Mention Amanda’s to just about anyone, and you get the same knowing nod: sophisticated cuisine in understated elegance.
Which is what I discovered on a Wednesday evening, just after the first night of daylight savings, when the dining room was softly lit with candles and wall sconces.
When you enter, you’re greeted by a friendly host. A restored brownstone, the place has a homey, residential character, with tables and a small, club-like bar.
To the right, and down a step, is a much larger dining room. We chose a table overlooking the back garden. There’s no outdoor dining, but the terrace is small and cozy, with Hoboken’s leafy backyards stretching into the night.
Imbibers, take note, Amanda’s is definitely a wine venue with an extensive list and monthly five-course wine dinners. It also has a small but intriguing array of signature cocktails and martinis.
Beer drinkers, take heart! A few are on offer. After a brief discussion, owner Juan Mendoza brought me a Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Organic Lager, brewed in New Jersey. He splashed some in a glass for me to approve, just like a wine drinker. (Class act!)
The warm bread comes from the legendary Dom’s Bakery in Hoboken and is served with a light, soft herb butter.
OK, let’s get down to business. We chose from a selection of 14 appetizers. It wasn’t easy because all of them were enticing. The finalists were Baby Lacinato Kale with orange, apple, and ricotta crostini; and Roasted Baby Beets with horseradish goat cheese, arugula, and walnut vinaigrette. Both were excellent. As you can tell from Terri’s pictures, the beet salad, especially, was a work of art.
Now, I have to warn you. We ordered two entrees, but Chef Deuhana Vargas sent out two more, way too much for two people of course, but these varied dishes give you a good idea of the menu’s broad reach.
The first of two fish courses was Dorade, with broccoli rabe, pickled shallots, and Italian salsa verde. Full disclosure: Neither of us knew what it was. For the record, it’s in the bream family and found in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. It was worth the adventure, and the smoothly prepared broccoli rabe was not as bitter as it sometimes can be.
Next up, Atlantic Salmon. This deliciously crisp cube of salmon came atop lemon risotto, arugula, and balsamic. Another home run.
Out came the Duck Confit Tagliatelle. This is like a casserole with parmesan sauce, sautéed kale, and black pepper. It’s quite rich, so pace yourself if this savory dish is going to be your main course.
Fasten your seatbelts. The final entrée was a Braised Short Rib, with gnocchi, black truffle cream, and crispy potato. This may have been the most tender meat I’ve ever eaten. Put away your knife. You could actually eat it with a spoon. I’d like to come back for this when I’m not so full!
At this point, Juan joked that we probably would not have room for dessert. We didn’t, but lo and behold, one of our many fine waiters appeared with a Lemon Crème Brule, which wasn’t even on the dessert menu. Truth be told, the fresh lemon flavor was perfect after the mélange of tastes that we enjoyed throughout the evening.
At one point, Juan’s wife Juliette showed up with their daughter Mia, who appears in one of Juan’s hand-painted photographs that grace the front of the restaurant.
Juan has an interesting back story. He started as a waiter at Amanda’s, eventually buying it in November 2016 from then owners Joyce and Eugene Flinn.
Bottom line? Amanda’s reputation for exquisite food and gracious dining in a warm and friendly milieu is well-deserved. If you’ve walked by hundreds of times as I had, next time, walk right in.—07030
908 Washington St.