On previous visits to the Big Apple I’d always wondered what went down across the Hudson on the Jersey side. We went as far as catching a train to Summit back in 2011, but it was that stretch of Jersey City that lines the waterfront I was curious about. Was it worth exploring? Silly question, really, as all it involves is a short ferry ride from the World Financial Center. You can get the PATH train but I find zipping across the river is much more scenic, even if I did spend more time looking at my phone rather than looking out the window.
It was a nice way to break the daily routine of hitting the streets of New York for a lunch location. No plans or research, other than checking ferry times and heading to Jersey to see what we came across.
The Paulus Hook Pier is very much the entry/exit point to the Jersey City financial district; that sparse cluster of commercial and residential towers you can see from Manhattan. It’s an area that lacks hustle and bustle, crowds, and a large variety of shopping and eating options. Even on a weekday I found it to be incredibly quiet.
Heading up Columbus Drive eventually brings you into the historic downtown precinct; another area that was particularly quiet with barely a soul to be seen. It felt like we were walking through some post-apocalyptic movie scene. Where was everyone?
Giving up on that part of Jersey, we caught the light rail over to Hoboken and discovered things were a lot more active over there. It was actually the need for coffee that drew us, after discovering a cafe on the Beanhunter phone app.
Tucked away in a residential area is Luxxe, a minuscule cafe virtually devoid of seating other than about four places to park your glutes. There’s some snackage to be had in the form of pastries, and some fairly good espresso-based drinks. Pretty decent macchiato, done noisette-style.
Luxxe Coffee Espresso Bar (now closed) – 305 1st Street, Hoboken
We figured the main drag of Washington Street was the best bet to stumble upon a lunch venue. There’s a very decent selection of places from many corners of the world, but the craving for Japanese couldn’t be ignored. Good for us as there’s almost ten Japanese restaurants to choose from on this strip alone.
Settling on Illuzion before the lunch crowd descended was a wise move because almost every seat was filled by small groups of people fresh from their offices. Once again it was pretty warm outside so something cold was much needed. The Illuzion frostee (3.5) did the trick perfectly with its icy blend of lemon, mint tea and coconut cream. Sweet, refreshing and topped with cool whip.
It may have been tasty, but the angus filet mignon tataki (14.5) was cut way too thickly. This is meant to be a delicate dish, but I felt I’d eaten a hunk of steak with every mouthful.
The spicy beef gyoza (5.5) may not have contained any noticeable chilli but the flavour was bang on. Speaking of spice, the spicy bad girl (14.5) wasn’t much of a slouch when it came to a bit of heat. It was the name that drew me to this sushi roll that’s made up of a finely chopped mix of tuna, spicy salmon and yellowtail. It’s topped with shrimp, avocado, fresh jalapeño and golden tobiko. This bad girl sure had a kick!
The star of our small lunch spread had to be the black miso cod (13.5). A beautiful flaking piece of fish that’s glazed with a yuzu miso vinaigrette, slumped over a mound of slightly sweet black rice.
Illuzion – 337 Washington Street, Hoboken
Thanks to the humidity outside it was a hasty walk down to the Transit Terminal to get the next ferry back to the island. We may not have done much, but our interstate trip was well worth the minimal effort.