Dish 24: Java Pork Tenderloin at 333 Belrose, 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor, http://www.333belrose.com/
333 Belrose is a place for cool moms—not moms who let their kids drink and stay out late, but regular moms with rules; the kind that wore square glasses with red plastic frames when they came out, who make fun of themselves for being dorky, who get a kick out of being good moms. Everything at Belrose is a shade of orange, from the walls to the upholstery, even the light-varnished wood starts looking orange; and the decorating style is “decorator”—cue the hip wiggly lines and ginormous semi abstract paintings of flowers. Cue also the clientele, of whom no one is below 40, except on their birthdays.
Discovery: Cool moms have as high standards for their nights out as for their kids. The meal was unbelievable! Brian and I were celebrating, so we threw caution and money management to the wind and went the multi-course route. (Just kidding. Thanks for dinner, Mom and Dad.) First off, the chicken gumbo and Brian’s favorite, spare ribs. The gumbo was spicy, had big, tender pieces of celery and onion that still had a kick, and generous shredded (YES! Shredded!) chicken. The spare ribs were so buttery—wait, I wrote something on a napkin for this—“more like ice cream than a rib”, according to Brian; I liked how the five-spice mix brought out the smokiness of the meat and played into the sweetness of the sauce. And it’s served with a big heap of kimchi. Which I haven’t had in three and a half years; it might be the one thing I miss most about Bergen County after my parents, the dog, tomato sauce, and bagels. You never think you’re going to miss these things until you move away.
The Java Pork Tenderloin is Green Day’s Basket Case to Pachelbel’s Canon; it is a completely fresh interpretation of something that I’ve had so many times; and also like eating every season at the same time. The tenderloin itself is flavorful and smoky—reminiscent of fall—and the coffee and black beans provide the perfect base—or cello, in our gastronomic string quartet. The meat is the second violin, the mango jalapeno salsa, the first, with sharp notes of cilantro and onion, as well as the role of summer. Light and delicately sweet. The maple smashed yams, they are the viola, or the winter. Heavy, sweet, rich. The creativity with which the light-heavy savory-sweet sharp-rich summer-winter contrasts are executed, though, the high drama with which it’s served, speared with a fried plantain, take this dish from string quartet to punk rock. (But if you ever feel inclined to take punk rock back to string quartet, allow me to suggest the String Tribute to Green Day.) It is a masterpiece. The cool moms may have to make some room at the table.