9 North — Wayne, NJ [closed]

New restaurants should be like Avis in their old commercials: “We try Harder.” And although the folks at this very new (they opened last Tuesday) Wayne restaurant certainly tried hard, it obviously is still a work in progress. Our waiter told us that two of the waiters quit on Saturday at 5:00pm, so I certainly will not ding them for being overwhelmed. And even if it isn’t true, we knew what we were getting into. After all, it just opened, plus it’s a pretty ballsy story, so he gets credit anyway. The remaining waiters really hustled, and someone recruited a 12-year-old kid, who shows great promise setting a table.

What I didn’t find to be lacking was the service, which was confused but earnest. And the presentation was excellent and interesting, so no problems there. I didn’t like the fact that both fish dishes were overcooked, while the steak and lamb were cooked perfectly. That tells me that whoever is running the kitchen either doesn’t have a handle on what is, at least to me, the most important part of cooking besides cleanliness . . . cooking both fish and meat to the correct temperature . . . or that he just isn’t too interested in fish — which is fine, but don’t put it on the menu.

But on to the meal. We started with crab cakes — excellent, served with a simple mustardy sauce — that were a bit small. A weird “Lobster Strudel” that I really didn’t like, but nobody else complained, so maybe I’m the one with no taste. A well-made onion tart, and a mushroom risotto (I can’t resist risotto). The risotto was well executed but a bit on the simple
side. . .just sautéed mushrooms and rice. I enjoyed it, but it should have been a more complex dish. The menu says “Wild Mushroom Risotto, Duck Confit, Port Syrup.” Not a chance. They were out of the duck confit appetizer, and obviously, there was no duck available for the risotto. And port? Nope.

The aforementioned steak, which they claim on the menu to be “dry-aged,” was perfectly cooked, but if it was dry-aged, it was in dog years. The rack of lamb was, once again, a simple preparation but obviously good enough that my brother-in-law finished it before I could snag a piece. He is a card-carrying carnivore, so I will trust his judgment. But how do you screw up salmon? I could tell it was overdone from across the table. My sister-in-law, a much, much nicer person than I, said, “oh, I like my fish well-done.” And my pancetta-wrapped monkfish? What a nice idea — and one that I will steal quite soon. But it just doesn’t fly when the monkfish is as crisp as the pancetta. Okay, I am exaggerating slightly, but it was dry and tough.

Wayne, New Jersey, is not a hotbed of fine dining. If these folks can iron out the significant kinks in the service (and figure out how to cook fish), they will succeed, and I will return. The prices were reasonable, it’s BYOB (always a wonderful thing), the decor is stark but not unpleasant (decorated with the chef’s girlfriend’s artwork, which isn’t bad), and they have a small room off to one side that can be used for private parties. I also would suggest to the owner-chef that he come out of the kitchen and take a look at the dining room every once and a while. The service was pretty ragged on his first Saturday night — so bad that some people left without eating — but I didn’t see him once. I am not owed a chat with the chef simply because I have eaten at his restaurant, but come on, on your first weekend? Ask how everything was. I would have told the truth, and then I’d come back!

Update

I received a polite comment about my 9 North post…from the chef! I sent him the link because it’s tacky to criticize him behind his back. To his credit, he was nice, and didn’t tell me to stick my amateurish, asinine comments. He also pointed out that his steaks are indeed 21-day dry aged from a local company.

I think that Mr. Bernstein is a serious chef trying to create a serious restaurant, and I am going to take his food seriously. That means holding the experience to the standard that he is trying to reach, but hasn’t achieved yet. I think that he will get there.

10 Replies to “9 North — Wayne, NJ [closed]”

  1. You have certainly lived up to your billing about restaurant reviews: “I promise that it won’t be evenhanded though”.

    To have written such a review on the FIRST Weekend of a newly opened restaurant, says more abbout the reviewer than the reviewed. A truly objective reviewer would eat at an establishment several times before attempting to make pronouncements about the quality of the food and service. To be “Fair and Balanced” you owe 9 North the courtesy of eating there several more times and following up to see if the startup issues have been resolved. It would be the right thing to do.

    I have eaten there three times, two dinners and one brunch. One dinner was with friends whose daughter and son-in-law are Johnson and Wales graduates and are/have been in the food industry for many years. They, and we, thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and service on a busy Saturday evening.

    I certainly hope you will do more thorough research by going back several times and giving this new endeavor a fair chance.

    The courtesy of a reply to my email address would be appreciated.

    Sincerely yours,

    Bill Otto

    PS We have spoken with the chef on every visit. He is pleasant, knowledgeable and informative. He had visited many diners during our visits to express his appreciation for their dining in his restaurant.

  2. Thanks for the psychoanalysis Bill, but I have no interest in your sophomoric criticism of…my blog! Maybe one day you will understand the difference between a professional food reviewer and…a blogger!

    But because your comment amused me I will point out a few of the problems with your shilling for 9 North.

    First — I don’t owe anyone anything. This is my blog, and I can write anything I choose. If you like reading what I write, then come back. If you don’t like it, I won’t mind if you never read another word I write.

    Second — People in the food industry are no better than anyone else at finding quality restaurants. Why would I care what your friends think?

    Third — Restaurants often fail because of bad first impressions. Ignoring the fact that you were too full of piss and vinegar to read what I wrote, anyone who reads my review is entitled to know what my first impressions were. Maybe you could improve your reading comprehension and revisit what I actually wrote.

    P.S. If you want to read my answer, you will have to visit my blog! Isn’t that great?

  3. So much for your impression and it’s value.

    It’s as accurate as your verbal assault on me.

    [Billy-Boy included the full text of a review of 9 North from The Bergen Record. Because it is boring I have deleted it. As for Billy-Boy’s comment? I wish he would learn the difference between “its” and “it’s.” And then try to understand the difference between a blog review and a newspaper review. But I’m not holding my breath.]

  4. BTW, the Bergen Record (newspaper)review rated 9 North as excellent *** (which contradicted your distorted opinion….er, blog review, virtually point by point). You may delete this msg as well, you pedantic, obscure, anonymous ( and I understand why you want to remain unknown), irrelevant, self-absorbed, inane, hypersensitive, supercilous, nasty blogger who serves as a prime dry-aged example of why people should beware of what they read on a blog where typos are accepted and routine. Congratulations on detecting one in my previous msg. You got one thing right.

    Now, please hold your breath until I tell you to breathe again.

    Sincerely,

    Billy-Boy

    PS The next time you engage in a battle of wits, please bring a weapon.

  5. “you pedantic, obscure, anonymous ( and I understand why you want to remain unknown), irrelevant, self-absorbed, inane, hypersensitive, supercilous, nasty blogger”

    Why is he dragging me into this? jeez.

    somewhat related, The Bergen Record reviews aren’t very well-regarded.

  6. I usually delete silly comments, but Billy-boy’s were amusing, in a rubbernecking-at-an-accident sort of way. I have an image in my mind’s eye of Billy-boy looking puffed up and righteous, like a budgie during his courtship display, while he pounds away on his keyboard, writing what he thinks are scathing comments.

    I agree about the Bergen Record reviews. Their newest reviewer, Miss Ung, seems to know very little about food, and even less about service. Hopefully she will be consistent at least.

  7. Puffed up like a budgie during his courtship display! I may have to use that. On an entirely unrelated note: the cuban pork sandwiches at Schiller’s bistro (Manhattan) are worth the effort if you are in the neighborhood. Schiller’s is owned by the same guy who runs Pastis and Balthazar, I believe. I would put this at a distant second behind Balthazar and of course I would rather be poked in the eye with a stick than eat at Pastis.

  8. I have eaten there and enjoyed it, but the funky east village scene is a little too much like Berkeley, where unshaved armpits is a sign of high fashion. Try the lemonade and strawberry concoction. It is quite refreshing on a hot day. Don’t bother with the fish and chips: nothing special, and a bit pricey, although fried correctly. The burger holds promise. I think it is a good place if you are in the neighborhood, but I am not sure that it is worth a detour.

  9. Unfortunately, you are correct about the lack of ambience. Is it too much to ask that my waiter not resemble a 300-pound homunculus with a face like a clenched fist? Not to threadjack…but I had a wonderful breakfast at a new chain restaurant called “Luftwaffles”…I spoke to the oberst-manager general and he claimed that “Soon, all will know the sweet, buttery taste of waffles and fear from above”.

    [If anyone wants to know what the hell he is talking about, go to The Onion link: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/44436 ]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.