Friday, April 24, 2015

No stars for dessert-obsessed restaurant critic Elisa Ung

The Bergen County Human Services Shelter for the homeless was built on South River Street in Hackensack opposite the Bergen County Jail, below. Police Director Mike Mordaga credits his quality of life patrols and cooperation by shelter officials for a reduction in the number of homeless on Main and Anderson streets.

The county shelter serves three free meals a day, attracting a large number of homeless. But police say many of those with criminal records appear to be staying away from Hackensack.


Despite a growing awareness in the United States of heart-healthy foods and the harm to humans of antibiotics used to raise animals, The Record's chief restaurant critic seems to be stuck in the 1970s.

Today, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung gives only 3 out of 4 stars to the widely respected Esty Street in Park Ridge, and throws a temper tantrum over what she calls "a sad list of options for sweet-toothed customers" (BL-16).

Ung never explains whether the desserts are what led her to deny the 23-year-old "institution" that coveted fourth star (Outstanding), but slams the place for being "in expense account, price-is-no-object territory."


In the eight or nine years Ung has had this job, I'm sure she has reviewed far more expensive restaurants, especially steakhouses where she thinks nothing of dropping $85 of the newspaper's money for a huge hunk of aged mystery beef pumped full of harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.

Naturally raised?

I would think the $39 short ribs and $43 filet mignon she sampled at Esty Street were raised naturally and came from animals that were grass fed, justifying the prices.

But all Ung says about their origin is "the steak quality here cannot be contested."

She does complain the restaurant's menu doesn't "note" the prices of three steaks or such "enhancements" as crispy oysters.

Yet, she is guilty of praising the wine selection and "enticing" cocktails, but forgetting to tell readers how much they cost.

No sugar high

Then, she devotes an entire long paragraph to her disappointment over the "leaden" creme brulee, "too-thick chocolate" in another dessert and the lack of "lush creaminess" in an ice cream.

The first sentence of that paragraph, one of 10 in the review, is missing commas: "Avoid the leaden creme brulee pound cake French toast and a chocolate trio ...."

Anyone concerned about their weight or heart health would avoid all of those artery clogging desserts like the plague.

'Health vice'

And despite all the years she has been stuffing her face on The Record's dime, her writing remains rough, and she doesn't seem to get any editing.

She claims the restaurant's "finesse screeches to a halt at dessert."

A starter of grilled octopus with creamy gigante beans contains a "health vice," Ung reports, referring to a few slices of chorizo.

Yet, the overweight reviewer doesn't warn of a "health vice" in any of the desserts she sampled.

Ung's unhealthy eating habits don't serve the vast majority of readers, who are older and may be diabetic, watching their weight or trying to avoid heavy cream and butter.

Her departure would be no loss. 

Page 1

The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide certainly deserves front-page coverage, but why didn't the editors assign any reporters to question North Jersey's Turkish residents on their views concerning the standard denials from officials (A-1)?

The Record's coverage of the two hostages killed by a U.S. drone doesn't contain a word on whether we will compensate the families or defend lawsuits filed by them (A-1).

President Obama's statement that the deaths were "not necessarily the result of negligence" suggests the latter (A-1 and A-8).

Clueless reporting

Another fatal accident exposes the deeply flawed editing and local reporting staff in the Woodland Park newsroom (L-1).

The first question any reporter should ask when a passenger is ejected from a vehicle is whether he or she was wearing a seat belt.

Instead, Staff Writers Andrew Wyrich and Stephanie Akin knock themselves out getting quotes on what a wonderful person Stephanie Morgan was before the Emerson High School senior died Thursday.

The first paragraph wasn't even edited. 

Morgan died from head injuries suffered, the reporters say, "when she was ejected from a single-car accident hours before" [italics added].

Of course, she was ejected from a vehicle, not an "accident." 


Cliffview quotes Prosecutor John L. Molinelli as saying Morgan, 18, wasn't wearing a seat belt, and that she was ejected through the vehicle's sunroof.

Jerry DeMarco also reports the driver will be charged with a juvenile offense, and he supplies details on how the vehicle crashed that you don't find in The Record today.

See: Emerson teen wasn't wearing seat belt

Nissan recall

From The Record's description of the one-vehicle crash, the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder involved may have had a mechanical problem, causing it to flip"numerous times," or the driver, Morgan's friend, could have been speeding.

According to, the 2008 Pathfinder was recalled in 2010 to replace a control arm in the front suspension for improper welds that could lead to separation and a crash. 

This kind of flawed reporting is evident in almost every motor vehicle or pedestrian fatality covered by the inept local assignment editors, Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, and edited by staffers under the supervision of six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton.

Recall the single story on the March 9 pedestrian death of Hue D. Dang, 64, a Vietnamese-American woman who was run down in Hackensack by a detective driving an unmarked car from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

The story never mentioned a crosswalk at the T-intersection, Jackson Avenue and Kennedy Street, or that Dang was struck when she was walking in or near it. 

Hackensack police filed no charges against the driver, Detective Sgt. John C. Straniero, 49, of Wayne, but another prosecutor's office is investigating the accident.


  1. I noticed that The Star Ledger won the New Jersey Press Association award for "general excellence" and also numerous other category awards. The Record was notable for not winning a single award. I would think that this would clearly support your opinion of The Record being a newspaper in decline.

  2. I didn't see the awards story, but if that's the case, it would be a complete reversal of past years, when The Record did quite well.

    1. Are you sure 2015 awards have been decided?

  3. Pretty sure The Record doesn't enter contests anymore as a money saver.

    Burgos' paper did very well in the awards.

  4. You should know your facts about The Record and contests before you submit them.

    1. Get out and find them.

    2. If you think I would waste my time trying to find out whether The Record did or did not enter contests, you're out of your fucking mind.

      The paper has really turned into a piece of crap, despite the efforts of a lot of talented people. The fish stinks from the head down -- from Publisher Stephen A. Borg to local Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sfoza, and the inept production editor, Liz Houlton, who is responsible for all of the errors that get into the paper.

      You are probably part of the problem.

    3. Then people should not buy -- it is that simple. Search for a better product. And, no,I do not work for The Record -- never did.

    4. You are part of the problem.

      This is newspaper many readers grew up with and have been subscribing to all their lives to tell them what is going on, accurately and in a timely fashion. You don't just go and read another newspaper.

  5. Maybe Dear Leader realizes that the paper has become so poor that it's not worth even entering a competition. Feel sorry for the staff who could use an award or two to put on their resume to get out the door.

    1. That's sad, considering all the hard work some of the reporters are doing, including all those stories on the heroin epidemic and Bridgegate.

      The Borgs and their flagship daily seem to be backing that loser, Governor Christie.


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