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Woodbridge, NJ

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Venue Review: Syn Nightclub

(no rating)
Syn Nightclub

No middle ground for bistro meals at former Eden

The new bistro menu at 13 Pure Nightclub is a lot like its architecture — it holds surprises no one would expect from a rowdy downtown dance and drink joint.
The club’s structural heart is the nave of the original Grace Episcopal Church, an English Gothic chapel built in 1873 from local stone and finished by a carpenter named Winfield Stratton who later became one of the city’s greatest benefactors. Not what you’d expect from a place that features the Bare Assets male revue and skimpy “Pajama Jams” with cash prizes for the “hottest pajamas.”
The same is true for the white-tablecloth bistro that serves lunch and dinner before the club starts thumping. At its center are carefully conceived and premium-priced dishes such as duck confit ($17) with roasted shallots in an herb and lemon fettuccine and braised elk ($25) in a rich bath of veal stock, onions and mushrooms.
Of course some of the food gets the same rough treatment as the old church (now the laser-lit dance floor), but like any true club experience it has equal potential for delight and regret.
The layout of 13 Pure is identical to the building’s former tenant, Eden. It has the same maze of theme rooms and bars, the same multicolor lighting, the same Gothic sin and salvation themes.
“We basically just gave it a face-lift,” my server said in a quick tour before dinner. “We wanted to make it more classy, like for young professionals — less thugs, less ghetto.” “Does that mean you won’t be doing teennight foam parties?” “We’re not sure yet,” she said. The same sense of uncertainty shows up in the menu by chef David Sciple.
Take the appetizers. A delicious mix-andmatch plate of meat skewers called “Pick Up Sticks” ($15) arrived with colorful, complementary escorts: seared tuna on seaweed salad, salmon on mango salsa, beef tenderloin on pan-wilted spinach. It was great.
The Fricassee of Wild Mushrooms ($7), though, sounded exotic and complex with a backbeat of Madeira and roasted garlic, and instead arrived as a plate of cream sauce-drenched, very domestic-seeming sliced button mushrooms. My companions insisted they tasted a shitake or two in there. I never did. It was too heavy, too bland.
Bigger plates offer the same roll of the dice.
The excellent Colorado Trout ($17) comes pinned by a heavyweight crab cake in a shallow ring of beurre blanc. The huge cake, baked right on top of the fish, is loaded with truly excellent, sweet crab. The trout, moist and light despite all the beurre, is terrific, and a value.
Also good is the duck confit — tender chunks of duck roasted and tossed in fettuccine with roasted garlic, shallots and herbs, then spritzed with fresh lemon.
Both came with a unexpected side of wilted cabbage in a light, spicy dressing — just one of many things the sassy but too vague and typo-ridden menu hides in general statements such as all dishes come “appropriately adorned.” This time it worked. Sometimes it doesn’t.
On the same table, you might (but probably shouldn’t) get the “braised elk loin” — a Colorado version of a classic French beef Bourguignon. But in this version, the elk is dry, the sauce is too rich and the whole thing lacks a a slow-cooked complexity and balance.
At dessert, again, the dice rolls. Baked Alaska with a subtle banana ice cream center ($9) had the whole table vying for the last bite, but strawberries in cream ($9) arrived as firm, raw berries in an undiluted pool of Grande Marnier with a dollop of canned whip cream.
“You should get carded if you order this dessert,” a friend said, sniffing the alcohol fumes rising from the plate.
It felt like a hint from the staff, who by 9 p.m. were whisking away tables, that the drinking hour had arrived. It was time to make way for the night life.

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(no rating) Jun 06, 2008 - NATHANIEL GLEN, THE GAZETTE

No middle ground for bistro meals at former Eden

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