Image via Crown Heights
My friend Chaim Szmidt, of the Kosher Scene and I just love to talk about food, and of course consume it and then excitedly discuss it, as other people discuss their recent cruises or their recent shopping sprees (I must say I become totally – and uncharacteristically – mute on these two last subjects, of which I know next to nothing). So after I told Chaim I was making reservations for last night at Pardes Restaurant, I was hardly surprised to find his anxious email sent late last night: “Can’t wait to hear….. Pardes” Ha, just look at us, I thought: one food addict waiting for the other food addict to get home and share their “tripping”!
Seriously: It was really great fun. I went with my husband, my daughter Bella and her baby Tsofia (Listen up: Welcome those babies and give them a high chair, I tell you: they are tomorrow’s savvy diners and talented chefs!) The first thought this Upper West Sider had when embarking via subway on the trip to the restaurant was, gosh, it’s in the middle of nowhere! but I very quickly changed my mind when I realized it was accessible by so many trains (Atlantic Avenue Station), was a couple short blocks away from the train station, and those short blocks were chock-full of trendy galleries and stores. Next hot spot Atlantic Avenue? We’ve seen stranger things happen!
As dinner progressed, we all thought the many strengths far outweighed the very few (and very easily rectified) weaknesses, and the service was extra-nice and the owner, the talented Moshe Wendel, beyond gracious, with a stature, a voice and a temperament – and a golden heart – perfectly suited to the restaurant and hospitality industry, which I am leaving after a nice long run and he and many other talented youngsters are entering, while they have the necessary energy, strength and enthusiasm for the hard and exciting life of a restauranteur. We took Chaim’s recommendations: The bougeronnes (featuring anchovies, the problem child of the fish family only in the US, mind you. And they didn’t come from a can, let me assure you!); the pizza, topped with slow-roasted tomatoes and smoked tongue (Ditto: the problem child of the meat family: We went to great lengths not to make that ingredient clear to my daughter, who would never have gotten anywhere near it); the ribeye steak, not smothered in a globs of gooey sauce, but resting lightly on a jus reduction: All wonderful. My husband waxed nostalgic about the steak, saying he never enjoyed a steak since Levana restaurant closed except at Nobo Teaneck and here. The chef brought out two extra treats for us, both delicious and cute-cute-cute: A linguini with a shaved meat (tongue I think, hi again!) and toasted almonds, and grilled chicken wings which I recommend every bit for their taste as for their presentation: Each boneless morsel planted in a little tube secreting the sauce topping the chicken when you put it in your mouth (upside down so the sauce will squirt down, get it?) very much like the tiny water-filled tubes some fragile flower stems rest in. Delicious bread too, dunked in a truffle-infused oil. Even my granddaughter was sucking on it contentedly (told you: Keep those babies well fed!) We thought all the seasonings were used at once with great ingenuity and great restraint, never getting too cloying. This Moroccan expat even identified preserved lemons in one of the dishes (yay!) We saw semi-industrial amounts of burgers and French fries coming out, looking scrumptious and coming in each guest’s plate with their own condiments placed in whimsically tipped shot glasses. A lovely waiter doted on us and declared he had a way with little children, and I asked him if he would like to inherit our baby for the duration of the dinner, since she was repeatedly caught flirting with him.
The very few minuses: Coffee was cold, sangria could use some spicing up and more tart notes (Do you need a present? Here is my sangria recipe: you’ll serve loads of it: I guarantee it!), tomatoes appear in dishes a little too often (how about mushrooms, for a change?) the dessert looked and tasted frankly odd (oy they need me for that! I can help!) and needed some serious revamping; and the short rib dish, hmmm, I just didn’t know what to make of it: I think it should just go: It will be totally unlamented, I guarantee it!
On our way out we were already hard at work plotting all the invitations we were going to extend soon to family and friends. OOOOh, I nearly forgot: Sizzling little brown bags of Cajun Popcorn to munch on while we waited for our table. So, to conclude: YUM!!!! My compliments to the chef: Hatzlacha Rabba!
PS: Pardes is small: I recommend making reservations!
PPS: just went back recently and the desserts grew by leaps and bounds! Yum!