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.
A note about the vegetables. Etc. gets its produce from its own farm in Manville, New Jersey, providing a farm-to-table dining experience. You might not think that getting farm-fresh vegetables would make such a difference in taste, but you would be wrong. Those vegetables were so fresh they practically stood up on your plate and danced and the taste was nothing short of incomparable.
For the main course, we enjoyed an Etc. steak special, with crispy potato salad and asparagus and a Three Peppercorn Filet with onion rings, arugula and mustard sauce.
Having requested my steak well done, my peppercorned filet was butterflied in an effort to keep it juicy. With twice the amount of surface area, my steak was more than just a little peppery, but our waitress kept magically appearing and refilling our water glasses. The onion rings were huge, maybe four inches across, and while I have never eaten arugula before, I am now a devoted fan. Both the raw crunchy leaves and the ones that were delicately steamed by the heat of my steak were incredibly good. But the stars of the main course were the lightly peppered thick, juicy Etc. steak, which my husband pronounced “astounding” and the crispy potato salad, which had a gentle coating of exquisite tarragon mayonnaise. While I dislike asparagus intensely, I tasted one and it was the only time in my entire life that I have ever enjoyed asparagus.
Despite overindulging, we managed to make room for dessert. The S’more, a small mason jar layered with graham cracker crumbs, a thick chocolate ganache and a layer of marshmallow accented by a chocolate cookie stick was innovative, creative and a visual delight but it was the Peach Galette that stole the show. While it was described as an almond macaroon topped with a balsamic peach ice cream, the description didn’t do it justice. It was more like a very light, almond flavored hamantash, topped with lightly prepared peaches, which were also scattered around the bowl, finished with a scoop of fluffy peach mousse. Without a doubt, it was one of the most incredible desserts I have ever eaten.
The food at Etc. doesn’t come cheap, with appetizers ranging in price from $9 to $18, entrees clocking in at $25 to $39 and desserts priced at $13. There is no question that a meal like this is a splurge both from an economic and a caloric standpoint but for those moments when you are taking a business client out, celebrating a special event or just feel like treating yourself right, Etc. is the place to go. Warshaw, who emerged from the kitchen mid-meal to greet the diners, is incredibly gifted, and with his passion for pairing unique flavors with seasonal produce, he manages to put together a dining experience that is nothing short of stellar.
1409 Palisade Ave., Teaneck, N.J.
Certified by Rabbinical Council of Bergen County
Want your eatery to be featured in a future installment of A Night Out? E-mail us at articles@JewishPress.com, with the words “Restaurant Review” in the subject line.
About the Author: Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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