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No Bull Burger Purist - Born and raised in NJ, the heart of the tri-state area and home to the oldest (and best) burger joints in the country. I don't need all the frilly toppings, happy servers or trendy decor, just a good burger...

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Element Restaurant & Bar, Manahawkin, NJ

Where: Element Restaurant & Bar, Manahawkin, NJ

What: Element Burger

Build: 1/2 lb. burger, horseradish cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato on a soft roll (brioche-ish).

Comments: Element is the newly renovated (rebuilt) restaurant that used to be known as LA's Restaurant. The new owner (who also owns the Ming Dynasty on Rt. 72) has built a beautiful eatery. Walking through the doors was reminiscent of walking into the high-end Disney restaurant, Jiko, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The ambiance has a modern flair to it, with dark woods and a touch of Asian décor, transporting you far away from the Jersey Shore. Mostly everything from the décor to the wait staff was very pleasant…however, the menu, although trendy in content, has selections leaning more toward bar fare than dinner entrees. This is not a bad thing, I'm just sayin', if you are looking for a robust menu full of entree choices, you'll be a bit disappointed.

On to the burger...

Of course I zeroed in on their namesake burger, the Element Burger, but before I go any further I want to say the burger was good – very good – but time and time again I am disappointed upon delivery. I just can't get my brain around the fact that although the new owner has spent quite a few million dollars on this renovation he can't seem to find a chef that knows how to serve a burger at the temperature requested by his patron. Even if the wait staff was lax in their duty to serve the meal in a timely manner, the chef should know that a burger left on the line is still cooking, and if a certain amount of time goes by before the server picks it up, it is still the chef’s responsibility to determine if the meal should be served, or a new one prepared.

Bottom line: I asked for a medium-rare burger and I was served a medium-well burger. Now I ask you, "If the chef can't serve a proper burger, how is he or she successfully preparing other, more complicated entrees?”

This is why you can always count on the simple hamburger to be the "acid test" for any restaurant – something I've been preaching for years.

I will most definitely try Element again as there were other interesting menu items that caught my eye, but I'll be even more observant of the food preparation as well as its execution. This burger only rates an 8.5 on the BC scale (could have easily been a 10/10).






















See Elements website for full menu....










French Onion Soup was Great...





























































Thursday, February 6, 2014

"HOMEMADE SOFT YOLK RAVIOLI SPECIAL"

Where: Home

What: Soft-yolk ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and fresh white summer truffle.

Build: Homemade pasta, fresh ricotta, egg yolk, Italian white summer truffle, garlic, butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Comment:  I am overweight mainly because of my problem with portion control and pure disregard for healthful eating. But in fairness, my weight is also partly due to the fact that anyone trying to refrain from eating the food produced in my home would have a very hard time saying, "I'm not hungry.”  Although, during the week, mostly every meal is healthful and prepared as such; however, my wife, daughters and son-in-law (all chefs) occasionally create a dish that would have anyone eating as if they were going to the electric chair. 
This is one of them...
This dish is a terrific enhancement of a meal I was originally introduced to at the Scalini Fideli restaurant in Chatham, NJ. It was served as an appetizer that yielded one, single ravioli…which was both delicious and disappointing. While intended as a great concept, and with delicious flavor, the portion was unfairly small and the overall dinner experience ended up being one where the appetizer greatly overshadowed the entree. And by the way, the whole arrogant wait staff fad is a joke, someone should tell SF's management how passé that really is. 

Enter homemade soft-yolk ravioli...

Taste this:  Ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta, truffle slices and an egg yolk, drizzled with a garlic butter sauce and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. After you cut the ravioli outwards starting from the center (making a little "Pac-Man" shape), you watch as the perfectly cooked truffle-infused yolk and cheese slowly oozes its way out of the pasta, combining with the garlic butter and cheese in your dish. The resultant flavor is spectacular.

The photos along with the captions below will tell the story of this ravioli masterpiece much better than I could write it. If you're not hungry by the time you get to the last photo, go see a doctor, there's something wrong with you. 









Separating the yolks before chilling....










Pasta made the traditional way...










Chef's Jacquelyn and Gaetano roll the pasta to the perfect thickness...






The fresh ricotta is wrapped in cheesecloth to drain...














A little parsley added...









Slicing the Italian white summer truffles...














Ravioli assembly begins.... truffles first...






... followed by the partially frozen yolks...













Garlic prep...














Into the pan with butter...











Ravioli are boiling...






The sauce is poured over the finished product...










































Monday, February 3, 2014

Nadie's Touch of Pasta, North Haledon, NJ

Where: Nadie's Touch of Pasta, North Haledon, NJ

What: Crispy Gnocchi appetizer
Build: Gnocchi, sautéed mushrooms, peas, hot pepper flakes, butter, truffle oil. 

What: Cheese Ravioli Michael Angelo
Build: Ravioli with prosciutto, mushrooms and truffle oil.

Comment:  My original thoughts on posting Nadie's (non-burger) review said it best: "Every time I review a non-burger meal, I have to hear sh*t about it from my die-hard burger fans,” but this time, I'm not making any apologies…I'm straying from our beloved topic with good reason. Nadie's cooking, though often nonconforming (and infuriating Italian traditionalist chefs), is as undeniably delicious as it is imaginative, and as good if not better than many high-end restaurants in NYC. Having grown up in a home rich with homemade Italian cooking, and with a wife, two daughters and future son-in-law, all chefs, I can assure you that statement is accurate. 

The special (and not often seen) appetizer, Crispy Gnocchi, is a dish that not only solidifies my observation, but also thrusts Chef Nadie's abilities to the upper stratosphere. The flavors, seasonings and textures of this dish are peerless; just inspect the ingredients above. One can only describe this dish with an adjective so luxuriously self-indulgent it is usually reserved for rich desserts: decadent. Yes, decadent. 

Next up, the salad (yes, the burger guy is about to write about a salad, get over it).
Never have I been to a restaurant where I was excited with anticipation of the salad course. Nadie's salad is a mix of several types of lettuce topped with cucumbers, onion, tomato, ground salami, pepperoni and provolone cheese with a balsamic dressing (it's so good, I was making salad sandwiches with my bread). 

Next up, my Cheese Ravioli Michael Angelo. Perfectly sized pillows of fresh pasta are stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese (with traces of freshly chopped parsley), cooked to perfection. The dish is covered with creamy garlic truffle sauce, sautéed mushrooms and pieces of pan-fried prosciutto. A sprinkle of Parmesan Reggiano to top it off, and I was catapulted to the pearly gates. 

It's very difficult to leave Nadie's without a doggy bag, as the servings are a step beyond ample. There were seven ravioli on this dish, of which I was only able to finish five, because the eggplant-garlic puree served on sliced Italian bread along with the appetizer and salad had taken more room in my stomach than anticipated. This ravioli dish is another among Nadie's offerings that I would put up against the best New York has to offer. 
Bravo, Chef Nadie!






CRISPY GNOCCHI









CHEESE RAVIOLI MICHAEL ANGELO





CHEF NADIE AND WIFE, LIZ





WE CLOSED THE PLACE