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Next Door (to Blu)


SusanGiff
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This is the casual place next door to Blu, and owned by its chef/owner. If you've been, what did you think? I had a sandwich there yesterday, and was unimpressed, to put it extremely mildly. But I love Blu and am willing to try Next Door again if someone else raves (even mildly).

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I have been to Next Door quite a few times since it opened although I have not been there for lunch. One time for dinner, I did have the burger and it was delicious. For dinner I have enjoyed the meat loaf several times, the tuna and two of the pasta dishes. The mushroom barley soup is excellent as well as the seafood salad. Maybe you should give dinner a try and see what you think.

Susan

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Been there for lunch and had a great Asian salad made with napa, peanuts, crisp wontons, snow peas and carrots. Lowell had a mushroom barley soup that had a very flavorful broth and the burger which I will order next time we go for lunch. We were there once for dinner and had the white bean pasta soup, crisp roasted chicken, and the slow roasted pot roast. Was very pleased with all of the dishes.

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

TABLE HOPPING WITH ROSIE

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  • 4 weeks later...

I finally got to Next Door last night, and had the first of what I'm sure will be many wonderful meals there. As usual, the quality, quantity and pricing of Zod's food is far and above most of the other restaurants in NJ, let alone in Montclair.

We started with a couple of the baby arugula/goat cheese/beet salads and a mozz and tomato plate. The mozz was delicious; I wonder where he gets it and if it's local. For entrees, my niece had a bowl of spaghetti bolognese that was bigger than she was, so of course, she allowed a few tastes...the sauce was delicious, meat very flavorful (was that a ground beef/pork/lamb mixture, I wonder?), and she took about 2/3 of it home. Mom had the salmon, which she loved; my sis-in-law had a piece of tuna that was almost as big as her dinner plate, my bro had the hanger steak (fantastic) and a side of spinach, and I had the lamb over white bean ragu. All simple, flavorful, and satisfying.

For dessert, my niece ordered the chocolate custard with Rice Krispies; I had the poached pears with raisins and walnuts, Mom had the rice pudding w/caramel, and my bro and s-i-l shared the apple tart. Never got to try the tart, but I loved my generous bowl of poached pears, which were swimming in their (just sweet enough) syrup. The choc custard is simply ridiculous (in a very good way-and this is coming from someone with a fairly small sweet tooth). SO rich, so decadent, and SO not meant to be eaten by one person! It was a giant serving, and about 1/2 of it also went home with my niece, who was none too thrilled to have our spoons constantly dipping in to her bowl. The biggest winner, though, had to be that rice pudding. Mom had it there on a recent visit for lunch, and she was right--it's amazing. Juuuust enough caramel to give it a different flavor from the usual rice puddings, and again, a huge bowl (too big for her to finish, even after we tasted it)!

If there is one thing I wasn't nuts about, it's the (lack of) decor. This is literally a painted room and nothing more; I hope Zod warms it up with something other than the food! A few paintings by local artists, perhaps? Or even a paint treatment so it's not so flat? With food like that, I don't need (or want) decor distraction, but it's a tad cold when you're facing the back wall as I was. We heard similar comments from others who were obviously there for the first time.

Since it was a pre-birthday meal, I never saw the bill, but salads were around $8 each, all of our entrees were $16 or less, and desserts were $6. The coffee and cappucinos were delicious (although no french press as there is at Blu). Service is just as attentive here as it is at Blu (I wanted to say next door, but that might confuse some people! :laugh: ), and included fresh silverware between the apps and entrees and new wine glasses for a different bottle of wine (as it should be). And of course, it's BYO. Next Door is a fantastic value, and a wonderful addition to Montclair, imo!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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  • 4 weeks later...

I went to Next Door last night with my 2 daughters (ages 9 and almost 13). We started with the Mushroom Barley soup. It was really good. Great broth, good meaty mushrooms and lots of barley. I shared it with the older child. The younger one is picky and she won't eat what she won't eat. The older child loved the soup, but she found the mushrooms overwhelming after a while. That's not a bad thing -- just a kid finding. They weren't like the little mushroom pieces in the cream of mushroom soup at Pal's Cabin. But she ate it -- just after eating a bunch she started to skip the biggest mushroom pieces.

We followed that up with a hamburger for the younger daughter -- medium with American cheese. It was nice and juicy (and large) The roll was a nice roll -- not a bun. It came with lettuce and tomato and some chips. She was very happy with it. I had a bite and it was good.

Older dd and I split two pastas -- the spagetti bolognese (the clear favorite) and the Fettuccini, Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic, Pecorino Romano. What can I say about the bolognese -- I would go back again tonight for it. The other pasta was good, but not quite as WOW. I can't explain. It was good -- rich hearty, plenty of pieces of roasted garlic and lots of mushrooms but it didn't compare to the bolognese. I'll be dreaming about the bolognese.

For dessert we had the warm chocolate cake (which came with peanut butter ice cream) and the Cream Brulee. Six thumbs way up! The peanut butter ice cream was inhaled by my younger daughter. I did manage to steal a taste or two and found it to be very peanut butter-y. Really intense peanut flavor :smile: The warm chocolate cake was cakey on the outside and pudding-y in the middle. Luckily it was very rich and younger dd couldn't finish it all! :raz: The cream brulee was also yummy. It came in a nice sized glass bowl with a good crunchy topping and fresh strawberries and blueberries on top. Both my girls commented on the speckles of vanilla bean in the custard -- there were lots. I think my older daughter would have licked the bowl if I had let her.

I can't wait to go back again. (Even if I did stare longingly at the door to Blu on my way in and out of Next Door.) Chef Zod has two great dining spots to his credit.

Edited by Beth E. (log)
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I'm not a fan. I understand what it's supposed to be- a place where you can go for hassle-free dining. No reservations needed, no jackets or make-up needed, etc. The menu lacks flavor or flexibility. I ordered an appetizer and an entree and I was not satisfied. We asked if the we can order something from next door (the real Blu) and he said no. Zod does not do that.

They should play some music or something. We were listening to water running and dishes banging the short time we were there.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I'm not a fan. I understand what it's supposed to be- a place where you can go for hassle-free dining. No reservations needed, no jackets or make-up needed, etc. The menu lacks flavor or flexibility. I ordered an appetizer and an entree and I was not satisfied. We asked if the we can order something from next door (the real Blu) and he said no. Zod does not do that.

They should play some music or something. We were listening to water running and dishes banging the short time we were there.

My experience wasn't as negative as your's was, but I agree that they do need to season their food better. I do not mind a limited menu at a place, but when you only have a few offerings and many of which are items that are comfort food classics (Roasted Chicken, Meatloaf, Spaghetti & Metalballs etc) you pretty much have to come close making it the best that people have ever tasted.

My roasted chicken wasn't bad, but it did not close to meeting this benchmark. I felt that the meat was little under seasoned and the jus that was did not compensate and the breast meat that was served was a little dry as it is wont to be when your are trying to get a good sear. I also, had Chicken Livers with Balsamic Vinegar and Onions whic I felt fared a little better, but again felt that it lacked a little salt & pepper.

I had my meal back in January, so hopefully they will work out some of the execution issues in the coming days.

Edited by Anthony A (log)
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I love it that Zod's dad runs the kitchen. It's a sweet little place, and I hope it finds an appreciative and loyal following.

Ya weren't impressed? Wanna swoon? Drop twice the bucks at Blu, but don't complain about Next Door. It is what it is.

-s.

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Ya weren't impressed? Wanna swoon? Drop twice the bucks at Blu, but don't complain about Next Door. It is what it is.

-s.

Let's be fair. Blu gets an excellent rating by the NY Times, which is supposed to be the NJ equivalent of 4 stars in NY, and we are not supposed to have a certain expectation level for his other projects?

Speaking for myself, I never expected to "swoon" or be blown away at Next Door, but I do expect execution and quality no matter the price point or style of fare.

Next Door's execution was by no means poor the day I tried it, but it didn't even approach flawless. Call Arafai a victim of his own success. He set a standard of excellence at Blu, now people expect him to deliver all the time no matter the theme of the restaurant. He is a big boy and should welcome the challenge.

Like you, other people feel differently about the restaurant and I am happy their experience met or exceeded expectation. I would never deny them the right to be effusive in their praise as long as they acknowledge my right to be critical.

Edited by Anthony A (log)
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I haven't been to Blu, but I did try Next Door a few weeks ago for lunch. I had ok pasta, somewhat bland. I live in the neighborhood, and Iwouldn't say I would avoid the place, but I wouldn't choose to have lunch there again unless the person I was with specifically wanted to try it.

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I haven't been there for lunch yet, but at dinner, I tasted 3 of the 5 entrees at our table, and bland is far from how I'd describe them!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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  • 3 months later...

Went over the weekend for dinner. Overall was alright, nothing spectacular, though was what I went in expecting. There was one waitress for the entire place. Though small, she worked hard. Weirdly there were at least 2 or 3 other people just lingering around next to the kitchen in back, not cooks nor servers..

Anyways..on to the food. Most of the appetizers didn't appeal to me, most if not all were salads. So we just opt'd for entree's.

gallery_41917_6081_184018.jpg

Salmon with asian greens and orange-soy sauce

gallery_41917_6081_74592.jpg

Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mixed vege (mine). Moist loaf though no real flavor depth in it.

gallery_41917_6081_280523.jpg

Spaghetti Bolognese

gallery_41917_6081_176845.jpg

Fettucini with Mixed Mushrooms

The restaurant was quite hot inside; I don't think they have central air. Insead, they have a portable a/c unit plugged into the wall. Sitting near the entrance I could barely feel anything.

Blu was closed for renovations for a month or so, so guess all their business went to next door.

Overall: recommended, good portions, good pricing and friendly server.

Jim

Edited by stealw (log)
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  • 4 months later...

It's been too long since I've posted about Next Door...I really do think it's one of Montclair's gems, and today was a great reminder of that fact. The four of us (one a vegetarian) were originally headed to Egan's because the carnivores were in the mood for burgers, but they weren't open yet, so we headed to Next Door. GREAAAAAT IDEA! Who knew that a) they were open for lunch on Sunday (not me) and that b) they have SUCH a great burger (again, not me)?!?

My bro and I were both swooning over the DUCK Reuben and the previously planted idea of a burger, so we decided to order one of each and share halves. The reuben came on terrific, thick-sliced grilled multigrain bread, packed with duck, sweet red cabbage, and melted cheese. We went with the burger w/gorgonzola, which was cooked exactly to medium, as requested. The reuben came with a small mesclun salad. My niece had her favorite at ND, the spaghetti bolognese, and our resident vegetarian requested the pasta fagioli (veg version) and the roasted vegetable sandwich. To say we were happy was an understatement.

A few other customers started chatting with us, saying it was their first visit to ND (they live in Millburn) and they were just shocked by how good it was and by how reasonable the prices are. 'tis true! Iirc, the burger was $9, the pasta $10, and the reuben was $12. The bowls of soup are deep for $5, and that's what they were raving about--the mushroom barley. I believe the guy said "I really didn't think you could do much to mushroom barley soup until I had that..." I encouraged them to check out Blu (without their young kids), which they said they certainly would.

For those who have tickets to shows at the (new) Wellmont Theater, Next Door would be a great choice before or afterwards! Great on a low-key Sunday, too... :wub:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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  • 3 months later...

Dinner at Next Door tonight: 3 courses for $20, with the choice of two items for each course. I went with the mesclun salad, spaghetti bolognese, and <SWOON ALERT> poached pears with rice pudding. (Note: I absolutely love their rice pudding; add pears, and it may as well say "This is for Curlz" on the menu!) :wub: Other options were the pasta fagioli, roasted chicken, and a caramel panna cotta. Did I mention it's 3 courses for $20? A terrific deal, indeed! And I have half the pasta left for lunch tomorrow...

Full regular menu was also still available.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Dinner at Next Door tonight: 3 courses for $20, with the choice of two items for each course.  I went with the mesclun salad, spaghetti bolognese, and <SWOON ALERT> poached pears with rice pudding.  (Note:  I absolutely love their rice pudding; add pears, and it may as well say "This is for Curlz" on the menu!)  :wub:  Other options were the pasta fagioli, roasted chicken, and a caramel panna cotta.  Did I mention it's 3 courses for $20?  A terrific deal, indeed!  And I have half the pasta left for lunch tomorrow...

Full regular menu was also still available.

We went last night (a Tuesday) after reading your post. We showed up at 6 and were the only people there until about 6:30, when it suddenly became packed. This was our first time at Next Door; we've been to Blu a few times.

The Restaurant Week menu last night was:

1) Small simple salad or pasta fagioli

2) Meatloaf, tilapia with ginger sauce, or spaghetti bolognese

3) rice pudding with poached pears or caramel panna cotta

I had the simple salad, tilapia, and rice pudding. My wife had the pasta fagioli, meatloaf, and rice pudding. We really enjoyed it. The rice pudding was the highlight. 3 courses was plenty-- we were stuffed. The portions are bigger than at Blu. A great bargain at $40 for two people plus tip. It seems that the early complaints about the bare decor and lack of music were resolved. I thought the space looked very nice, and they had some funky 80's music playing (Prince, Rod Stewart, etc). We look forward to going back.

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We went last night (a Tuesday) after reading your post.  We showed up at 6 and were the only people there until about 6:30, when it suddenly became packed.  This was our first time at Next Door; we've been to Blu a few times.

The Restaurant Week menu last night was:

1) Small simple salad or pasta fagioli

2) Meatloaf, tilapia with ginger sauce, or spaghetti bolognese

3) rice pudding with poached pears or caramel panna cotta

I had the simple salad, tilapia, and rice pudding.  My wife had the pasta fagioli, meatloaf, and rice pudding.  We really enjoyed it.  The rice pudding was the highlight.  3 courses was plenty-- we were stuffed.  The portions are bigger than at Blu.  A great bargain at $40 for two people plus tip.  It seems that the early complaints about the bare decor and lack of music were resolved.  I thought the space looked very nice, and they had some funky 80's music playing (Prince, Rod Stewart, etc).  We look forward to going back.

So glad you went and that you agree, FMA. My mom had that tilapia the night we went (off the regular menu) and is still talking about how good it was. And I totally agree about the music; I wish I could remember exactly what was playing, but I remember noticing it and thinking it was great.

I just don't understand how people can go to the local diner and spend $20 when there's food to be had that's SO much better!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Dinner at Next Door tonight: 3 courses for $20

This 3 course for $20 deal you speak of...was it a special promo for that week? Any more info?

Nothing on their website hints at this deal.

http://www.restaurantblu.com/nextdoor/

Jim

Found my answer:

THREE-COURSE DINNER

03/8/2009 - 03/12/2009

Montclair Restaurant Week has been extended at Blu, 554 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair. Sundays through Thursdays

http://www.jerseymenus.com/calendar.php

Edited by stealw (log)
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This 3 course for $20 deal you speak of...was it a special promo for that week? Any more info?

Nothing on their website hints at this deal.

http://www.restaurantblu.com/nextdoor/

Jim

Found my answer:

THREE-COURSE DINNER

03/8/2009 - 03/12/2009

Glad you found it, but I'd still suggest checking with the restaurant. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets extended further, but Zod indicated "for a couple more weeks" when I was there last weekend.

Next Door: 973-744-3600

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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  • 4 months later...

Next door gets a Very Good in today's NYTimes... Click here to read it The only disagreement I have with Mr. Corcoran is about the chilled corn and cantaloupe soup...I had it a few weeks ago at Blu as an amuse, and again at Next Door the following week, and my family was fighting me for it once I let them try it! I thought the chili oil really balanced out the mellowness of the other main ingredients, but hey--at least he agrees with me about the basil ice cream! :laugh: The bolognese is also amazing; it's one of my niece's favorites when we go there--although she also scarfed down the calamari salad with avocado, cucumber, and sesame-ginger vinaigrette on this last visit.

I completely concur that with the prices being what they are at Next Door, the place should be packed all the time; not sure what the issue is, as everyone I talk to who has been there raves about the food and the prices. Why anyone would head to a diner when you can get such a high quality meal at a low price is beyond me!

ETA: Zod is really getting a LOT of nice press...there's a feature article about him in this month's (restaurant) issue of NJ Monthly as well.

Edited by Curlz (log)

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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