NJ Dining: Chengdu 1 (UPDATED October 2009)

April 4, 2009

Click for Hi-Res Slide Show!

Chengdu 1
89 Pompton Ave (Pilgrim Shopping Plaza)
Cedar Grove NJ, 973-239-7726

I think that by now people realize that I love really spicy food. One of my favorite spicy cuisines is true Sichuan-syle Chinese food, which is characterized by its use of red fire oil (vegetable oil that is infused with red chile pepper essence) and the face-numbing Sichuan Peppercorn, also known as hua jiao (meaning flower pepper, as it resembles a tiny flower) or fagara.

While there are many restaurants in the greater New York metropolitan area with “Szechuan” in the name, the sad reality is that there are very, very few restaurants serving actual regional Sichuan cuisine, New York City included. There are  a few such restaurants  remaining in Manhattan, most notably being the midtown and uptown branches of Wu Liang Ye. Spicy and Tasty in Flushing, Queens is another good example. The much-loved Grand Sichuan International Midtown closed in April of ’07 but some of its sister (and inferior) branches remain.

So when it came to my attention (by way of an excellent post by Melissa Rayworth on the Montclair food blog Barista) that we in fact had the genuine article right here in Northern New Jersey, I knew we had to go.

Chengdu 1 is right down the road from Montclair State University on Pompton Ave, in the Pilgrim Shopping Plaza next to Clearview Cinema

Can you take the heat? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Cleveland Indians Chili

October 11, 2007

Click Here for Hi-Res Slide Show!

Last week, I went on a business trip to Cleveland, and be it as it may, I spent all of my time in the Independence, Ohio suburbs wailing away on a computer keyboard or on long conference calls, stuck inside an office park, in crappy cold, overcast and rainy weather. My meals consisted of multiple group outings to Zoup! and Aladdin’s at the nearby strip mall, and a one-off visit to Famous Gyro George. I did not get a chance to take advantage of some of the great local ethnic cuisine, and for this I feel ashamed (note: If you somehow end up in Cleveland, I urge you to read Laura Taxel’s book Cleveland Ethnic Eats). And as a punishment for not taking advantage of the city’s great food, the Cleveland Indians utterly destroyed the New York Yankees in the MLB playoffs, the baseball team that my family has put on an altar of worship for multiple generations.

To lift the curse, I must repent. I must offer to the Indian spirits of Cleveland and the great state of Ohio a grand offering so that the Yankees may again return with a Pennant and World Series victory next year.

One of the places I did manage to visit in Cleveland was Skyline Chili. I’ve always been intrigued by the concept but never actually visited a Skyline location until recently. The idea of a layered, heavy cinnamon laced chili over spaghetti with modular condiments did sound appealing.

Eat a Chili worthy of a true Cleveland Indians fan. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


New Orleans Dining: Cochon

September 23, 2007

Click Here for Hi-Res Slideshow!

Cochon
930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA
(504) 588-2123

Web Site: http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/

One of the restaurants in New Orleans I most wanted to dine at was COCHON, a new, Post-Katrina casual fine dining restaurant that was opened by Donald Link, of Herbsaint fame and 2007 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef, South (click for previous OTB podcast) who I interviewed during my previous New Orleans trip back in April of 2006. At the time, the finishing touches of COCHON had just been done, and the restaurant was preparing to open only days after I returned home. Now, over a year later, COCHON has become one of New Orleans’ top restaurants, and was nominated as “Best New Restaurant” in the 2007 James Beard Awards.

Best described as “Modern Cajun” COCHON incorporates many elements of traditional Cajun cuisine combined with twists from Europe and Asia. Although the food and the restaurant would easily find itself in New York’s hip SoHo and Greenwich Village or among the top fine dining establishments in Midtown Manhattan, it is most definitely a New Orleans restaurant and one of the city’s finest examples at that.

Exterior, Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans

Entrance View

Dining Room

Table Closeup

Is COCHON Hillbilly or Haute? I think it’s a bit of both. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »