tasting with a VIEW: Battello

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Stunning views steal breath. The night glitters with magic— the dark sky kisses the reflective water, twinkling, and the fall air drifts in, circling the high ceilings of Battello in Jersey City.

It is the perfect setting to be seduced. Open widows and glass let the still outside in. Vaulting rafters allow whispers to vanish, evaporate into intimacy and stay warm in the ear. Dotted Edison bulbs dangle just right, like tangible stars.

The menu speaks of a different kind of intimacy. A repetition of ingredients guarantees a closeness of flavors and feelings. The variety is pleasant, but the theme is to elevate: to inspire with the insipid. Many menu items seem done to the point of overdone; Battello wants to prove otherwise.

The Shipwrecked cocktail is a sweet note amongst its bitter companions, fresh with strawberries and savory with vibrant basil.
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A doughty crabcake sits on a bed of electric green slimy seaweed and capped with thick fennel. Each layer plays to the one beneath it, matching stringy texture, layering salt, fish and fresh.
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Smoky octopus, blackened with grill marks and effort, is brightened with green olive tapenade, briny and rough. The saltiness is soaked up by heavy grilled potatoes, creating a balance verging on innocuous.
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Added salt brings out the disguised sweetness of the autumn squash and the tender too cooked short rib dispersed through the curled edges of cavatelli. A monotonous blandness that weighs the dish down, flat-lining something that was destined for deliciousness.
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Pillowy gnocchi bathe in Bolognese pronged with spicy sausage and tangy acidic tomato. The browned pasta melts in the mouth, leaving fat chunks of crumbly sausage and not enough feeling.
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A four-bite braised short rib stands tall on a slab of smooth mashed potatoes and silky greens. The juices are sweet like fall fruits left with time, instant age for the fatty meat.
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Two delicate pancetta wrapped scallops sit triumphantly on red quinoa gravel, briny with green olives and sweet with gems raisins. Decorative pretty puffs of toasted almond supply another level of earthiness to the quinoa, highlighting the sweetness of the scallop.
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Dessert is a trio singing sweet songs with a melody too saccharine for honeyed ears. Almond ice cream lays thick on crunchy layers of cold granola, nuts, and the bluest of blueberries to make a tiny parfait. But bitterness invades with a round of dark chocolate gelato, towering chocolate mousse and a soft rectangle of dense brownie. A sole praline profiterole, salty and sweet, paired with a tart macerated strawberry, finish the group.

The airy atmosphere breeds romance—dim lighting, refined rustic notes, and glass, lots of glass.  Though luscious textures and refined ingredients are the language of the food at the eatery, a little piece of love is missing in some of the dishes, leaving them soulless.

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food for thought...