I was recently invited to VB3 Restaurant for a tasting in Jersey City, NJ.
My initial reaction was most likely going to be a no thank you since I rarely make special trips to New Jersey but then I read a bit more about the chef and had to take VB3 up on the offer.
Chef Michael Colletti runs VB3 Restaurant & Bar with his family.
When I read that Chef Colletti had a burger on the menu at VB3 which had back to back victories at the Food Network’s 2009 Food & Wine Festival “Rachel Ray Burger Bash” in Miami & NY, I had to stop in to give it a try (along with some other items from the menu!).The burger I am talking about was created for Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery in DC. The Colletti Smokehouse Burger is still on the menu at Good Stuff with a similar version offered at VB3.
Chef Colletti has also cooked at a number of famous restaurants including Le Cirque in NYC while also participating in preparing White House luncheons (feeding the President and staff members) at the request of First Lady Michelle Obama.
I’d say that’s a pretty impressive resume and I looked forward to trying out some of what his restaurant VB3 had to offer.
When we arrived, I was impressed by the amount of flat-screen TVs located throughout the restaurant. This would definitely be a great place to catch a game. In my opinion, VB3 felt like a cross between a sports bar and lounge.
We arrived at 6:00 PM, a bit earlier than our usual time for dinner but we didn’t want to go out too late since Lucas came along. The restaurant had some other people dining but it wasn’t packed. We were told by Chef Colletti that weekdays are definitely busier. Throughout our meal, there was a steady crowd and lots of tables had kids with them which was nice to see. We definitely love kid-friendly restaurants!
Prior to being seated, I spoke a bit with the Chef about the restaurant and some of his previous gigs. He knew that the main thing I was interested in was the burger so I got some details about it. I also got to explain to the chef personally exactly how I like my burger cooked.
I have to say that there were lots of things that sounded good on the menu so rather than order, we asked for some recommendations. One of the appetizers that was suggested was something I wasn’t even considering but it ended up almost stealing the show!
Here is what we ordered based on Chef Colletti’s recommendations:
After mentioning how Lucas loved calamari, we were told to give the Grilled Octopus a try. The octopus was tender and very tasty. I also really enjoyed the fingerling potatoes that accompanied the dish.
Another guest favorite we tried were the Arancini (Saffron Rice Balls stuffed with mozzarella). The rice balls were definitely different and had good flavor but I wouldn’t consider them a favorite compared to the other appetizers.
The third appetizer was the real surprise of the entire meal. Chef suggested that we try the Baby Pork Ribs (Four Hearty Ribs, Slow Roasted, Brushed with Balsamic-Rosemary BBQ Sauce, Topped with Pickled Cabbage Slaw).
I was hesitant at first since we’d be having the burger and I didn’t really want to eat a ton of meat. However the way Chef Colletti described them convinced us to give them a try and boy were Kim and I glad that we did.
The ribs were very meaty and flavorful. From what I recall, we were told how the ribs took 18 hours to cook and it was a slow process. I really loved the BBQ sauce that covered but didn’t overpower the ribs.
I had asked Chef Colletti if the ribs come off the bone easily and he had said that they fall off. I’d say that what he said was definitely true. Here is a photo to prove it:
For our main courses Kim and I figured we would share a couple of things plus Lucas would pick from what we ordered too. To be honest, after having three appetizers, the burger would’ve been more than enough- maybe not even necessary at all.
We were committed to trying out the award-winning Colletti Smokehouse Burger and decided to also go with the Classic Cheese Pizza.
(VB3 serves personal 10″ pies at the restaurant and also has a pizzeria connected to it which also has a separate entrance.) Since I love pizza, trying VB3’s was a good option for us and something we knew Lucas would eat.
The Classic Cheese Pizza (with Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, and Oregano) seemed like the way to go although Chef suggested trying one of the topped pizzas.
The size was perfect and Lucas enjoyed eating his one slice. Kim and I each also had one slice, leaving us with half the pie to take home. Being from Brooklyn, I like to think that I know good pizza. I’d consider VB3’s pizza solid for a restaurant and I did enjoy it. The leftovers reheated really well too. You could tell that the pie is made from quality ingredients. It also has good flavor but it isn’t the most amazing pizza out there (and that isn’t a bad thing…).
Ordering a pie at VB3 is a great option if you’re dining with kids and I felt it would’ve also been a very solid option to share as an appetizer.
After trying the pizza, I was curious to know if VB3’s pizzeria served a similar pie or a larger, full- sized pie. I was also curious about some of the topped pies which sounded pretty good. (Some pies offered are Crispy Buffalo Chicken, Pepperoni, Pulled Pork & more.)
And now for the main item we came to try….
The Colletti Smokehouse Burger, is “Topped with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Crispy Onion Petals, Aged Yellow Cheddar Cheese, topped with just the right amount of Homemade Balsamic BBQ Sauce“.
While the two other burgers offered both sounded delicious, I had to try the award-winning version.
Prior to ordering, I was told that the burger is a blend of three cuts of meat- chuck, short rib and brisket. I also found out that the meat comes from “a very old school butcher shop in Elizabeth, NJ, where I grew up- John Sacco and Sons Butcher Shop” according to Chef Colletti. The meat is blended fresh every day and then delivered to the restaurant where it is handcrafted at VB3.
The burger looked like it had a lot going on and it was easy to see all of the layers once I cut it in half. I don’t typically cut my burgers in half but since Kim and I were sharing, this was the easiest way to do so. I think the picture also came out pretty cool! 🙂
When I bit into the Colletti Smokehouse Burger I was definitely impressed by how well all of the flavors came together. I was getting pretty full from the appetizers but I honestly couldn’t put this burger down. If I had to tackle a whole burger I would’ve been in trouble.
However, since I was only eating a half, I was able to enjoy it and not leave any of it behind.
The first thing that stands out is how perfectly the burger was cooked. I usually ask for a burger medium well since it then is served medium. If I order medium, I find burgers come our rare which I am not a fan of.
This burger came out medium with maybe a touch of pink and it was juicy and flavorful as could be. The meat definitely gets my approval!
When it came to the toppings, two of them really stood out. The bacon and bbq sauce complimented this burger beautifully and really added a lot to the burger. I like sauce on my food and the amount added to the burger was enough to flavor but not overpower the burger.
The cheese and crispy onion petals, while not bad didn’t really add a lot in my opinion. Cheddar cheese is probably my favorite cheese but I find when added to a burger it is usually flavorless. Sharp cheddars don’t have this problem so much but I found the aged yellow used at VB3 wasn’t noticeable.
The crispy onion petals were pretty good but a bit too thick for my taste. I’m a very picky eater and I’ve only really enjoyed onions on burgers for a few years now. My favorite kind on burgers are carmelized onions. When they are done crispy, I like thin, shoestring onions. Again, this is personal preference as Kim enjoyed the crispy onion petals on her half.
Overall, the Colletti Smokehouse Burger could hold its own against many of the other awesome burgers that I’ve eaten around the country. I’d love to give it a try again but the thing is if I go back to VB3, I’d be more inclined to try one of Chef Colletti’s other burger creations! Such problems to have…
Kim, Lucas and I really enjoyed our meal at VB3. With so many tasty-sounding items on the menu, it was really difficult to make decisions as to what we should order. Lucky for us, Chef Colletti was an amazing host and suggested some delicious things for us to try.
VB3 is located at 475 Washington Boulevard in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Find out all of the important details as well as view VB3’s menus online here.
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