PF Market Seafood
I must be on a winning streak when it comes to food lately. Usually I am disappointed at least half the time, but this was just added to my list of favorites. Its in a very unassuming place, almost hidden except for the giant sign that reads SEAFOOD from the most desolate point of the main avenue that runs from Newark all the way up until Pine Brook where it changes into Route 46.
To the table automatically comes good fresh Italian bread from Calandra’s, one of my favorite bakeries. In the basket also comes slices of garlic bread from the same baguette only stale. And, there is no shame in that. In fact, in our Italian household, garlic bread, french toast and bread crumbs were always made from stale or day-old bread. Sure, you can make it fresh, and it might even taste better, but the fact is, you are most likely going to have day old bread if you are a family smaller than 4 people. If not, it brings back fond memories of what it was like to stretch a dollar, whereas today we throw it out and buy something new before we think of a way to recreate it into something else. Another surprise was what I first thought was garlic butter, but its not, it was hummus. What an interesting and healthy alternative to butter or even olive oil. Its probably cheaper than butter or olive oil, but its definitely a creative and more welcome condiment than the usual calorie rich standard.
If that was a great surprise that made me smile, here is one that made me frown. Really, tap water? It reads on the back “Enjoy your Town Water” – and I know our town’s water has yearly reports as to how good it is, but it also comes with seasonal warnings about how to boil it before drinking because of heavy rains, sewer backups and/or possible fuel spills. I know its safe, but as safe as it is, please, give me something natural tasting before you hand me a bottle of chlorine and chemicals… all the filtering in the world will not take out these hidden poisons. While I can find the honesty (and yes I did taste it), I appreciate them having a sense of humor about serving that instead of imported European water. Great gag, but I will pass next time. I just hope my Iced tea was not made with this? It probably was now that I think about it?
Well, not to dwell on that, the appetizers was a great call. My friend ordered the New England Clam Chowder which is said was quite good (and this comes from a guy who went to a culinary college in Rhode Island). I can just tell by the way it looked that it was good. We also got the crab cakes, and honestly they were probably the best I ever tasted. I think partially because of the even thickness of them that allows them to cook perfectly, golden crispy on the outside, still moist and tender on the inside. Wow, I might just go back tomorrow to get one on a bun for lunch, especially if they serve it with the mustard remoulade sauce.
So, with great bravery knowing I am going into battle and prepared to die, I order the Cioppino, which is a signature dish of San Francisco but obviously has Italian origins, if not from the ingredients, definitely from the large Italian immigrant population that settled there.
When I ordered this, I thought it was going to be some lame small crockpot of 3 shrimp, 3 mussels, 3 clams, etc, much to my surprise when the waitress brought out a dish nearly half the size of the table, it was a feast enough for three. I am ashamed to say I ate 75% of it myself. It was by far one of the best seafood dishes I ever had. Everything was cooked perfectly, it was delicious, not too salty, and a great variety of every kind of seafood. In fact, if I had to complain (and I might as well), too many mussels, only three shrimp and 4 clams. If I were to cook the dish, I’d cut back on the 15 mussels, add a couple of more shrimp, couple more clams and maybe even a few rings of calamari… but hey, thats just me being the perfectionist. This was fantastic. And to add to it, on the bottom soaking up all these great flavors of tomato, garlic and seafood was orzo pasta (which looks like large grains of rice). This was almost like a paella, which is my favorite dish outside of spaghetti & meatballs or even pizza. I have to say, the wild mushrooms and onions were just as much worth eating as any other component of this dish. Delicious.
My friend got the halibut special. Overpriced in my opinion (any special is, always ask the price before you order, its usually not just a few bucks but almost 30% more above the cost of any average entree). He said it was good and very fresh, but I am glad I stuck with my choice.
In the home stretch, and a bit full to even think of anything else, we agree to split a Tiramisu. I am used to it more of a cake format, but they served it true Sicilian style, as a pudding. While my friend liked it, for me nothing can out do the cioppino or crab cakes.
As a testament to the freshness of the seafood, they proudly display it whole, and even offer the prepared but uncooked crab cakes for sale… very tempting, but I doubt I can ever cook it to perfection like they did.
Not cheap, but certainly a fresh, delicious and authentic meal, the bill came to $92 without tip. We did tip more than generously because the service, friendliness and hospitality was very good. And, for your land lovers, they have plenty of pasta and even steak if you like, as well as side dishes to accommodate even picky youngsters and diners.
PS – Bring your own alcoholic beverage as they do not serve wine or spirits.
PF Market Seafood 973-227-1007
1090 Bloomfield Avenue West Caldwell NJ 07006
www.pfmarket.net / firstname.lastname@example.org
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