Caffe Vita coffee & 1/2 Batali sorpress. Inside the Batali family restaurant

 

I just came back from a long overdue visit to Seattle.  Who cares? you, denizens of Jersey City, ask.  Well, not many people but I have only a few things to report:

1) Spoils - came back with some excellent Caffe Vita coffee and 1/2 a sopresatta from Salumi, the original (well it moved a couple times I guess) Batali restaurant.  The sopresatta is firm, dry and flavorful.  A little goes a long way and I recently tossed in a diced slice to a bowl of pasta to add a meaty, slightly sour and spicy treat for the tastebuds.

2) Coffee update - I have it from a little bird (my Moms) that the homegrown Seattle favorite Caffe Vita, which roasts its own dark rich chocolatey beans (see above) and brews up some of the most ethereal thick foamy lattes with a delicate pour, is planning to open a Lower East Side outpost.  Vita already has six locations in Seattle, one in Olympia and an eighth in Portland, Oregon.  The new Lower East Side location is set to open October 1st but may open later, depending on the license process.

I have been ordering whole bean, or ground when I’m lazy, from Vita since 2005 with a shipping cost of $10 per pound.  When the wallet was slim, I would hold out for a little bird (my Moms) to smuggle coffee in her luggage at the low cost of $0 to me.  Freedom, Coffee Drinkers, is upon us!  Rejoice!  Caffeinate!

Eataly is that awesome.  I think the most beautiful thing was a tie between the meat and the fish sections.  A close third, which nearly brought tears to my eyes, was the aisles of carefully stacked various pestos and olive oils.  Warning: This place is an utter madhouse on the weekends.  Do not even think of having a nibble at the standing wine/cheese/meats bar unless you’re into getting body checked by tourists.

Eataly is that awesome.  I think the most beautiful thing was a tie between the meat and the fish sections.  A close third, which nearly brought tears to my eyes, was the aisles of carefully stacked various pestos and olive oils.  Warning: This place is an utter madhouse on the weekends.  Do not even think of having a nibble at the standing wine/cheese/meats bar unless you’re into getting body checked by tourists.

the embankment

The Embankment is located in a shiny new building on 10th Street and Erie Street built on the footprint of part of Jersey City’s hallowed industrial past - a branch of the sturdy, stone-hewn raised railway beds that in the not-too-distant past fed chattels and goods into the Jersey City ports and over the Hudson into New York City’s eager arms.  Today the embankment proper - not the restaurant - is an odd overgrown lump, in two branches, partitioning Harsimus Cove and Hamilton Park off from the hustle of the Holland Tunnel traffic.  Sadly The Embankment - the restaurant - does not better this physical picture beyond a generic lofted lounge environment, albeit with rough hewn stone walls echoing the embankment walls visible from the restaurant, and well-plated but lackluster food.

We were seated in the bar as the spacious dining area, with high ceilings, sleek modern wood walls, and large comfortable burgundy booths, was occupied for a baby shower.  The subdued but joyous party spilled over into the bar area [read: men avoiding the baby shower] and brought a particularly “Jersey Shore” atmosphere to the meal.   We were delighted by the popular music selection which included Rilo Kiley, Grizzly Bear, and last but not least, Electric Light Orchestra.

We had a near tragic White Russian incident - made with amaretto liquor instead of coffee - but it was quickly rectified by the friendly wait staff.  And we lost our table to some fleet-footed diners who bypassed the waiter but this too was mediated kindly.

The appetizers were average but lovely to look at: mussels with white wine, garlic, and sprigs of thyme; fried calamari topped with a rainbow of red peppery sauce, too much parmesan, and pesto; and soggy shrimp tempura with a ponzu/sesame dipping sauce.  The main courses were equally beautiful but slightly awry.  The beef short ribs were succulent in a simple tomato sauce made with [gasp] what tasted like canned tomatoes and served with mini-cubes of toasted root vegetables.  It was beautifully garnished with some sprouts nestled below crisp fried onions.  Unfortunately, the entire dish was so salty - and I love salty food - that it nearly cauterized my lips.  

The mozzarella and roasted vegetable sandwich was slightly flavored with pesto spread but the soft Italian bun was soggy and the sandwich quickly fell apart.  The side of hand cut fries were a nice accompaniment.  The menu overall provides standards for all meals - breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert - but nothing inspiring.

 

In toto - 

  • Food:  Average tasting, if that, but well-plated and satisfying.
  • Ambience:  Lounge vibe with a Jersey Shore vibe.  Kid friendly.  Outdoor dining available.
  • Pricing:  Moderately priced but not inexpensive. $8-$12 appetizers and $12-20 entrees.
  • Service: Friendly but inexperienced.
  • Summary:  Good for a standard meal or for a drink with friends when in the Hamilton Park area but not a culinary destination.