La Cote

You usually get something from me once a week.  I try to go to new places; I try to revisit places I haven’t been to in awhile. Some weeks I don’t put out anything because I don’t have shit to say.  I talk out my opinions with the people around me and they let me know whether my perspective has merit or if I’m being a ludicrous goblin.  This often takes time.

My motivation here is to not be a content machine, aggressively proliferating followers and influencers as a means of attaining some higher meaning.  It’s to express my particular point of view and to give you another option outside of the existing JC food bubble. It’s important to take my time and write earnestly because otherwise you’re not going to enjoy it, and then I’m not going to enjoy it, which is a slow devolution into killing the blog. This is why it’s important to me to not flood you fuckers with a shitty opinion every day.  

But that doesn’t mean I can’t get a fire lit under my ass midweek by some typical JC bullshit.  I’m coming in hot.

Albert Camus, a French philosopher whose referencing once made me attractive to clove smoking college girls, suggests that there is no love of life without the despair of life. Enter the despair.  

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I wanted to love la Cote.  I honestly did. I went into this meal completely biased, ready to write a glowing review of a place I had never been to.  I bought into the bullshit visuals peddled on social media – hand’s up, that’s on me. I saw a properly prepared skate wing.  I saw minimalist decor. I saw the orange marmalade textured yolk of a hard-boiled egg. I saw BYOB. I was sold. I was a fucking mark.

My rose colored lenses have turned shit brown, helping the edges of red flags contrast from their background.  Things I should have seen before are now much clearer. Why is a French restaurant making Chicken Parm? Why does a dish with shaved black truffles cost $20?  These eggs are kind of grey.  This asparagus is definitely over cooked, and why is it being served on top of green beans? This sauce is broken, and even worse, what is that black shit?  As Camus also said “seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable”.

Let’s start.

We sat down at 7:30 and the waiter explains to us that multiple people will be assisting the table, no particular waiter will be ours, instead everyone will help. Group love, maaaaaan. We met this information with the glee and optimism. So young, so naive. We were so happy then, before the real world made us grow up so fast with promises of bread and our cold appetizers “coming right out”.  Looking back, it becomes clear that when everyone is your server, effectively no one is your server. “Whose responsibility is it to do X?” becomes impossible to answer, and the basics, like refilling water or clearing plates, get overlooked.   

I picked up a bottle of some funky frizzante ($18) from CoolVines.  The wine was placed in a metal bucket, presumably to chill down.  In order for this operation to work a combination of ice and water should be added to the bucket.  Like a wish for chilled wine granted by a cursed monkey paw, I was issued a bucket with a countable amount of ice cubes and around half an inch of water.  Off to a great start.

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This ice situation may appear to be nitpicky, and I would agree if that was follow by an OK experience.  Instead, we became well acquainted with this bucket as it would be the only thing put on the table for the next hour or so.  

Yes, it took over an hour to get burrata caprese and pate campange to our fucking table.  At this point of the meal, or lack there of,  the wine I’m drinking is almost gone and finally dropping below room temp.  The time it would take 6 ice cubes in 8 ounces of water to chill a bottle of wine can only be measured in ages.  It might not even be allowed by the laws of thermodynamics. Impossibly, a marginally chilled glass of wine was delivered to my mouth hole.  Sweet relief.

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Our burrata was put on the table, followed by pate a few moments later, then the bread we were promised an hour ago.  The burrata was OK, its fucking burrata, how can it be bad? You didn’t do anything? You throw some tomatoes on the shit streaked it with pesto and balsamic. The tomatoes were fresh – an expectation, not an accomplishment.  No complaints other than the fact that they apparently had to physically milk the goddamn cow to make the burrata during this time.

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Here’s the one compliment I will give of this meal.  The pate campagne was delicious. Porky, fatty, very little spice, restrained and balanced minerality from the livers – which were clearly pork and not chicken.  This was the best thing I had.

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This does not mean it was without flaw.  It was served with sliced baguette and a fancy fucking tomato that served no other purpose than to be an ugly and money wasting garnish, and two cornichons.  Where is the dijon? Where is the fig jam? Where is the sweet?

Like the increasing dread that comes with the slow discovery of the murders call coming from inside the house, I realize that this French restaurant is not a French restaurant.  Its a red sauce joint, a bad one, with a handful of French dishes. These are the thoughts one ponders while waiting for their food, along with “fuck, I should have rationed those apps” and “do I own enough canned goods for a doomsday scenario”  

After we made quick work of the apps, we went back to the waiting game. The entire vibe of the restaurant at this point is fucking tense.  The jovial old man in the Hawaiian shirt at the table across from me has turned stone faced, borderline catatonic. His interlocked fists are clenched in front of his mouth, as he sternly mutters behind them to his patient wife. She’s is now rubbing his back and prepping for the impending meltdown. By the end of the night we will have spent over an hour and a half to get two cold apps and two entrees.  In true French fashion, this impending peasant revolt is quelled with bread being handed out to every table.

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For entrees, we ordered the Gnocchi al Tartufo and the Red Snapper St Tropez.

Here’s the menu description of the Gnocchi: Truffle infused cream sauce topped with shaved black truffles.

Here’s what you get.  Gnocchi, definitely prepackaged, likely from a big frozen bag of Sysco Gnocchi.  The texture of this is closer to a cheese curd, where you can actually feel a bit of a squeak when you bite into it. Your shaved black truffles?  They were shaved into a vat of oil at a factory in China – then put in a can – then shipped to la Cote. You should not say that you’re getting shaved truffles on a dish if you do not intend to shave truffles on a dish.  That’s called lying. Our work around for this dish was to ask for more bread a just dip the shit into the cream sauce.

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As for our Red Snapper, I cannot report on whether it was good or not due to the fact that our waiter(s) decided to call a hot route and give us salmon.  

This is the point at which I began enjoying my meal.  Not because it tasted good, because it didn’t, but because I had finally came to grips with the absurdity of this meal.  Like Sysiphus walking down the hill, I am gleefully free from the burden of questioning why this meal sucks, and just accept that it does suck and doesn’t matter.

Everything was wrong about the salmon.  It was fishy. The skin was the antithesis of crisp. The sauce was broken to the point where it appeared as if someone just dumped oil over the entire dish. The potatoes were littered with pieces of onions and garlic that were burnt completely black.  And in final shit flourish that says “I went to culinary school in the early 90’s” two garnishes of fresh herbs that are as impractical as they are wasteful.

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This is the number one sign that this place is on a fast track down the shitter.  Whole fronds of dill. Whole sprigs of thyme. What the fuck am I supposed to do with this other than get this shit off my plate as quickly as possible and make broad assumptions about the chefs credibility.  I can fuck up salmon at home. I don’t need to pay someone to do that for me.

This episode of Kitchen Nightmares mercifully came to an end with an offer for free dessert (declined) and a comped appetizer (accepted).  All of this, plus a side of spinach and tip came out to around $90, without the comped app this would have been a $100+ meal.

Is this what your money gets you now? This is money I could have saved for a time in the not too distant future when the world economy has collapsed and we burn currency to stay warm during nuclear winter.  That would have been a more responsible and enjoyable way to spend this money.

As I comb through the Yelp reviews of this place, I see a lot of similarities in the complaints from previous diners.  Unfortunately Yelp is still an unreliable platform as buying positive reviews is a widely known tactic for restaurants, and reviews good or bad, are often personal.  Even more unfortunately, we have JC food bloggers who are complicit in the spread of this type disinformation.  If you’re telling people to go somewhere, you cant just tell them what is good.  You have to say whats bad. 

Here’s what this entire post would look like if jerseycityeats or one of these IG accounts did it

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Fuck that.

Nice Things Rating:

dumpfire

I created Nice Things because I want us to have nice things. So if you enjoyed what you read, share it with your friends.  You can follow me on Instagram @NiceThingsJC

If you’re interested in writing and have something to say, send a partially cogent email to NiceThings@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “La Cote

  1. Chicken Parm, you say…

    Seriously, though, your writing on finer dining can get a little nit-picky for me. But as I scrolled through the article and came to the picture of the gnocchi I cracked up. It looks like it came out of a Campbell’s Soup can!

    Also, did they warn you about the switch from snapper to salmon? Those are two very different fish.

    Like

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