Whippany, NJ 07981
- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Public Lot
February 6, 2015
On a recent visit, we tried more Shanghai/Huaiyang inspired dishes on Chef Jon’s extensive menu.
The freshly made pork soup dumplings overflow with steaming hot broth. Fish Filet in Spicy Sauce arrives as a huge plate of fried fish, heavy with sauce that’s not so spicy. It tastes best immediately after it hits the table. If you’ve never had a warm dessert soup, the “Winey” Sweet Rice Ball Soup is an adventurous choice. Soft rice paste balls float in a warm, sweet porridge. The texture, unfortunately, is akin to a slimy egg drop soup – an acquired taste no doubt. The Shredded Beef (see below) is still the stand out, must-order dish for me.
We first headed to Chef Jon’s for dinner the weekend of last month’s glowing New York Times review. Silly us. Even here in Jersey, a Times review can fill a room. The restaurant was packed and the staff hadn’t quite mastered the concept of taking names and estimating wait times. Undaunted, my wife and I made it to Whippany for lunch on a rare free weekday.
I’m glad we made it. True to the review, the Shanghai/Huaiyang cuisine available on Chef Jon’s menu is different than any Cantonese or Sichuan Chinese food I’ve had in New Jersey. The Shredded Beef with Dry Bean Curd and Chilly is one of the spiciest shredded beef dishes I’ve had at a Chinese restaurant, but spicy with flavor, not just heat. Grandma’s Red-cooked Pork is a plate of sticky, fatty slow-cooked pork that’s more savory than sweet. The meal’s most interesting items were the iron-ore-brown, hard boiled eggs on the plate surrounding the pork. They tasted sort of smoky, and we couldn’t identify the flavor. Our server guessed soy paste when we asked how the eggs were prepared, but she wasn’t sure, and the chef wasn’t in the kitchen to ask. My wife turned to her smart phone, and identified them as tea eggs, a popular Shanghai street food. The eggs are boiled, slightly cracked, and marinated in a soy sauce and black tea mixture. The more common Cold Noodle with Sesame Sauce and Hunan Dumpling appetizers are excellent.
Chef Jon’s is a comfortable space with booths and tables. The servers are friendly and efficient. The restaurant is hidden in the back corner of a Route 10 shopping plaza, not visible from the highway. Look for it. We will definitely be back to try more of this delicious regional Chinese cuisine.