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Church Street


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I have been to Church Street several times since the new chef came and have enjoyed it very much each time. His tuna and short ribs are absolutely delicious. I also enjoyed the new lunch menu as well. Give it a try. Hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Susan

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i was there a few weeks ago. it was my second time, but first since the new chef took over. i wasn't impressed. it's odd - even with a different chef, i experienced the same issue that made my first meal disappointing. both times, the apps were decent to good, but the entrees were mediocre to bad. this last time, we had the duck papardelle and the pumpkin pierogi. the duck dish was literally swimming in cream sauce, and the pasta was much closer to fettuccine than papardelle. the pierogi were bland, overcooked, and oily. the crab cake and butternut squash soup apps, on the other hand, were not bad, although the soup was a bit overseasoned.

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Every time I'm thinking of food on Church Street, I think about the CS Cafe, look at the menu posted on the window, look inside, and ultimately decide to eat at Raymond's.

I have fond memories of CS Cafe's chop chop salad when I sampled it at their opening. The interior design lacks any appeal to me, maybe that's why I haven't been back since. It has a sad and lonely vibe inside.

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It has a sad and lonely vibe inside.

That is SO true, Jim! I've never been able to figure out what it is about the place that's so unappealing. Even in the summer, sitting outside and listening to live music, I think the place is terrible. It definitely starts with the service issues, but I just can't get excited about going there, even just for coffee and dessert.

"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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Every time I'm thinking of food on Church Street, I think about the CS Cafe, look at the menu posted on the window, look inside, and ultimately decide to eat at Raymond's.

I have fond memories of CS Cafe's chop chop salad when I sampled it at their opening. The interior design lacks any appeal to me, maybe that's why I haven't been back since. It has a sad and lonely vibe inside.

Agreed. It looks like a New Jersey diner, but a NEW New Jersey diner, not a funky old diner--plastic on the banquettes, unattractive Formica on the counter. All of which would be fine but for the fact that they aim so high with the food. It just doesn't jibe, so if you're going for the high- or medium-end experience, you're not going to go there.

It's a shame, because the owner is lovely and seems to be one of the few restaurateurs in town with true community spirit. They host lots of meetings and group get-togethers, have music fairly often, etc. And the food's pretty good. A makeover would help that place a lot.

Susan

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I was there last night for the first time in at least a year, and do not plan to return.

The food is decent, not great, but the service is amateurish. Just a few examples: No one greeted us at the door, the waiter asked us if we were ready to order nearly immediately, as my friend had put her menu down momentarily to put on her glasses. Our waiter, clearly overworked, never volunteered to refill my water glass, and so on. This waiter really needed roller skates as he was taking orders, bringing food, making espresso drinks, and so on.

A female employee seemed to have no other job than slowly walking around (NOT looking at the tables to see if anything was needed) and folding silverware into napkins. After waiting some time for someone to notice our signals that we wanted our check and finally give us our check, we waited 20 minutes for someone to take our check and credit card.

The owner needs to train his/her staff, get a few busboys, maybe take the espresso responsibility away from the wait staff, get a greeter at the door, etc. And of course the layout (very long service counter running from front to back of restaurant) does not help.

Edited by Montclairite (log)
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  • 1 month later...

The owner has confirmed that the (new) chef has left. Scroll to the bottom to read the details on this page of Baristanet.

"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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  • 7 months later...

I have been to Church Street many times since they've opened. We stopped by last night and found a few new changes. First, they no longer have the dessert case by the counter (which gives it much less of the so called "diner" look). They also have rearranged some of the booths and tables and put in a piano. I found those simple changes really give the place the feel of a more fine dining restaurant. They also had their new fall menu. I started with the Lobster and Crab Wontons. There were 5-6 small little purses with a very tasty roasted pepper sauce on the side. My husband had the Warm Duck Confit which was served with a Lentil & Portobello Sauté, Roquefort and Organic Greens, Truffle Vinaigrette. He couldn't stop telling me how great it was. It was a really nice size portion. For dinner I had Cepe Dusted Shrimp served with a Ragout of Jersey Corn & Shiitake Mushrooms and Curried Cous Cous. I did not know what to expect, but it was absolutely delicious. My husband had the Grappa and Grainy Mustard Rack of Lamb served w/Braised Leeks & Endive. Again delicious. We then shared a tiramisu for dessert. I want to thank Chef Todd for a delicious and enjoyable dinner. Looking forward to returning real soon.

Susan

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  • 4 weeks later...
I have been to Church Street many times since they've opened.  We stopped by last night and found a few new changes.  First, they no longer have the dessert case by the counter (which gives it much less of the so called "diner" look).  They also have rearranged some of the booths and tables and put in a piano.  I found those simple changes really give the place the feel of a more fine dining restaurant.  They also had their new fall menu.  I started with the Lobster and Crab Wontons.  There were 5-6 small little purses with a very tasty roasted pepper sauce on the side.  My husband had the Warm Duck Confit which was served with a Lentil & Portobello Sauté, Roquefort and Organic Greens, Truffle Vinaigrette.  He couldn't stop telling me how great it was.  It was a really nice size portion.  For dinner I had Cepe Dusted Shrimp served with a Ragout of Jersey Corn & Shiitake Mushrooms and Curried Cous Cous.  I did not know what to expect, but it was absolutely delicious. My husband had the Grappa and Grainy Mustard Rack of Lamb served w/Braised Leeks & Endive.  Again delicious.  We then shared a tiramisu for dessert.  I want to thank Chef Todd for a delicious and enjoyable dinner.  Looking forward to returning real soon.

I've heard several good reports about Church Street Cafe in recent weeks, including two earlier today.

I was in the Spice it Up shop across the street, and the shop's owner mentioned that the chef visits regularly, and samples various spices, often taking several examples back for menu updating.

While we were having this conversation, another shopper mentioned she had enjoyed dinner at Church Street recently and was quite delighted. I'll put it back on my list of places to visit soon.

The spice shop has an unusually broad range of spices and fine teas, and they measure each sale by weight. The owner said several Montclair chefs stop by to add materials to their inventory.

I refreshed my spice cabinet for the fall and winter cooking season. Ajowon, Aleppo pepper, grains of paradise, herbes de Provence, marjoram, nigella, mexican oregano, tellicherry peppercorns, raz al hanout, Zahtar, ancho powder, chipotle whole brown, posole spice, and a few bird chiles. $35 in all.

Spice It Up

Edited by Rail Paul (log)

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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  • 1 month later...

I went to Church Street this evening. It was my first time there, and I know you take a chance eating out on Christmas Eve. They were offering their Autumn 2007 menu, and they told me Chef Todd would be in the kitchen that evening, so I was going with high expectations.

Now I checked the reviews before I went, and I know there are supposed to be a few standout dishes, like the small plate Duck Confit and the Lobster and Crab Wontons, or large plates like the Grappa and Grainy Mustard Rack of Lamb. But my wife and I decided to venture off the beaten path and try some dishes that I had not seen discussed before.

For small plates we tried 3: the Salmon Trilogy, the Crab Cakes, and the Foie Gras. The Fois was the best of them, three small pieces with melba toast and a fig, curried apple and eggplant tartar. It was beautiful fois, and the 'tartar' was a classic combo.

The Trilogy of Salmon was was a pretty plate, but otherwise disappointing. I was careful to eat them in them right order. ;) The Citrus Cured Gravlax didn't really taste like citrus or like salmon. The Hickory Smoked Salmon was dry, a little too smoky, and the they served it over some sprouts. Neither one was nice and buttery or tasted at all like good salmon, . The standout of the three was the Salmon Tartar with Wasabi Tobiko (flying fish roe in a wasabi base) which was perfectly balanced. If they just served this as the appetizer it would have been wonderful, the salmon was so fresh tasting. It made the rest of the salmon pale in comparison, hard to believe all three came out of the same kitchen.

The three smallish crabcakes in the last small plate were nicely done, crisp on the outside, but seemed a little bland to me. Maybe the salad of pistachio, fennel, carrot, and dried cranberry was a little too acidic -- it would have gone better with lobster. There was nothing unpleasant about the dish at all, but the combo just seemed a little out of balance. It was all good, but didn't really come together on the plate.

The first large plate was the Masala Spiced Strawberry Bass. The fish was fresh and sweet, but because they chose to fillet it, one side of the fillet was twice as thick as the other. The thick part of the fillet was cooked to medium, which left the other side a little bit hard and overcooked. I used to catch and pan fry these fish when I was a kid, and I think they should probably be cooked whole.

For me the best dish was the Port Braised Oxtail. The flavors were deep and complex, and the meat was at that lovely gelatinous perfection. If you like oxtails this is a great dish, and one that I would go back for.

The desert special was pears poached in port with cinnamon ice cream, and this was a perfect pairing. The ice cream came from right down the street at Applegate Farms, and I recommend you stop there and buy some, it is killer. I am definitely going to steal this dessert idea and serve it at my own New Year's dinner.

Service was OK. In an earlier post, Montclairite pointed out some shortcomings. In our case we did feel a little rushed, even though it was early and the restaurant was not busy. The large plates came out before we were completely finished with the small plates, so the server was standing there with our entrees before the table had been cleared. So we got to join in to help clear the table.

Maybe it was an off night -- it was Christmas Eve, and I certainly wouldn't want anything I say to put anyone off from going there. And like I said, I didn't order any of the dishes that the reviews recommended. The menu is very eclectic, and Chef Todd reaches for a lot. It just seemed to me that, at this price point, the overall quality and the execution could have been better.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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