Sunday, January 29, 2012
THE BLUE DANUBE
Last night I ate a tremendous meal, and I ate it in Trenton. And I ate it at a restaurant that I'm betting most followers of this blog have never heard of.
The kids and I joined friends (Dr. John Hamada, his son Joe, Joe's schoolmate Max and John's friend Teresa) for dinner at The Blue Danube, tucked away on tiny Elm St., just off Broad St. not too far from the Sun Bank arena, in Trenton's South Ward. John is a chiropractor and accupuncturist, and before moving to quieter and safer Pennington to practice his healing arts, he had a well-known and vital office practice just a few blocks away from the restaurant.
It was one of the best dinners I've had in a restaurant in years.The Blue Danube is old school, and it specializes in Hungarian, Romanian, German and Polish cuisine. But instead of the
heavy gravies and sometimes leaden preparations that are often associated with these cuisines, the dishes we enjoyed last night were executed with a light touch and a deft hand. Some of this food brought back echoes from my childhood, growing up with both Italian and Polish grandmothers who were themselves terrific cooks.
At the Blue Danube, Peter Pulhac, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Margaret, is the chef and he is a master of his domain, an extensive menu of the familiar and not so familiar. We started with soups: a dark, rich cream of mushroom filled with a dice of several mushroom varieties; a chicken-spinach-egg drop soup with an intensely chickeny broth, shreds of chicken and tangles of spinach and egg, a spectacular soup; and cream of potato-tomato, a blush pink, surprisingly light cream soup with a whisper of dill, a really stunningly simple cup of potato and tomato goodness. Pierogies were also surprisingly light dough wrappers plumped with potato and cheese, glossed with sauteed onions. Potato pancakes were two big, golden, greaseless, peppery-oniony discs that overlapped the salad plate on which they were served. They were firm but amazingly light.
Entrees included chicken parmigiana and spaghetti for the kids, and one of the best versions of chicken parm I've ever had in a restaurant. Beef Stroganoff was a silky, creamy stew of beef over feather-light spaetzle, the beef almost sweet with hints of nutmeg and wine; pork schntizel was a huge, flawlessly, greaselessly fried cutlet atop a puddle of brown gravy, sided with some curly buttered noodles and sauteed spinach studded with garlic; beef goulash was intense with paprika,dill and onion notes with more of those good noodles, and brussels sprouts studded with bacon alongside. Entrees were in the low teens. Low teens. Low teens!
Desserts were a glass goblet of tira misu that was so good, we ordered another; a Romanian flaky pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese; a chocolate mousse pie that my son Ben gobbled up in about 4 bites, and some very good coffee.
The dining room at Blue Danube is small and cozy, the service is gracious and deferential,the music is gentle polkas and various folk music and the wine list features some well chosen Hungarian and Eastern European wines, a few domestic bottles for the unadventurous, and some decent German, Polish and Czech beers.
This was a deeply satisfying meal, at a place worth discovering. Savvy Trentonians have been eating here for years, but I'm betting many of you have never heard of the place. Don't wait. This is a restaurant worth supporting. I plan to be back soon--and often.
The Blue Danube
Elm & Adeline Sts.
Trenton, NJ 08611
Facebook: Blue Danube Restaurant