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New York Times: A Bold New Place as Strong as Its Name -- Newark Avenue's OX
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A Bold New Place as Strong as Its Name

New York Times
By DAVID CORCORAN
Published: March 2, 2008

WHEN Nicole Puzio and Edward Radich were casting about for a name for their new restaurant in downtown Jersey City, one of them, in a loopy moment, came up with ?Babe the Blue Ox.? They kicked that around a bit and discarded everything but the last word.

Stroke of genius. The two-letter name manages to sum up the essence of this five-month-old restaurant: strong, bold, witty and memorable. Not to mention the reference to a signature dish, the $7 appetizer called, simply, oxtail.

Order it. The ropy, faintly gelatinous meat is boned, shredded, seared and then braised four hours or more in a thickening bath of herbed veal stock and red wine, then served over a square of crisp pan-fried polenta with shallot jam and parsley emulsion on the side. It?s regal treatment ? a peasant cut of meat that comes off as rich and voluptuous as foie gras.

Another appetizer, white bean salad, was yin to the oxtail?s yang: a bright but equally complex layering of flavors, including slightly bitter radicchio, sweet sun-dried tomato and roasted onion, and two small fillets of the Spanish anchovies called boquerones.

Tuscan kale-and-ricotta pie had a similar play of bitter, mellow and sweet, with a chewy pastry crust to add mouth feel. Flawless steamed mussels gained remarkable depth of flavor from a broth scented with bourbon, Tasso ham and sofrito, the Spanish tomato-and-garlic sauce, all of it topped by a nifty little corn bread madeleine. Only blue Hubbard squash ravioli fell short: the pasta wrappers were pasty and tough.

Ox has 62 seats, and they tend to fill quickly as the late-arriving neighborhood crowd settles in, around 8 p.m. For all the concrete and weathered steel that make up the postindustrial interior (the place was an Italian restaurant before the new owners gutted and transformed it), it has a welcomingly quirky feel. A long banquette lines one wall, free-standing tables the other; in the rear are two communal tables with tall stools and a large, lively bar with its own menu of high-toned pub fare like venison sliders and rabbit p?t?. Retro early-space-age lamps and rusty machine-age objects salvaged from some factory garage sale round out the picture.

You may have a while to contemplate these surroundings, because the kitchen and the pleasant young servers can slow down when things get busy. But main courses were worth the wait.

At too many restaurants, the monkfish is rubber and the skate is mush. Here, both retained their personality ? the monkfish seared in a fragrant miso glaze, the skate saut?ed in a crisp cornmeal crust. Sea bass, poached in olive oil, came in a broth powered by lemon, fennel and flying-fish roe.

Three meat dishes were as sturdy as the restaurant?s name. Grilled flat-iron steak had a rousingly smoky, peppery taste, amplified by smoked cipollini onions in the accompanying whipped potatoes. A special of lamb loin was savory if a bit tough. And roasted guinea hen, with its crisp salty skin, was paired with a lovely corn bread-and-guanciale stuffing.

Desserts were as assured and well balanced as the rest of the meal, from a smooth, dense dark-chocolate torte to tender chestnut crepes to a rich, eggy apple-almond tart with a sumptuous scoop of mascarpone gelato.

Ms. Puzio, 33, and Mr. Radich, 38, grew up in North Jersey and cooked in high-level Manhattan restaurants before meeting in the kitchen of another Jersey City pioneer, Marco & Pepe. (She was executive chef, he was sous-chef.) They are business partners, not spouses: ?We?re married by restaurant only,? Mr. Radich said over the telephone the other day, adding, with an audible grin, ?Sometimes we want to kill each other.? Call it creative tension. It has forged one of the most winning new restaurants to come along in quite some time.

Ox

176 Newark Avenue

Jersey City

(201) 860-4000

www.oxrestaurant.com

EXCELLENT

THE SPACE A deceptively ambitious restaurant in a modest neighborhood setting. Fully wheelchair accessible.

THE CROWD Hip urban professionals.

THE STAFF Young and equally hip, but unencumbered by attitude.

THE BAR A large and companionable space that spills over onto two communal tables at the rear of the restaurant. Short, well-chosen wine list, with intriguing bottles in the $20s and $30s (and by the glass).

THE BILL Brunch entrees, $6 to $16. Dinner entrees, $14 to $23. All major credit cards accepted.

WHAT WE LIKE Oxtail, white bean salad, Tuscan kale-and-ricotta pie, tomato soup, steamed mussels; poached sea bass, miso-glazed monkfish, cornmeal-crusted skate, grilled flat-iron steak, roasted guinea hen; chocolate torte, mango-anise cr?me br?l?e, chestnut crepes, apple-almond tart.

IF YOU GO Closed Monday. Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Brunch: Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Reservations recommended (necessary on weekends). The restaurant is on a rather scruffy block 200 yards west of the Grove Street PATH station; metered parking is available on the street and in a municipal lot next door.

Posted on: 2008/3/1 11:22
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I finally got to try the Venison sliders....THEY Rocked my Socks!!
I can't wait to get me some more of those!!! If you haven't tried them...U must go and give them a shot!!

Posted on: 2008/2/28 1:10
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We finally made it to Ox for the first time just last night.

While there's been a lot of praise for the place, the thing I liked
best about it (aside from the food, the tasteful decor, perfect lighting, good vibe) hasn't been mentioned yet - as the (German) gf noticed,

they don't rush you off the table to get the another seating in as quickly as possible!

That's so rare in this country - even at high-end place in Manhattan like Peasant, they're practically serving the check with dessert.

Here in the states we've gotten so used to conveyor-belt restaurant seating - it's really noticeable (and nice) when you don't feel like the meter's running. It felt like going out to eat in Europe, so thank you OX for that.

And the wait staff were all in such a good mood - if Ox's karma is on one end of the spectrum, the petulant hipsters of M&P and especially Beechwood are on the other...

Posted on: 2008/2/8 14:54
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Venison Sliders at Ox are insane. Go, eat them. Thank me later.

Posted on: 2008/2/4 13:25
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My wife and I just ate there for the first time on Friday night. It was really very good! Vennison sliders at the bar rank among the best burgers I've ever had -- seriously good food. Friendly service, good selection of beers on tap (Hazed & Infused! Been a long time since I've seen that one on tap), and all of the food we had was great. We're both NYC foodie snobs, and so we're not easy to please. This place, though, easily holds its own with anything in JC and anything in its class in Manhattan as well.

Posted on: 2008/2/3 17:49
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Out of the new Newark Ave restaurant's..

This is my personal favorite! The menu is creative, eclectic and offers something that is delicious and unique and stands apart from just your usual Americana type place.

Its rare to dine in a facility and have each of the courses be better than the next. Not one complaint.

Aside from the food, the restaurant's decor sets it apart from the outside world of Newark Ave.

Fantastic!

Posted on: 2008/2/1 15:34
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Finally got a chance to try Ox for dinner, this past Wednesday ? overall, we had a fine dining experience and I?m glad we have this addition to the neighborhood. I?m not sure whether ?Restaurant Week? accounted for a bump in business, but there was quite a crowd there on Wednesday ? good to see! Someone in our group noticed that the owners of Light Horse were there too that night, so I guess the word is out.

We were a fairly large group (10 people) which can usually tax a kitchen, but they did a fine job in seamlessly coordinating the meal for a large group. Good service throughout the meal ? very accommodating.

I had the Ox Tail appetizer and the Pan Roasted Duck Breast. Both were excellent! Good sauces on both, nice texture contrast between the Ox Tail meat and the polenta. Duck wasn?t overcooked or gamy and the Berry/Foie Gras sauce had a nice tang to balance with the duck fat; truthfully I didn?t get much Foie Gras from the sauce but it still just plain works. We ordered all the sides for the table ? my personal favorites were the fingerling potatoes and the Kale. I?m only singling out those because the other sides were wolfed down before I could get more than a bite. For dessert I had the Chestnut Crepes ? good, but I misunderstood the menu and was expecting more roasted Chestnut instead of candied Chestnut ? the chocolate part was right on the money. Others have mentioned the coffee ? I just had an espresso at the end so I can?t comment on the drip.

The d?cor and ?look? were great. Stemware is more than adequate, which is a pet peeve of mine. Seats were very comfortable; we were there close to 4 hours ? no fatigue. My only quibble about the space is the acoustics ? all the hard surfaces make for a very loud room when the restaurant is close to full.

Big Thumbs Up!!

Posted on: 2008/2/1 15:22
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Goblin wrote:
With over 6 pages of comments on OX and no one has mentioned the coffee.


I finally got to go there for dinner.

The food, the coffee and the service are all amazing. The coffee really tastes the way I remember good coffee used to taste. I was starting to think that my tastebuds had gone bad, but now I'm thinking that Starbuck's has messed with the way people roast coffee and that the OX people have risen above that.

Also, the restaurant was busy when I was there. Maybe that means the owners have figured out the economics of how to keep a restaurant like that going in that location.

To me, the entryway still looks forbidding and out of harmony with the vibe of the restaurant, but maybe that's because the owners are planning to make that area a gallery and haven't gotten the art in, or something like that.

Another aspect of OX is that it's weirdly kid friendly, because it's very loud and a lot of the food (e.g., tomato soup) is actually fancy comfort food. The restaurant is so loud t hat there's no way for anyone at another table to hear your child.

So, the restaurant is potentially suitable for any child who will stay seated and eat what's on the menu.

Posted on: 2008/1/22 16:26
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So do they have a proper barista? If so I'll go in just for the coffee.

Posted on: 2008/1/22 6:13
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With over 6 pages of comments on OX and no one has mentioned the coffee. I was surprised to find intelligentsia coffee in Jersey City. This coffee is considered by people who know way more than me on the subject to be one of the top roasters in the country if not the best. Kudos to OX for not taking any shortcuts. God is in the details.

Posted on: 2008/1/22 4:42
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I make it a point to support local Jersey City "indie" business. Any rest, especially a new one can have a bad nite. I tried it a couple of times, was not impressed...will give it a few months and try it again... lighten up!


in any event, if the City does not stop developers like Toll from taking over JC and rasing the rents through the roof like they have done in Manhattan, Williamsburg, DUMBO ect OX is going to become an Olive Garden.

Posted on: 2008/1/19 15:35
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We finally went to Ox last night and what a feast! We had a wonderful dinner. The food was excellent and we were also very pleased with the service. Out waiter (Ben ?) was supper attentive and friendly. All the waiting staff made a great impression on us.

So onto the food... We tried the ox tail with polenta appetizer (outstanding). for main courses we ordered the skate dish (served with a bed of kale and mashed potatoes) and the scallops and cockle stew. We gave two thumbs up to both dishes, very tasty, nicely cooked, good sized servings. For dessert we tried the mango creme brul? and the apple with almond foccacia... yummy!

We'll certainly go back and try some of the other specialties, and will probably repeat the Tempranillo red wine!

Posted on: 2008/1/19 3:54
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HGLNYC wrote:
Sorry I don't get it......I've been there a few times and it's a Manhattan wanna be. If I want trendy over priced weird food, i'll stay in the City.


you're right, why don't you just stick to the dollar menu at mcdonalds

Posted on: 2008/1/18 21:21
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HGLNYC wrote:
Sorry I don't get it......I've been there a few times and it's a Manhattan wanna be. If I want trendy over priced weird food, i'll stay in the City.



overpriced?????

I hate going back into the city on the weekends after going there 5 days a week.

Posted on: 2008/1/18 20:55
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been to brunch twice and dinner once. brunch is excellent
dinner as well. had the porkbelly. the pasta dish is so so nothing special.

Posted on: 2008/1/18 20:22
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Why the hell would you go to a place you don't like a few times?

Posted on: 2008/1/18 20:08
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Sorry I don't get it......I've been there a few times and it's a Manhattan wanna be. If I want trendy over priced weird food, i'll stay in the City.

Posted on: 2008/1/18 19:01
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stopped in last night for the first time and had a couple of dog heads. Great place, good feel, menu looks good and Keith is a real nice fella to talk to. They have some great happy hour specials, how could you go wrong with venison sliders!? I shall return before the week is out.

Posted on: 2008/1/17 20:08
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Went last Friday and had another awesome meal. The place was packed, so I got to experience the acoustics at full holler. Kinda loud, sure, but still way better than the blasting music at that place on Grove Street. I forget the name...you know...the place that blasts the music.

Had the oxtail app. and that salad with the goat cheese. Date had the same. Cooked/tossed beautifully.

Adorable waitress Meghan came over to apologize for the delay in getting our food, but we hadn't even noticed.

We'd arrived late and ended up closing the place, but nobody tried to rush us out. Was a great, relaxing night out.

Posted on: 2008/1/9 18:37
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went twice over the weekend, once for drinks and bar food the other for a sit-down meal. Was satisfied in both cases and surprised at how casual and reasonable the place is considering it's "look". As Alb commented, the exterior, interior, menu etc do not reflect the overall vibe once inside. friendly attentive staff, great service (hate to continue with the comparison, but what a relief after years of Marco Pepe).

Had the pasta/rabbit dish which was an ample portion, delicious and well worth the price ($19?). Also had the boston leaf salad, excellent quality of ingredients and preparation. A really tasty salad. Others at the table had scallops which were very good and the oxtail app which was pretty much perfect. At the bar Sunday we sampled a variety of cured meats, the venison sliders, cheeses and some of the better deviled eggs I've ever had. All worth the price (except maybe the sliders, which were damn good but a bit much at $3.50 per).

Anyway, I will certainly go back for a beer/small plate at the bar or a quick entree. With a max entree price of $23, I'm not sure why there are so many complaints. And calling out this place in the greater argument for "Casual family dining" is ridiculous. They are not obligated to provide that kind of environment or serve that kind of food. Maybe the complainers should move to Newport and frequent the Chili's? I'm guessing there are other fun family options in the mall there as well.

Oh, an dthey have some excellent drafts and bottles. The Southhampton Double Whitte on tap is reason enough to go... not to mention the dogfish 90. ok now I'm thirsty...

Posted on: 2008/1/9 16:54
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GREAT place. From sitting at the bar in back waiting for the last member of the group to arrive on... great, helpful service all around.


Warm, friendly bartender at the bar. Table service with with wit and personality of Tina Fey.

Food so good, I even ate the SALAD.

Posted on: 2007/12/30 17:02
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"There are certain places you go to that have 50 to 100 specialty drinks. We would rather have 10 or 11 specialty drinks that you make well that people enjoy than having a whole bunch where you make it half-assed."



They have 9 cocktails. One is a pina colada, one is an espresso martini, and another a cosmo. Whoopee.

Posted on: 2007/12/29 22:53
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OX -- 'It almost is like Minneapolis'
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'It almost is like Minneapolis'

Friday, December 28, 2007
By MICHELE DONOHUE
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Ox might sound like the perfect watering hole for Paul Bunyan, but I don't think he would have felt at home with the elegant dining and culinary specialties of the Newark Avenue restaurant. But you will.

Keith Myers

PROVENANCE: Keith was supposed to move to Queens after leaving his home in Minneapolis. "But I realized that I like Jersey City. It was close to the city, easy to get to and I figured I might as well stay here." He made the right choice and moved to the Paulus Hook area two years ago.

And he says he feels right at home near the waterfront. "It almost is like Minneapolis."

AGE: 37

YOUR DRINK-ADDLED BRAIN MIGHT REMEMBER HIM FROM: Keith bartended for more than five years. He used to work New York hotspots like Alma Grill on East 48th Street and Chez Josephine on West 42nd Street on Theater Row. He has even done a little guest bartending here and there.

But he isn't just behind the bar. He teaches up-and-coming bartenders at Authentic Bartending School as an instructor.

"You get those who are very enthusiastic and then you get those who don't know Grey Goose or Jameson. Which is alright, I guess. But there are times when you say, 'What is it you're not getting?'"

FAVORITE DRINK TO MAKE: Keith likes making two of Ox's specialties: the Pear Cobbler and the Blood Orange Margarita. He came up with the Pear Cobbler recipe of Grey Goose Pear, pear liquor, triple sec and sour mix and just plain loves the Blood Orange. "I'm a big margarita fan."

Ox takes pride in its specialty cocktails, but doesn't over do it.

"There are certain places you go to that have 50 to 100 specialty drinks. We would rather have 10 or 11 specialty drinks that you make well that people enjoy than having a whole bunch where you make it half-assed."

LEAST FAVORITE DRINK: "The Coco Loco." This sweet concoction of Gosling Rum, Liquor 43, pineapple puree and vanilla coconut milk just gets to be too much on the busy nights. "There is so much that goes in it."

DEMOGRAPHICS: Keith says the clientele range from "25 to 65."

"Demographics are across all ages, sexes and races and a combination of everything. I think it's there are so many different aspects when it comes to bartending. You have the nightclubs, the sports bars. I think I like it here because it's very laid-back." And that's one of the things that makes everyone keep coming back.

PLUG FOR THE BAR: "We don't want this to become a sports bar." Keith said that the owners "agonized" over whether to put in a TV, but decided against it because "once you turn a television on, it'll never get turned off. And after a while you don't even miss it." And it just wouldn't fit in with the stylish, intimate dining - perfect to get to know someone on the first date or to celebrate an anniversary.

You can't visit Ox without trying its ox tail appetizer - with pan-fried polenta, shallot jam and parsley emulsion. Keith said it takes like beef, but better.

What does he order when he comes to work?"The pork belly is my favorite." The Sweet and Sour Pork Belly entr?e comes with braised lentils, grilled scallions and black current gastrique. "It's really good."

And he says that he's met people that come into the restaurant expecting the food and service to pale in comparison to the city but "I think everyone is pleasantly surprised" - which extends to all aspects of Ox.

"If you are sitting at the bar, we're still going to treat you as if you are sitting at a table."

PERKS OF BEING A BARTENDER: "Jersey City is changing so much now. It's kind of neat to be a part of that renaissance."

Posted on: 2007/12/28 16:39
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Posted on: 2007/12/20 7:41
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jac426 wrote:
It is all going yuppie heaven.


Here's hoping.

Posted on: 2007/12/20 1:56
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I Just think that it is sick that a community forum can't see that anything other than a 99cent store or another Chinese take-out place on Newark Ave is a step in the right direction.

Those of you who are nostalgic for the ghetto?

What do you think is going to happen when Trump's Tower is full...when those condos on C. Columbus and Marin are full??

Kiss whatever you think your neighborhood was goodbye.

It is all going yuppie heaven.

Every land owner on Newark Ave. has the right to build up to 15 stories....did you know that????

That was decided 3 years ago, kids.

WAKE UP!

Posted on: 2007/12/19 7:21
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I finally got time to eat at OX.

In case anyone cares:

To me, it seems as if the entryway and typestyle in the menus seriously misrepresent the restaurant. They make it seem like an obnoxiously snooty place where you can't come in unless you're dressed really well, and where, if you come in a new liquidator store outfit, you'll probably leave some uncool stain on the white banquette. The restaurant just seems to shriek, "Stay away unless you're rich, you poor scum."

But then, I went in and it was a perfectly nice, Brooklyn Carroll Gardens hangout kind of place. To me, the decor is kind of flinty, but the white banquette takes up only one wall, and there are sturdy, spill-proof granite-topped (??) tables on the other side.

The food is perfect, as I expected, and the prices are a little high, but probably not that high for that kind of perfect food. I think I saw a review on Kannekt that suggested OX serves big portions. In my opinion, that's incorrect. But my guess is that OX is serving healthy, European-size portions, and I don't think it's fair to zing this sort of restaurant over that sort of thing.

Posted on: 2007/12/16 23:00
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molly wrote:
Is this Rabbit doing a serious restaurant review? Apparently nobody pissed her off with chicken bones or menus on her block. Rabbitt doing a restaurant review is kind of like Katie Couric covering the Superbowl. So you and your "friend" SHARED some food AND you imply that it was expensive AND you have the nuts to throw a dagger at Alb? You go Rabbit!


Listen bitch, people piss me off with chicken bones and menus on my block every friggin day. ox just isn't one of them. As for this comment "So you and your "friend" SHARED some food AND you imply that it was expensive AND you have the nuts to throw a dagger at Alb?", it's such a poorly constructed and meandering sentence that I couldn't even read it twice. What the fukk are you saying?

And yes - it was a friend, and not one with benefits. Although my husband constantly wishes it was.

No please shut up and go scatter more chicken bones on my stoop.

Posted on: 2007/12/16 21:10
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Re: ox restaurant
Not too shy to talk
Not too shy to talk


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Is this Rabbit doing a serious restaurant review? Apparently nobody pissed her off with chicken bones or menus on her block. Rabbitt doing a restaurant review is kind of like Katie Couric covering the Superbowl. So you and your "friend" SHARED some food AND you imply that it was expensive AND you have the nuts to throw a dagger at Alb? You go Rabbit!

Posted on: 2007/12/16 6:42
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Re: ox restaurant
Home away from home
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Quote:

bdlaw wrote:

Why do you care, I thought you were moving to Brooklyn since downtown is, in your words, "done, stick a fork in it."


didn't you ditch JClist long ago?

Posted on: 2007/12/16 6:07
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