I really wanted to put New Jersey and New York into one last post, a nice little button-ending on my travel series, but I found when I was trying to pull it all together that there was far too much for just one.
You see, even though there were no food bloggers to meet up with in New Jersey, I was staying with my Uncle Ian and Aunt Wai, Momma Lee’s youngest brother and his wife. My Uncle Ian has always been the relative who would send crazy-awesome gifts in the post at Christmas, such as this past year, when he sent me a pair of socks that look like Lucha Libre wrestlers (they even have little arms and legs, they’re the coolest; yes, I realise my excitement over this is entirely juvenile, but it’s the simple things that excite me), and also, like all of my family, has quietly followed along with my adventures through the blog.
When I arrived he told me that though they had been thinking about where to take me to eat, as I was visiting them right at the end of my trip they couldn’t compete with the rest of the world, so they would just take me to their favourite places, or feed me “crap”, as my Uncle Ian put it. How silly, because you know what? I ate well, I ate heartily, and to be honest it was nice just to have a bit of a breather with family for a stint, catch-up and make stupid jokes (many of which were made, including an extended conversation about the Double Rainbow video/song, which then ended up in the sermon he delivered at his church that Sunday). In fact, I think I ate more in New Jersey than I had anywhere else on the trip: weird, right?
Thank you Uncle Ian & Aunt Wai!
Romano’s Macaroni Grill
The hint should’ve been when our server wrote his name upside-down in blue crayon on the tablecloth and that name was “Cord”. For some reason, whilst I was travelling the food I craved the most was pasta, so, to satisfy that craving, on my first evening my Uncle and Aunt took me to Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
The food wasn’t all that bad, but that evening Cord neglected to inform us that “there was some kind of crop problem in Mexico and so we have no vegetables” until after the meals had arrived, and then brought out an entire plate of rosemary as some kind of compensation for my Uncle’s plate, when he was only asking if it had been cooked with rosemary, as per description on the menu. Still. He had a lot of rosemary for his dish.
But y’know, that’s not necessarily fair, because it was a very busy evening and we were on the late side of service… and he was very friendly. I’m just going to stop now. Macaroni Grill: eh, the pasta’s not bad.
On the Sunday a very kind group of young folks whisked me away to eat at a Malaysian joint around the corner, called Coco. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I lived in Malaysia for three months when I was nineteen. I fell in love with the place, the people and the food, and am always on the lookout for good, authentic cuisine since.
Roti canai (flatbread); char kuey teow (stir-fried flat noodles); nasi goreng (Malaysian-style fried rice); chicken satay; snow pea shoots, stir-fried with belacan; curry beef brisket; Hainanese chicken.
I’m happy to say that Coco hit the mark. The servers were friendly and efficient, but, more importantly, the food was good. In fact, I liked it so much, we went back a second time when Momma Lee was in town. With decent prices to boot, how could this not be a hit?
1803 Lincoln Highway
Whenever I go for Korean food I forget how much they give you. You not only get the items you ordered, you also get all of the banchan at the start of the meal, or the ‘side plates’. I, of course, always forget that this is pretty filling, so I wolf them all down, then the bibimbap arrives (rice cooked in a hot stone bowl), then the Korean barbecue starts sizzling before you, you’ve got kalbi (marinated beef short ribs) and pork belly flying left, right and centre and you’re shovelling it all in your mouth, and before you know it you’ve eaten thrice your body mass and you want to die. This is mostly my experience with Korean food… so why fix it if it ain’t broke? That evening the owner decided to give us some free extra dishes as well, either because I was taking photos and she wanted to impress, or because she liked our pretty faces. Either way, we were stuffed, but it was a very happy kind of stuffed…
411 U.S. 1
Princeton & Triumph Brewing Company
My Uncle took me for a wander around Princeton and it’s really a shame that this is the only photo I got on the grounds that turned out nicely, because it’s really a very beautiful campus. And remember Russell Crowe’s character in ‘A Beautiful Mind’? Yeah, he’s real and apparently wanders around there a lot. We didn’t see him… or at least I don’t think we did.
The Triumph Brewing Company are a regional brewery and restaurant with a few locations, serving pretty good quality food and, of course, beer. Not only that but they were to be my next burger challenge spot – how could I resist when the challenger was named ‘The Epic Burger’?
My Uncle had the tomato bisque and sliders, both of which were decent. The sliders were particularly good and worth a mention. But then the Epic arrived.
A medium-rare, juicy burger patty, topped with a cheese sauce and truffle aioli, pork belly and a fried egg, served with twice-fried crispy fries, truffle mayonnaise and a pickle; yes, this my friends was epic indeed. But it’s only downfall? It was so epic I couldn’t pick it up in my hands and bite into it, the way a real burger should be eaten. You may argue: “but Jackie, I’m sure you could’ve. You could’ve just picked ‘er up and shoved ‘er into yer gob, the way a real contender would,” but to you I say nay! I could not have! Why? Because I am no Goliath, I’m not even a David, I am a wee thing and I physically could not have fit that monster into my gob. There are all sorts of innuendos flying around this paragraph and we’re keeping this as family-friendly as possible so I’m going to stop now. But yeah. No.
So how did it taste? It was good, it was very good. I definitely felt the epic-ness from the pork belly, fried egg and truffle aioli (ho-em-geez, that truffle aioli. It was good. It was awesome sauce, and I mean that in both of its iterations: it was literally awesome sauce and it was figuratively awesome sauce). But you know what? It had some serious points knocked off for not being able to pick it up… so I think Portland’s Killer Burger is still winning out on the best burger!
I must say, though, the fries were excellent. Better, even, than Killer Burger’s. Twice-frying fries is a fantastic idea: take note all frying sorts, because, remember: everything tastes better fried (in America).
We finished things up with the Cookie Pie which is, uh, kind of exactly what it sounds like. A giant peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie, baked in the form of a pie, served with ice-cream and chocolate sauce. We also ordered the chocolate souffle but it was sadly very burnt so we sent it back to the kitchen. No matter because this “pie” was more than enough for the two of us, and we hobbled out afterwards, feeling very full and a little queasy. Always the most telling sign of complete and utter gluttony. Hurrah for us!
Triumph Brewing Company
138 Nassau St #A
If you can believe it (I barely can), mere hours after the epic lunch I had with my Uncle, we went out for dinner at U-Yee Sushi. Oh man. There was so much sushi. Somehow we managed to finish the entire thing but I have no idea how. I have no words. Just look at the sushi (and that wasn’t even all of it!) and if you’re ever in New Jersey go here.
675 US Highway 1S #12
At this point I would like you all to please remember that I was only in New Jersey for a total of five and a half days, and at this point we were only on day four. Now look back at all of the food I ate. Now back at me. Now back at the food. And back to me. I am a horse.
Momma Lee arrived on this day, so we picked her up from the airport and then popped in here for a quick bite before heading into New York City to drop me off. Whilst the ramen was good the real standout dish here was the ika – the squid, that had been deep-fried into crispy perfection. Delicious.
2024 Center Avenue
Fort Lee NJ
Back from New York and it was time for a Shanghainese meal, a spectacular Shanghainese meal, I might add. On Momma Lee’s side the family have Shanghainese roots, so is it any wonder that we love it? I mean, you get offal (and we love the offal), you get dark-cuts of meat, you get all the strangely named items on the menu: it’s wonderful. You must know what you’re ordering though – make sure you go with somebody who knows what they’re doing!
Pig’s ear with coriander; salty “curdled” tofu soup; Chinese-style savoury fried doughnut; scallion pancake with dark vinegar; “Husband & Wife”: pig’s lung and stomach; salted duck; xiao-long bao: Shanghainese-style soup-filled dumplings.
301 N Harrison St #33
Rai Rai Ramen
Can you tell we love ramen? Because we do. And this place I’d actually been asking to go to because my Uncle had been telling me that they did awesome pork buns, ones to rival Momofuku’s in New York.
Topped with delicious belly pork, peanuts, chopped preserved vegetable and a sweet sauce, they were delicious. I didn’t get to try Momofuku’s so I don’t know how they compare, but I would go back here just to eat these delicious little bites of awesomeness.
As for the ramen, it was fabulous, but even better were the lo-sui eggs, which were still runny, creamy, sweet and entirely delicious. Momma Lee and my Aunt had the Miso Charsui Ramen, with seasoned roast pork in a miso broth; whereas my Uncle and I had the butter corn ramen, which boasted a good handful of sweetcorn, topped with a melting pat of butter. Heart-attack in a bowl, completely worth it. I mean, isn’t that just ridiculously simple? Happy times indeed. Ah, I can still taste that delicious lo-sui egg, mingling with the corn, butter and delicious ramen noodles…
Rai Rai Ramen
1980 New Jersey 27
North Brunswick Township NJ
And so we came to the end of New Jersey, Momma Lee and I hopped on a plane and headed back to London. But that’s not where this series ends, no, because we still have New York to tackle! And I promise it’ll be a good one.
Until then, friends – peace and love.