, instead of running the streets I would always be in kitchen tasting and asking many questions.

What was your first culinary job?

My first job was a server in a retirement home, where I constantly had my nose in kitchen asking the chefs many questions about what they were making. Eventually they gave me opportunity and allowed me to come back and cook.

Did you attend any culinary schools?

I attended Manchester Community College then later attended the Culinary Institute of America.

Well I attended Johnson & Wales University!

This interview is over! [chuckle]

Top Chef

What were you doing before Top Chef?

I worked closely with my mentor Jean-George who helped me define who I was as a chef, which is when I became most obsessed with Asian flavors and ingredients. I’ve worked at TanDa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Dune in the Bahamas, Spice Market, and Yumcha; and consulted at Buddakan and Morimoto. I also traveled to many countries like Asia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand.

During the season, what was your favorite challenge and what was your toughest challenge?

My favorite challenge was the Baseball Challenge, considering I absolutely love baseball I put a lot of passion into that [I think if I wasn’t a chef, I would definitely be a baseball player] My toughest challenge was the NASA challenge, I feel I let them down a little and feel I could’ve done better.

During the season finale I remember you getting sick in Singapore, how did you overcome that?

At that point I was beyond sick but I pushed through it not just for myself but for all of my supporters from culinary school, my family, colleagues and friends.

What do you want your fans and customers to know about you.

I want them that I am deeply rooted in what I do. I believe everyone is great at doing something, just like how I extract flavors out of ingredients, I believe in bringing the best out of people. I love my customers and staff!

Social Eatz Tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Curry Soup

Rich and silky smooth soup with subtle curry flavors. Topped with hand-whipped cream and garnished with fresh cilantro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crispy Asian Style Hot Wings

Chicken wings glazed in sauce of tamarind, garlic, shallots, and palm sugar. Also served with Asian pear slices. It’s meant to eat a sliced pear after every wing to cleanse the palate.

 

 

 

 

 

Hand Cut Social Fries

Crispy fries tossed in togarashi, a japanese spice blend of red chili, roasted orange peel and black sesame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yuzu Cream Puffs

Fried puff pillows filled with a sweet, creamy yuzu curd made from the tart japanese citrus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Non-Alcoholic] Ginger Beer

Unfiltered by Bruce Cost. Made with pure cane sugar. Flavors include Pomegranate with Hibiscus & Jasmine Tea

Recap:

I enjoyed my day at Social Eatz with Chef Angelo. He is a very hands-on and passionate chef, both in the kitchen as well as in the restaurant. Angelo discovered his niche in cuisine to stick out in “The Big Apple”. He will continue to go far! I look forward to returning to Social Eatz to try the other menu items. The menu is price friendly, come on out during your lunch break or after work!

Cheers!

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