Welcome to A Night Out, a new Jewish Press feature that will highlight some of the best eateries in the greater New York area. It is no secret that dining plays a major role in Judaism and given how obsessed we all are with all aspects of food preparation, including, of course, eating, it is a pity that chowing down isn’t an Olympic sport, because I have no doubt that many of us could medal. While it is doubtful that any of us will ever be crowned with a gold, silver, or bronze by the IOC, we are elated to share some of our favorite restaurant experiences with you.
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How to begin describing one of the best meals I have ever eaten? I suppose logic, and the “Sound of Music” song, would dictate that I start at the beginning.
I chose Etc. Steakhouse for our inaugural column because I was looking for a good meal that wasn’t too far from home. I had no interest in driving to Manhattan for a top-tier dining experience and figured that Teaneck’s Etc., located just thirty minutes away from my Rockland County home, would fit the bill.
I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.
The food wasn’t good. It wasn’t even great. It was fabulous. So forget that Etc. is located on the other side of the Hudson River. This is a place that could easily hold its own against Manhattan’s finest kosher restaurants, without the traffic jams, hassles and expense of city parking. So put your feet up and allow yourself to live vicariously through our amazing meal. Just keep some snacks nearby. I promise you are going to get hungry. Very hungry.
Etc. is tastefully furnished, with brown and mocha decor, lots of geometrics and clean lines. When we walked in at 6:10, we were the only ones in the restaurant and were seated at a table not two feet away from where the hostess stood, which I found slightly awkward.
While the temperature in the room was downright chilly and The Beatles were playing a little too loudly, both of those conditions improved when the room filled up. Clearly Etc. is a popular location as I heard the hostess tell several hopeful diners who came without reservations that there were no available tables. Our waitress, who was helpful but not intrusive, was so sweet I wanted to take her home with us.
We started with a small plate of beer bread and garlic mayonnaise. Sadly, the plate only held two short, fat slices, each cut in half, but it was a taste of heaven and I was hoping someone would offer us another serving, which they did. Baked just until barely done, it was soft, warm, sweet and a tantalizing promise of things to come. The garlic mayonnaise, thinned to a dressing consistency, was fabulous, and while I normally don’t eat mayonnaise, I enjoyed every drop.
Etc.’s menu is not particularly expansive, but not to worry. Each of eight appetizers and eight entrees was clearly very carefully conceptualized and prepared by owner and chef Seth Warshaw with a deft and delicate hand. Each of the enticing appetizers sounded so intriguing, (lamb belly with roasted eggplant and hummus? steamed tongue with yellow and candy stripe beets, plum salad and plum gastrique?) that just ordering our food was a difficult decision.
Both our appetizers were nothing short of outstanding. Kung Pow Salmon, a tasty blend of fresh salmon bits, peppers, scallions, shallots, jalapeno peppers, udon noodles and toasted peanuts in a delicious brown sauce, was incredible. Like the bread, the salmon was cooked just until done so it was soft, succulent and exactly the way salmon should be. The udon noodles were particularly good, but their length made them difficult to eat gracefully, leaving me wearing a scrumptious dot of brown sauce.
The Porcini Scented Gnocchi were divinely inspired. I don’t want to know what part of the cow beef cheeks come from, but the meat bits in the rich tomato garlic marrow sauce were outstanding, accented with a delectable ratatouille of halved grape tomatoes and zucchini. And the gnocchi? I didn’t actually sniff them to see if they smelled like porcini mushrooms, but they were tender yet firm, lightly sauced and the personification of deliciousness.