And so began Hudson County RestaurantWeek, a wonderful time of year. This winter round began January 28 and runs thru February 8th, plenty of time to check out the plethora of local gems throughout the growing and changing county. As mentioned here, the food celebration takes place twice a year, during the times when restaurants slow down, because of the weather or the season. The event is meant to help boost business, and get different people and even regulars through the door. It is an extremely exciting time, with a list of almost 40 participating venues, across four or so cities, this restaurant week is far less daunting than the same kind of event in New York City. Even though the list is not as large, it is still difficult to decide where to go and what to taste. We try to pick places that we have not been to before or places that we would like to see in another light. Stay tuned for more of my Hudson County Restaurant Week Food Diary…this is just the beginning.
Wednesday, January 30, 8ish pm: 3forty Grill, Hoboken
This was going to be our first stop in celebrating Hudson County Restaurant Week, and yes it is a celebration (how is discounted food not?!). We landed on 3Forty Grill, because we wanted to stay in Hoboken that night. We both never have eaten there before, but firsts are always fun. I had been there once before for the lounge, so I had no idea what to expect.
When we arrived around eight, the place was almost packed. We could see all the full tables through the long window on the backside of the restaurant. The full tables, the dim light and table cloths made us anxious but also more excited; we could feel the trendy atmosphere from there.
Once inside, we had no wait for a table, ours was one of the maybe three unoccupied ones left and the others were reserved. The hostess gave us our menus and politely explained about the $35 three-courseprix fixe for the Restaurant Week. This smaller prix fixe menu featured items from the restaurant's regular menu, which is a great way to display and highlight the vision of the place. And this separate menu was relatively long and involved, giving more than just three options for each course.
To start on our prix fixe adventure we ordered the warm Brie and bacon bruschetta appetizer, as well as well as the fritto misto (delicious but not that interesting; included calamari, clam strips and fish, fried in a salty and flavorful batter). The bruschetta was gorgeous, delicate and stately at the same time. The wide and shallow plate held three over flowing pieces of toasted bread, rubbed with warm garlic and oil, topped by tangy warmed Brie, sweet frangelico infused grapes, toasted almond slivers, bacon and dainty microgreens. The plate was heavily drizzled with a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction, which brought out the sweetness in some of the elements. Though lovely to look at, the bruschetta was impractical, as they did not hold together and toppings never failed to tumble into our laps. But the taste was layered, though almost too much. The crunch from the almonds was pleasant and almost necessary to counter the smoothness of the cheese and the juiciness of the grapes, however, the flavor did not blend well. Both appetizers were sizable, considering two more courses were on their way.
Our main courses were kind of classics, mildly modified, geared to a level of refinement, but all the elements reminded me of home. I had the braised short rib that sat atop a heavy mound of rich mushroom risotto and lemon infused spinach. The plate was smeared with a mixture of meat juices and truffle cream, and topped by the oddly alluring mushroom chips. This dish was hearty, classic, comfort and flavors all rolled into one, featuring mushrooms in the spotlight, followed by decadence. This risotto was one of the best ones we have had out, creamy, luscious, cheesy and perfectly cooked. It was a stellar base for the fatty hunk of short rib, soft from slow cooking and time. The curveball was really the mushroom chips, thin, crunchy and chewy all at the same time. They tasted like mushrooms, but somehow transformed and addictive. The deliciousness, creaminess, meatiness, and mushroominess, made the spinach unsavory and obsolete.
The other main, chicken medallions with parmigiano string beans, bacon whipped potatoes, and sweet and savory corn pudding, was not nearly as delicious. The best part of the plate was the salty and fresh string beans. We loved the combination of cheese and crispy freshness of the beans (yea, not the bacon...sadly). All the other elements were either dry (chicken), lifeless (corn pudding) or too bacony (is that a thing?).
Dessert was also less than spectacular, though simple plating made them look beautiful. The warm baked apple crisp topped with caramel gelato sounded good in theory, but the brown sugar pastry was too buttery to the point where it tasted meaty. The combination of the elements could have been good, the melting gelato fused it all together with a sweetness to battle tartness. Just some of the proportions were off, making the flavor profile tumble into unfortunate depths. The old fashioned butter cake was just that, settled in a pool of Nutella chocolate sauce, sweet and meaty from the hazelnut notes. It was made light and fun with super fresh strawberries and a bunch of whipped cream. But it was not really anything special.
All in all, we had a fun time, eating, chatting, and calculating what our meal would have been had we not gotten the Restaurant Week menu. The food was pretty good, warm and somewhat inspiring, but the portions were large and worth the price. The atmosphere was not as stiff as I first thought it was going to be, and in the end almost inviting. I would really like to try out some other things there in the future, so apparently participating in Hudson County Restaurant Week did the job for 3Forty Grill.