There were five of them and it was almost too late to eat, but they knew they needed to, so they did. They had been there before, many times, but this time something felt a little different. There had been a small shift, like a timid constant daring for a change, only it makes changes so miniscule, they are almost imperceptible, just enough to ripple the surface and make people think.
The change was not in the service or the quality of ingredients. Amanda’s has always been one of the most consistent restaurants in Hoboken, never wavering from its high standards and the freshest, most seasonal ingredients.
Nor was it in the décor. The dining rooms still felt like the formal dining rooms of homes you might have been to. It remains timeless and comfortable, and just elevated enough to feel excellence.
Maybe it was the menu. Amanda’s does a few things very well, each dish may shift with the seasons, but these items are to be anticipated on the menu. This evening, some of those were indeed listed, but morphed to a recognizable unfamiliarity.
As always, a polenta starter is featured on the menu. This time it was the base for a spicy sausage ragu topped with pretty mache and salty strands of parmesan. The polenta was creamy and warm, as expected, but the ragu was multifaceted and distinct.
The entrees too, were in typical form— a tower of starch, vegetable and protein—but mixed up and embellished. The flaky pink grilled salmon sat atop a thick slab of lobster mashed potatoes, flanked by buttery green beans. A slight adjustment to the potatoes inspired curiosity and resulted in creamy luxury.
Similarly the seabass precariously perched on a round of garlicky sautéed spinach and a quinoa risotto, played with the same model, but creativity came with the base. Instead of the classic risotto or even a grain, Amanda’s new vision offered an inventive twist.
The duck dish, complete with maple-roasted butternut squash, bacon lardons and wilted mustard greens, read like an old dish but instead brought excitement. The maple surfaced the earthy sweetness of the butternut squash, which accented the earthiness of the dark greens. But the salt of the lardoons and the fattiness of the meat made everything sparkle.
Even dessert brought something uncharacteristic to the table. A banana cake with caramel ice cream felt like bananas fosters on the tongue, classic and simple but recreated. And a butterscotch pudding, layered all the dreams of sweetness into a perfect little package, presented in a jar. The chocolate molten cake is an old standby, unbroken by new imaginings.
Sometimes the key to consistency is a kind of monotony and paucity of innovation. This flatness was at times present at Amanda’s—not that the food wasn’t good, it was, just predictable and safe. The new turns have created a more exciting experience, while replicating the high standards and quality.