Neighborhood Services (The Original – Lovers)

If Neighborhood Services (NHS) were a person it’d be… The boy next door that everyone has a crush on. Have your parents and grandparents meet him, they’ll fall in love too. He’s down to earth and talented. He’s popular – not the cocky popular guy but the effortless cool guy. He’s the kid everyone wants to be and all the girls want to d…  date.

Located off of West Lovers, NHS is nestled between a valet parking lot and London Market Antiques. Don’t look for a sign because the only hint of a restaurant is a small translucent plaque only visible to pedestrians…But a good restaurant like this doesn’t need a large glitzy sign to let everyone know it’s here.

NHS definitely lives up to its self-named identity of being a neighborhood restaurant. It’s warm, friendly, and damn delicious (the boy next door!). The decor inside is understated, again, a restaurant with good food doesn’t need glitz (remember? NHS is effortlessly cool). The staff is friendly and the wait staff knows their food- where everything is from and how things are made. Applause for investing in the knowledge of your staff! It makes the place seem a lot more personal and genuine.

We’ve heard a lot of great things about this place so we decided to check it out with a bunch of college buddies. Since it was a Friday night, we called ahead but we still had to wait quite a while until we were seated (hello!? I told you he’s popular).

My tastebuddies (aka college buds, har!) were kind and generous enough to give me samples of their food, although I didn’t have large enough portions to capture the nuances, I can attest that I would have ordered any of these dishes again. Everyone’s plate was licked clean.

The night’s highlights were the Pappardelle Bolognese and the meatballs (leave it to the boy next door to have great meatballs). I’m not going to lie though, their desserts aren’t nearly as good as the appetizers and entrees,which makes me really sad since I would gladly eat just desserts for dinner. But, I hear their butterscotch pot de creme is really tasty (if only I liked butterscotch…)

Cuban Parmour
 Flor de cana rhum, mint lime and cane simple syrup, with prosecco
– Basically a mojito with prosecco in lieu of sparkling water
– There’s not too much lime in it and a good amount of mint.
– Very smooth and not too sweet. You can’t taste the alcohol in it nor will you feel any effects from just one drink.
– Major plus: use of cane sugar. Cane sugar gives that je ne sais quois about drinks. I can’t define why it tastes better but I know that’s why I prefer Dublin Dr. Pepper and Mexican Cokes to its originals. Is it because it doesn’t leave a startling sugary after-taste?

 

 

 

 

Flatbread
Speck ham, roasted red pepper, thinly sliced green apples, and crushed pistachio
They serve about 3-4 different flatbreads and after much debate, we settled on the speck ham
– The menu description says there is roasted red pepper but I didn’t see or taste any
– The speck ham is nice and salty… I’d like to see more ham.
– The flatbread is charred with lots of crunchy bubbles – one of my favorite delights of flatbread. Biting into the crunchy air pockets makes me so happy.  
 – The paper-thin apple is not too sweet or too tart but adds a nice crunch
– A beautiful pairing of sweet and savory flavors.
– I didn’t really taste any pistachios but then again, I was at the table with 3 boys and was in survival mode to get as much flatbread as I could. I need more self-control so that I can savour the flavors.

Creekstone Farm Brisket Meatballs
{C for Cuisine Crave}
Sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese
Everyone’s favorite starter of the night.
Apparently Creekstone Farm is kind of a big deal. The farm raises high-end Black Angus cattle and sells to high-profile New York restaurants. The NYT has an article about Creekstone here.
– Soft, juicy, salty and wonderfully seasoned
– The crust has a nice caramelized char, a nice contrast to the juicy meat inside
– The meatball is so tender it falls off the wooden stick, reminiscent of delicate meat falling off the bone.
– Sadly, six delicious meatballs split amongst five people is not enough. I’m coming back for more of these little suckers.  

Crispy Calamari and Rock Shrimp
Along with peanuts, pineapple, hearts of palm  with sweet soy dressing
– The little “slaw” on the side is refreshing and Asian-inspired. The hearts of palm are soft from the marinade.
– Nicely fried, very crispy, and not too oily. The rock shrimp and calamari are tender and tasty.
– Everyone fought for the last bites and I didn’t get enough of this to pick up other nuances

 

 

 

Day Boat Grouper 
Served with roasted garlic spinach, gremolata, and lemon-caper beurre blanc
– The bright green spinach is cooked al dente which I enjoy because most of the cooked spinach I encounter is too mushy.
– The fish of course is also very fresh (seeing as to how it is “day boat”), moist, and very flaky. 
– Nice crunchy crust
– I must sadly admit that this is the least favorite of all the dishes, not because it tastes bad but because everything else is so good and this is slightly overcooked. A few bites are perfectly tender and soft while a couple are a bit overcooked. It’s not obscenely overcooked though so it’s not like I disliked it, it’s just that all the other dishes are executed better!

 
 

Papperdelle Bolognese
{C for Cuisine Craved}

Pork shoulder, brisket, veal, prime chuck, and tenderloin trimming
– This is the dish that I ordered so the description is much more detailed than the rest of the dishes.
– NHS makes a special pasta dish every night. My order of the night that I fully enjoyed and would have enjoyed a second helping
– Pasta and ricotta are made in-house. In-house items always put a smile on my face.
– The pasta is nice and chewy as any fresh pasta should taste.
– The ricotta is really fresh, mild, creamy, delicious
– A really hearty dish with generous heaping of meats. There’s more meat than sauce, which is always welcomed.
– The sauce is robust, flavorful and a bit on the salty side but the tomatoes adds a gentle touch of sweetness to counterbalance some of the saltiness.

 

Shrimp and Grits
5 oz. of shrimp rubbed with house dry BBQ spice
The night’s special dish.
– Shrimp is cooked just right and the grits are creamy.
– Didn’t have nearly enough to taste other nuances

 

 

 

 

 

Prime “London Broil” with frites
{C for Cuisine Craved}
Niman Ranch flat-iron steak with voodoo peppercorn sauce
– The steak is juicy and tender, packaged with a nice lovely and delectable charred crust
– The peppercorn sauce is delicious, creamy, and earthy. It’s made of 5 ingredients but I can’t tell you all their secrets… just know that it’s butter, Worcestershire, peppercorn, and two other little gems.
– The fries are crunchy and well-seasoned.

 Bekavac’s Bacon Confit Fried Chicken
Served with humble mashed potatoes, cheddar biscuits, and honey butter
– I didn’t get the bacon in my bite but my friend said it was in the crust of her fried chicken.
– Chicken crust is thick, crunchy, perfectly fried to a golden brown.
– All the juices flow out as you bite into the crust and sink your teeth into the moist and tender meat.
– The cheddar biscuit is warm and tasty although our particular biscuit needs a more golden crust. The dough is soft and buttery, lie any good old-fashioned biscuit. What really makes the cheddar biscuit lovely is honey butter. Very flavorful honey and the butter gives it that extra richness. Ah, how great it is to have a biscuit flowing of butter and honey!
– The honey butter oozes over from the biscuit and finds itself in the creamy mashed potatoes, which gives the mashed potatoes a sweet and savory profile.
 

Side of mac and cheese
made with four types of cheese: Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, and cream cheese
– The mac and cheese is really enhanced by the powerful taste of peppers from the cheeses. It almost tastes like the sweetness of jalapeno are included in there but I’m pretty sure the dish doesn’t have any jalapeno in it.
– It’s creamy and delicious.
– One of my favorite things is a nice crust and I wish the bread crumb crust could cover more area, but I’m sure if I request for more crust, they’d be willing to show me some love.
 

 

 

NHS’s Chocolate Ding Dong
Topped with Amaretto soaked cherries and white chocolate shavings (I think it was white chocolate? I didn’t get to taste that much)
– NHS’s version of a childhood favorite – Ding Dong… [insert dirty joke here]
– Dense and very chocolatey. It’s not too sweet but very rich.
– There’s a cream filling in the center that’s buttery and smooth.  
– The cherries are soaked in Amaretto. I’m not a huge fan of unfresh cherries but this is a way better alterative to maraschino cherries. When you bite into it, there’s not too strong of a liqueur taste but its tangy and you can definitely tell it was soaked with something.
– The raspberry sauce adds a nice contrast to the dish.

 
Bread pudding a la mode
– Meh. As much as I love desserts and bread pudding, I wasn’t really impressed by this. It’s not bad but it’s not mouth-watering either. It’s pretty forgettable.
– It comes with a nice crust and warm, of course.
– Not overly sweet, soft bread pudding.
– I think the thing that was missing was the sogginess. The “bread” isn’t soaked in very much sauce.
– It’s pretty mild in flavor as there’s not as much spice in it as other bread puddings I’ve tasted
– Icecream is smooth and creamy, not that restaurant Brand X icecream.

C for Cuisine visit: January 20, 2011

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