Hand-carved Cambodian bas-relief sculptures line Chakra's palatial, softly lit space, accenting silk-tented bungalows, teak flooring, and a low-lit stone water wall that oscillates between the colors of the seven chakras. Amid this earthy, intricate decor, Executive Chef Thomas Ciszak crafts eclectic fare with a simple philosophy, which he related in a New Jersey Monthly article: “I don’t get stuck in cuisine labels … I want to focus on what people love to eat. I just want it to taste great.”
He delivers on that philosophy with a seasonal menu of sophisticated yet accessible dishes, which may include selections such as a parma ham sushi roll, a classic veal schnitzel with a preserved lemon vinaigrette, or a hot dog masquerading in a top hat. His meals pair seamlessly with the bar’s specialty cocktails, as well as with selections from an extensive wine list, which Gayot included on its Top 10 Wine Lists in Northern New Jersey. For a sweet finale, the chef concocts a dessert menu that is chalk full of gourmet, sugary delights such as homemade Tahitian vanilla ice cream or chicory iced coffee paired with fresh-baked donuts and police-siren sound effects.
Inside the Garden State Plaza mall lies a gateway to the past, where flickering flames illuminate the charred interior of an oak-burning pizza oven, and the aroma of bubbling sauce made with freshly crushed tomatoes mixes with wisps of Frank Sinatra's silky voice. The charm that surrounds the rituals of Italian cooking drifts into Papa Razzi's dining room from an open-air kitchen, where cooks bustle around steaming pots of pasta. The culinarians use only fresh and imported ingredients when cooking, just as Old-World chefs did before they took jobs fixing the cleaver-wielding robots that would replace them.
Behind a wood-accented, 15-foot bar, mixologists sling a list of libations that includes mimosas, sangria, and wines selected to complement meals. In the dining room, fresh flowers sit atop white tablecloths, and celebrity photographs line the walls, reminding guests of treasured nuggets of pop culture.
Striking contemporary design and a cornucopia of organic ingredients have earned Nanoosh's hummus bars and counters media recognition from publications including the NY Daily News and the New York Sun. Each location manifests the company's nationwide emphasis on nutritionally balanced food with carefully designed menus chock full of luxuriously nutritious items such as quinoa salad, hummus chicken wraps, and lavender tea. Since Nanoosh offers both table and counter service, patrons can stop by to enjoy a sit-down meal served by a waiter or quick bite to eat delivered by an easily persuaded friend.
Stacks Pancake House and Café offers early-rising breakfasteers and midday-rising lunchatoons a menu brimming with fluffy pancakes, double-decker sandwiches, and piping-hot cups of Joe. But Stacks’ dishes aren’t the usual diner mess; they are elegantly presented and often overflowing with fresh fruit. Peruse the list of more than 20 pancakes varieties and order a stack of Strawberry Fields (infused with farm fresh strawberries, $7.25) or Addiction (banana-mixed pancakes topped with melty chocolate chips, $7.25), or opt for oversized pancake wraps, which are named after Hoboken streets, such as the Hudson filled with scrambled eggs with home fries, melted cheddar, bacon, and salsa ($7.95). Those hankering for protein can chomp a flavorful omelette, such as the tomato-infused American ($6.95), paired with breakfast all-stars crispy bacon and toast. Stacks' talented team of batter-flippers also serves an array of hearty sandwiches, including corned beef on rye ($6.95) and Philly cheesesteaks ($7.25). Stacks' dining room, which has bare brick walls and high ceilings, makes diners feel at home with a blend of traditional and trendy decor.
Though Mantra Head Chef Purvesh Patel is known for his creative takes on Indian cuisine—including chaat, or snack food, garnished with tender lobster meat—his careful, French-inspired cooking also leaves its mark on the menu’s traditional entrees. "Each ingredient seemed to have bathed for just the right number of hours in its yogurt marinade; each was precisely cooked; and each carried a heady overtone of spices," a New York Times food writer recalled of a tandoori dish in 2008. In contrast to these subtle flavors, Mantra’s presentation often has theatrical flair; chefs chop chaat dishes tableside and set a banana flambé dessert ablaze with rum.
Both locations’ sleek dining rooms also go for drama with bold, modern decor. In Jersey City, red accents simmer against warm-toned walls. Next to the Paramus spot's mosaic-tiled bar, live flames dance on the low wall between the dining room and lounge, upping the “amazement factor” for Cody Kendall of the Star-Ledger.