Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Despaña, Princeton, NJ

We've been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Princeton outpost of Spanish food market and cafe Despaña.  It's finally opening this Friday June 21.

We were lucky enough to get to the sneak preview event last Friday, along with other locals, New Yorkers come down on the train, and we even met a Spanish couple who had come from as far as Ottawa. The wine was flowing, a trio of Spanish musicians were playing, the weather was beautiful, and they were serving up a huge paella and fideos on their rooftop deck.

Inside, they were carving up a leg of jamon iberico -- we spent some time parked by this station, where we each ate probably at least $50 worth of meat.

There was also croquetas, papas bravas, tuna on crostini, cheese, jamon and more... 

Here's a picture of the jamon iberico about halfway through the evening...

We are hoping to get a table for a real meal this Friday - will report more later!

Despaña Princeton
235 A Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08540

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Taverna, Newark, DE

My dad and my have birthdays that are only 2 days apart, so we always celebrate together. This year, we went to Taverna, a new restaurant on Main Street in Newark, DE.

For a college town, Newark lately has been getting more and more upscale and trendy. A wine bar opened in the spot of the demolished dive bar The Stone Balloon, fellow dive bar The Deer Park was renovated and reopened, there's a banh mi shop, cupcakes, and tart yogurt.

So Taverna is yet another recent addition to the Newark dining scene. It's part of a restaurant group with a handful or restaurants in Wilmington and Hockessin, Delaware, and focuses on rustic Italian, wood-fired oven, etc.

 It being shortly after graduation, and Memorial Day, the town was quiet, and we pretty much had the restaurant all to ourselves. We started out with an antipasto board - created with 3 selections of your choice. We went with prosciutto, housemade mozzarella and eggplant caponata.

We also wanted to try their homemade ricotta. This was a bit salty for my taste, but still creamy and yummy. Ricotta's one of those things though - even bad ricotta in a plastic tub from the supermarket is pretty good...

For entrees, my dad got the canelloni (stuffed inside with chicken and proscuitto) - quite good!  My mom got the chicken taverna with a caper, lemon, white wine sauce on capellini.

Redneckhunter got the neopolitan pizza, and I made him order it with an egg on top (I got that slice, of course!) 

And I ordered the roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, and substituted asparagus for my side of fries. It was a ton of food, and I ended up taking half of mine home as leftovers. All in all, another good addition to Newark!

121 E Main St
Newark, DE 19711
(302) 444-4334

Monday, June 03, 2013

Mistral, Princeton, NJ

We were around over Memorial Day weekend, the opening weekend of Scott Anderson's (Elements) newest restaurant in downtown Princeton.  Small plates, lower price point than Elements, BYOB and great central location -- what's not to like, right?

The answer (for now, at least) is service. When we walked in we were told that it would be roughly 20 minutes to seat our party of 5 (they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more), but we were shafted when some "friends of Scott" came in behind us.

Over an hour later, we finally sat down. Not sure, but seemed like a couple other parties were in the same boat - there was definitely confusion as to who was getting seated and who wasn't.

The waitress was nice and helpful and recommended getting 2-3 small plates per person, extras of things that everyone wanted to taste.  So we made a checklist on our place mat menus and were excited to finally eat!
No complaints about the food, but there was no sense of "coursing" or paying attention to the pacing. Plate after plate were just shuttled to the table. We'd have to quickly finish off a previous plate in order to make room for the next, and flag someone down to take it away. (I also didn't get why stuff had to plated on such large plates given the concept.)

Here's the rundown of what we had (not all pictured):

Fennel salad -- orange, mizuna, cilantro, olive oil
Kimchi pancake -- housemade kimchi, tamari, scallions
Pork Belly Salad -- chinese chili, scallion, sesame oil
Semolina Gnocchi -- spinach, morels, spring onions, green garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs
Housemade Bucatini -- Lump crabmeat, scallion, chipotle pepper
Hamachi tartare -- lime, honey, curry, papadum
Grilled Calamari -- artichoke barigoule, crispy artichokes
Grilled octopus -- “papas bravas”, caper aioli, smoked paprika
Sweetbread Cannelloni -- short rib bordolaise, chard, honshimeji mushroom
Weisswurst sausage -- caraway, mustard, pickled cabbage, marble potato
Lamb Merguez Sausage -- chickpeas fresh and dried, harissa, sheepsmilk cheese, mint
Korean short rib -- soy, ginger, ramp kimchi, shishito pepers
The standouts for me were the short rib (apparently slow-cooked for 48 hours), bucatini (wish there were more), hamachi tartare, and pork belly salad.  The weisswurst and merguez were also delicious.  My least favorite were the calamari and sweetbread canneloni - both just a bit bland.

All in all, it was just the feeling of being rushed through our meal.  Frustrating especially since we waited so long.  Our wait time was longer than our meal time.  Maybe we shouldn't have been so decisive as to order 15 plates all at once, and should have added more to our order halfway through...

Desserts came highly recommended, so we ordered one of each.  The Lemon posset with candied citrus and shiso was the favorite - such an interesting flavor and so refreshing yet luscious at the same time.

The other one that surprised us was the innocuously named Chocolates.  The cucumber (melon too perhaps?) sorbet that accompanied it was great! 

 The other two -- Rhubarb cobbler with sorrel and buttermilk and  Hay & vanilla panna cotta with biscuit and asian pear -- were delicious as well, just less surprising.

Let's hope they get it together with the seating and serving.  I have the feeling that going back, we'll try to make sure we get 6 people together and make a reservation. 

66 Witherspoon Street Princeton, NJ 08542