As a wandering gourmand, my passion for the epicurean spirit has led me to establishments near and far. I have always said that good food is worth traveling for, and I have been known to embark on a gastronomic voyage, simply because of a fellow foodie’s recommendation. These adventures have brought me to places that I still dream about today and conversely these excursions have been responsible for numerous night terrors.
I thoroughly enjoy the anticipation of driving to a restaurant that I have never been to before. There is a certain Schrödinger’s cat like perception, because as I am in transit the restaurant is both bad and good. This is why I continue doing this wild and crazy hobby turned damn near full time job, that and of course, I freaking love food like Kayne West loves being a (redacted).
With that said, after hearing some great things about a relatively new restaurant located at 341 Grove Street in Jersey City called Orale Mexican Kitchen, Kat and I decided to leave our comfort zone of Bergen County and head to Hudson County to give Orale a whirl. As stated above, I will travel for food, and even though Jersey City is not far, I rarely find myself in that neck of the woods, but if the internets were not lying, Orale was a must hit eatery in the ever evolving Jersey City Foodie Scene.
Not sure what to expect as we fought our way through traffic to make our 7:30 reservation, we decided to peruse the menu. While we did the New Jersey traffic dance which consists of accelerating to 75 miles an hour, braking the instant you get to a good cruising speed, traveling at 4.5 miles an hour, honking at the idiot that is texting and changing lanes without using his signal, dropping several F-bombs, throwing up so many hand signs that everyone around you thinks you are in the bloods, and then accelerating once again to 75 miles an hour only to rinse and repeat, Kat and I realized that Orale was not your typical taco joint.
First off, Orale’s menu is based on the following principle, “It is our belief that the best meals are those that are shared. It is in the passing of plates amongst friends and the communal savoring of multiple small-bite dishes that the true spirit of our cuisine resides. All items will arrive at the table as they are prepared.” Meaning that Orale Mexican Kitchen is all about the shared experience that food can convey to a table of friends. This pseudo communistic outlook on eating a meal is making a comeback as more and more people begin to embrace the epicurean sub-culture, because it allows everyone that is involved to experience more than just one of the chef’s culinary creations.
Furthermore, as we participated in our New Jersey Highway Hoedown, we noticed that the food that Orale was offering was not your ordinary Mexican fare either. Since I enjoy living, Kat read the menu to me because if texting while driving is dangerous, menu reading while bobbing and weaving through rush hour traffic is about as safe as jumping into a car with Lindsay Lohan after a night of twerking and pill popping. Every dish that Kat verbalized made me want to commandeer a police car and head to Orale with the lights and sirens blaring. Menu items like Crispy Braised Pork Belly Guacamole, Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos, and Empanadas Made with Green Masa Filled with Shrimp, Cilantro, Chipotle and Lime were just some of the highlights of the extensive menu that Orale Mexican Kitchen offers on a regular basis.
When we arrived, Kat and I were lucky to find a parking spot within walking distance of Orale, and we headed to our dinner destination. As we entered the dining area, I fell in love with the décor. From the brick walls, to the graffiti that adorned them, the entire restaurant gave off an excellent modern vibe that was a welcomed change to the hum drum atmosphere that some restaurants create within their walls.
As soon as we were seated, we were met at our table by Christian, our server who discussed the extensive cocktail and food menu with us. Christian’s knowledge of what Orale served was extremely helpful and he guided us as we perused the menu. Thanks to his expert suggestions, I decided to go with a classic yet always refreshing Margarita while Kat set her sights on the White Wine Sangria.
Once our beverage order was in, Kat and I turned our attention to the food menu which we had already engaged in some serious foodie foreplay with in the car. Thanks to our traffic induced tryst with this drool inducing carte du jour, we already had a vague idea of what we wanted to sample at our first visit to Orale Mexican Kitchen. With a few more glances at the menu, we had made up our minds and as soon as our drinks arrived, we were able to place our food order.
For our appetizer, we decided on the Trio of Guacamole which allowed us to choose three different guacamoles to sample. We chose the Casa, or house, the Chipotle, and the Crispy Pork Belly. As for our entrees, Kat being a taco fanatic decided to try the Chicken Tacos that were described as Shredded Chicken Tinga Topped with Soy Pickled Serrano Chiles & Yellow Tomato Pico, whereas I chose the Bone in Lamb Ribs with a Tamarind Chili Glaze paired with a Jicama Slaw and Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash.
After ordering our food, it was time to taste the beautiful cocktails that were brought to our table. Kat’s white sangria was topped with fresh fruit and tasted remarkable. The flavor of the fruit was apparent but not overbearing allowing the wine to still be the star of the drink. My Elite Margarita was appropriately named as it was one of the best margaritas I had tasted in quite some time. It walked a fine line between refreshing and strong while delivering a tremendous flavor.
It was not long after we ordered our meals that our trio of Guacamole arrived at our table. As I took picture after picture of this culinary masterpiece, I could feel Kat’s glare, burning a hole in my forehead. Kat is normally a very patient person when it comes to my overzealous food photography but standing in between Kat and fresh Guacamole is akin to stealing a polar bear’s baby and then taunting the mother by making the new born cub do the Cha-Cha Slide instead of running for your life.
After all the photographs were taken, we dipped a chip into each of the guacamoles before we discussed any of them. We then compared and contrasted these delicious concoctions like Bill Belicheck dissects film on a Monday morning. What we came up with is that each of the varieties we chose was good in its own right. The house guacamole had the perfect texture and for the traditionalist, it was the perfect guac. The chipotle was basically the house guacamole with just the right amount of kick that would satisfy the spice seeking guacamole lover. Then there was the extremely impressive Crispy Pork Belly guacamole that literally made me sound like a porn star upon first bite, due to the unintentional moan that I released. The salty crunch of the pork belly combined with the subtle yet flavorful guacamole achieved in my opinion guacamole Nirvana.
To top it off, the Trio of guacamole was served with house made sauces that took these wonderful creations to a whole other level of scrumptiousness. These sauces were once again described by the knowledgeable Christian, and we began to experiment with them. All three of the sauces were fantastic when paired with the guacamole singularly, but as if I were Bill Nye the Foodie Guy, I did not stop there. We continued this hedonistic food experiment by mixing the sauces together. After we tasted two of the sauces together, we decided we were going to be forced to move to Utah and become sauce polygamists, that is until we tried all three combined with the guacamole on a chip, and realized that we were actually going to have to move to Texas and create a sauce cult.
While we finished off our amazing appetizer, we did what every couple that is out to dinner does, discuss the finer points of our crappy day and how much the food we were eating was doing to make it better. During our conversation, we noticed something spectacular about Orale. There was enough music to drowned out the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant but not too much to stifle conversations. I have been to way to many “hip” eateries that pump in music at an obnoxious level forcing their patrons to yell at each other like Howard Wolowitz and his Mother, and I was extremely happy with Orale’s decision to not give into this annoying trend.
Once we were done hating on our day like Grumpy Cat hates on this Smiley Cat Compilation, our entrees arrived. Both plates appeared to be two parts food and one part art, thanks to the dutiful and noticeable attention the chef paid to presentation. With a small sense of guilt as if I was drawing on the Mona Lisa with a crayon, I cut into my Lamb Ribs, and I was amazed at how tender the meat really was. My knife fell through the meat, as if it was a Honey Badger’s claws ripping through, well let’s be honest anything that is not a honey badger.
These Lamb Ribs were not only tender and juicy, but they tasted incredible. I was slightly nervous when I ordered this dish that the gaminess of the Lamb would be too strong but that was not the case. I was informed that they marinade these fantastic bone-in ribs in yogurt in order to extract most of the gaminess before applying the tamarind sauce that paired perfectly with the lambey goodness.
After tasting the lamb ribs, I was under the impression that the side dishes of this meal would be nothing more than an afterthought, but I was dead wrong. The sweet & spicy butternut squash was the most remarkable seasonal side dish I have ever had, and I am a huge fall food fan. The duality of this dish was expertly created by the chef, and I could have eaten a bucket full of this brilliant vegetable side.
After tasting each portion of my meal, I assure you that I was skeptical to share even one morsel of it with Kat, but when in Rome right. I followed the Orale Mexican Kitchen’s guide to karmatic communal food sharing, and I was met with a welcomed dose of instant karma, of the rare good variety. Upon taking my first bite, I could not hold back a smile. These mini-tacos may have been small in size but they packed a mighty flavor punch. Not to mention Kat decided to follow the Boy Scout motto and saved some of the guacamole to pair with her tacos which only added to the awesome sauce that these tacos were pouring all over me. (TWSS) Furthermore, Kat’s chicken taco dish was designed for sharing as it came with six mini taco shells stuffed with yummy goodness.
As we finished our meal, we made the fatal mistake of glancing at the dessert menu, and even though we were absolutely full, we simply could not pass up the opportunity to try the Helados Domingo described as Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream, Cajeta, Chocolate Sauce, Crumbled Cookies, and Caramelized Bananas. If an alcoholic, nicotine addict first tasted this dessert and was then given the option to give up booze and cancer sticks or the Helados Domingo for the rest of their life, 99 out of 100 of them would choose to give up the former as opposed to the latter. Yea, it is that kind of good. Don’t believe me, I guess you will have to bring your ass to Jersey City and try it yourself; careful though, just like cigarettes and heroin, it is habit forming.
I know this review was rather verbose and if you made it this far, you deserve a Helados Domingo, but when I walk into a restaurant that gets it like Orale gets it; I can’t help but sing its praises. But believe me, you do not want to hear me sing, I sound like an auto tuned cat in heat participating in a duet with Justin Beiber, so instead of singing, I will use the clickity clack of my keyboard and the vastness of the world wide web to get my message out. After reading this review that message should be clear, Orale Mexican Kitchen is a must try establishment for anyone that fancies themselves to be a food connoisseur.
Orale Mexican Kitchen
341 Grove Street
Jersey City NJ 07302
Michael Arp a/k/a The Blue Collar Foodie was born and raised in Northern New Jersey and has spent most of his adult life on a relentless quest to uncover eateries that deliver white collar fare at blue collar prices. This never ending journey, combined with his passion for writing gave birth to the food blog, The Blue Collar Foodie. He also contributes to The Fair Lawn Patch. This blog chronicles his, and his wife Kat’s, excursions to eccentric, unconventional, and of course affordable restaurants throughout the great state of New Jersey and beyond. If you are the type of person that would rather rock a Nirvana T-shirt and jeans while eating your Filet Mignon then you most likely will enjoy what The Blue Collar Foodie has to say. Follow him on Twitter @Fairlawnfoodie or Like him on Facebook to keep up to date with his current gastronomic gallivanting.