Saturday, May 30, 2015

My $58.36 lunch at Local Seasonal Kitchen is worth almost every penny

Pan Seared Wild Steelhead Trout, swimming in Glutten Free Red & Barley Miso Broth, is on the lunch menu at Local Seasonal Kitchen in Ramsey.

Shishito Peppers with Togarashi, a mild Japanese spice mixture, is one of the small plates the menu lists as "For The Table."


If I was by myself, I would have been satisfied with 
a delicious lunch of crisp-skinned wild steelhead trout, perfectly pan-seared to medium, and served over toothsome noodles.

But I met two friends at Local Seasonal Kitchen in Ramsey on Thursday, and was open to their suggestion we share two of the small plates the menu lists as "For The Table."

And even though I never touch dessert and rarely order coffee in a restaurant, I was intrigued in a how-do-they-do-that kind of way with a vegan, dairy free "cheesecake" made completely from nuts, fruit and sugar ($14).

I took two small bites with sips from a latte ($6), then asked the server to pack up the rest of the Strawberry Bar to go.

So, even though we were going Dutch, that's how my lunch tab hit $58.36, including tax and tip.


We're eager to have another lunch at Local Seasonal Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant that believes "food tastes better when prepared in season."

But pricing is puzzling.

My piece of steelhead trout ($24) was close to twice the size of a fillet served for lunch in a fine-dining seafood restaurant in Manhattan.

But $14 for a small piece of vegan cheesecake? And $6 for a latte that was inferior to the one served at the Starbucks near the historic train station up the street? 

Cups of regular coffee were $5 each.

Skimpy za'atar

A "For The Table" item we shared, Grilled Naan with Za'atar, was only $4.

But as soon as it came out, I saw how the kitchen had skimped on the Middle Eastern mixture of dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt, most commonly served as za'atar bread.

I grew up eating za'atar bread, a comfort food that is usually made with fresh, round flat bread that is literally black with a spread of sour-and-salty za'atar and olive oil.

When you toast a wedge, the sesame seeds sizzle.

Dinner prices are higher. My steelhead trout, $24 at lunch, is listed for $36 on the dinner menu.

Grilled Naan with invisible Za'atar.

Our filling lunch

We started with that disappointing grilled naan and a second small plate, Shishito Peppers with Togarashi ($9), which proved addictive.

A consolation prize was wrapping one of the grilled peppers and a few crunchy nuggets of garlic in a piece of the soft naan.

My friends loved what they ordered, a lunch special of Pompano ($24), and Whole Wheat Pappardelle in a hearty sauce of turkey, chicken and wild mushrooms ($18).

A server showered the pasta with plenty of freshly grated cheese.

Our waitress told us Local Seasonal Kitchen serves only wild-caught fish, but I questioned her on why the menu listed my selection of steelhead trout as "steelhead salmon."

She said it's because the trout is so much like wild salmon in color and texture.

Unfortunately, when I checked today, I saw Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch lists many wild steelhead populations as threatened or endangered.

A lunch special of Pompano with Meyer lemon, pesto, asparagus, snap peas and farro.

A lunch entree of Whole Wheat Pappardelle Bolognese, this one made with turkey, chicken and wild mushrooms, not ground meat.
I asked for the steelhead trout "medium," and it came out perfect.

A vegan, dairy free Strawberry Bar.

The dining room of Local Seasonal Kitchen, above and below. The farm-to-table restaurant is in the kind of shopping center every small North Jersey town seems to have at least one of.

"Don't buy food from strangers" is the motto above the bar.

The Women's Room.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the end of lunch service.

The check was presented in a book on grilling.

Local Seasonal Kitchen is sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a Chinese restaurant in the Village Square Shopping Center on Main Street in Ramsey.


Local Seasonal Kitchen, 41 W. Main St., in the Village Square Shopping Center, Ramsey; 201-962-9400. BYO, free parking.

Open for lunch Tuesdays to Fridays, and dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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