Manhattan and Brooklyn have their boat bars, dining piers, and waterfront restaurants, many hard to get into and artificially expensive for food that isn’t all that good. Many of the views are also seasonal, closing the minute autumn leaves begin to fall. And the waterfront views in question can be as blasé as the Brooklyn Navy Yard or the Weehawken skyline. This is why I was interested when a friend told me about Halifax — a restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey’s W Hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows that gaze toward the glittering New York City skyline.
Halifax, named for the capital of Nova Scotia, is one in a long line of Canada-inspired restaurants in the metropolitan area, including Fedora, Chez Ma Tante, and Mile End. The chef is Seadon Shouse, who was born in a Nova Scotia fishing community but went on to cook in Lynchburg, Virginia; Nantucket Island, Massachusetts; and Chester, New York, before docking in Hoboken.
Open since 2016, the restaurant’s interior is an odd assortment of rusticated styles and disparate modern elements, including one wall made of tree bark, hanging light fixtures that look like artsy lobster traps, and an L-shaped wooden bar backed by lattices rising to the high ceiling. But the only thing that matters about the décor is the way the room opens into a clear view of Manhattan across the Hudson. For diners seeking a great vista without the hoopla of getting into a Manhattan or Brooklyn restaurant, Halifax is a convenient alternative.
Understandably for a restaurant that evokes maritime Nova Scotia, seafood is the center of attention. All the chef’s aspirations and talents come together in a section called “Cured & Smoked Fish,” which stands at the head of the menu along with cheese and charcuterie assortments. Skip the meat and cheese and order all of the preserved seafood (five for $25). The salmon is salty, smoky, and slightly sweet from its maple syrup cure; the smoked mussels go nicely on the toast provided and so do the pollock rillettes, which come plunged in an herby and creamy sauce.
The assortment is rounded out with smoked trout and a miniature seafood salad that packs lots of flavors and textures. Among entrees tried on two visits, the king salmon ($28 lunch, $29 dinner) was the best, seared on one side to make the skin crisp and served with fingerlings in a mustard veloute. Less exciting was a Atlantic blue cod filet in a smoked shellfish broth. While the broth was technically adept, it outshone the fish and was one smoky thing too many.
But the seafood doesn’t stop there. Find raw oysters both plain and dressed with smoked trout roe, poached shrimp, and steamed mussels with saffron butter. In the bivalve department, find raw clams, creamy clam chowder with smoked ham, and a clam flatbread that tries to be as good as, say, Denino’s clam pizza, but fails due to not quite enough clams.
Beyond seafood, the focus is on local and seasonal produce, seen especially in a vigorous salad section. A New Jersey pear salad features the crisp fruit with arugula, smoked ham, gorgonzola, and candied pecans in an apple cider vinaigrette. But even better is a salad of sliced apples and grilled winter squash (lunch only, $14). Not only is it abundant, enough for two or three to share, but it causes you to drop your fork and look out the window searching for autumn leaves on the line of trees that border the river.
This is a hotel restaurant, after all, so the menu tries to please everyone, with pastas, smoked chicken, and osso buco served with cheese grits. Dinner begins with warm Parker House rolls and good butter topped with sea salt Seadon Shouse harvested, to make a tongue twister of this wonderful freebie. A favorite app was boxcar shaped chickpea fritters wrapped in duck prosciutto (dinner only, $14).
At lunch there are sandwiches and a rather fussy Halifax burger ($15) that managed to be dry on one occasion, despite its bacon-onion marmalade and Fresno pepper sauce. The waiter said the chef liked it cooked medium, so I said go with it. Next time I’ll order it rare.
On a menu with lots of great choices, the desserts didn’t disappoint, either. One evening, after multiple seafood courses as the sky darkened and the Midtown skyline came alive with dancing lights, a friend and I enjoyed the sweet potato fritters ($10), sided with a maple-laced crème anglaise, which would have been a good dessert in itself. They were superb, moist and chewy and warm inside, with a coating of granulated sugar.
Really, taking into account the picture perfect Manhattan skyline and the generally high quality of the food, Halifax is the place I’d recommend for those seeking dinner with a view. And the ease of getting to the restaurant on the PATH train is an added plus.