My niece’s bat mitzvah meant a family visit in the New York City area, with “family” and “area” being the operative words. I wasn’t in NYC, but in West Orange, NJ, and from a food perspective (and with family not always wanting to go far for food), this meant sub-par meals. Don’t even get me started on the catering services on the bat mitzvah cruise; I should have volunteered to cook for the crowd.
Eppes Essen is apparently Yiddish for “eat something,” and that’s normally not a problem for me at a Jewish deli. I relish the thought of getting good “soul food” that I can’t find in Seattle, and with Eppes Essen touting its Readers Choice award as best in the New Jersey Monthly and the menu offering all the stardards, I was excited to give it a try. But the matzo ball soup was bland, the pickles off (can I get a good half-sour, please?), and my tongue sandwich nothing special. Nor was any of the other food I tasted, including a cold, limp potato pancake. Only after ordering did my brother mention that there’s a more popular deli in the area. Next time!
Next night, with family famished after the blah bat mitzvah food, we went out for late-night Chinese food at China Gourmet, which was convenient to our hotel. This dinner was fun for reminding me of my childhood Chinese meals with my family, ordering all their traditional favorites: barbecued spare ribs, egg foo young, fried rice, and the like. Not what I like to order, but familiar. And, again, nothing special. I snuck in an order of so-called “steamed dumpling in red oil” just to have something that sounded spicy. Nothing like the Szechuan food I’m spoined to have in Seattle, but I was hungry and found myself hoarding them.
A final night found us wanting a lighter meal after a late lunch, so my brother and I went to Yoshi-Sono – the local Japanese restaurant and sushi joint. I’d been there years ago, before I truly learned to love sushi and before my many trips to Japan. We sat at the counter, and when I said “kon ban wa” to the young sushi chef and he just stared at me with a silly look on his face, I had a hunch we were in trouble.
I like to order cautiously (a piece or two at a time) to assess quality. The fish didn’t look sparkingly fresh, so when my brother put in a fuller order, I told him I’d just have a few nigiri pieces. I barely got through those. The rice was mushy, and if a sushi restaurant can’t get that right, there’s little hope for the fish, which turned out to be limp and flavorless. I don’t regret that I didn’t have my camera for photos.
West Orange – a stone’s throw from the wonders of New York City – but a world away in being a culinary wasteland. Next time, I should at least go to Newark for some Portuguese food.