This is an amazing place. You almost don’t have to read any further, just go. I can tell you how I came to that point, but I’m struck by the dichotomy of how my experience will be easy yet difficult to write about. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. With these things, it’s best to start at the beginning.
One of the perks of being a food writer is discovering new, innovative chefs and restaurants. So when uproot reached out to Jersey Bites and told us what they were up to, they got our attention. And, I was lucky enough to get the assignment. uproot is located in a newer, up-scale mall at the intersection of Mountain Boulevard (county Route 527) and Mt. Bethel Road in Warren. This modern setting is perfectly in keeping with the restaurant’s culinary intent, contemporary American cuisine.
The interior is not small by any means but the different seating areas create a more intimate atmosphere, or as I now think of it, aura. There is an informal area near the bar where a row of tables line the wall almost the length of the building. A more formal room resides at the rear and another, with small raised tables and stools, was where our party of eight spent a little time in paradise.
I started with the namesake cocktail, the Root, which is a distinctive combination of ginger spice, ginger beer, ginger juice, rum, vanilla falernum and citrus. This was my first clue that not only were my expectations going to be far exceeded, but that I was going to walk away with an entirely higher set of expectations. (Pity the next establishment that attempts to achieve the new bar height.)
I selected two warm items for my first course. The Wood Stone Roasted Octopus which consisted of duck ham, confit, cherry tomato, and aged balsamic. The octopus was tender and wonderfully complemented by chorizo sausage.
The second appetizer was the Mergeuz Stuffed Quail, which included ramp risotto and piqullo pepper coulis. At this point, I remarked to one of my dining companions that I could have easily been satisfied with a larger portion of either of these appetizers as an entrée.
But, since there was no stopping at the appetizers (poor me) we moved on to entrees. Since it was previously noted that uproot has a special finesse with fish, I selected the Day-Boat Halibut. The main ingredient was complimented by celeriac, asparagus, and mushroom butter.
Conversations throughout the night with Executive Chef Anthony Bucco revealed his commitment to providing a valued experience for his patrons. His intent is “to suit their needs and suit their tastes.” The chef’s attention to detail is not to be underestimated. For example, to ensure that your taste of the wine or food is not affected by the water, they have installed a water-purification system called Nordaq, which produces and purifies the water on-site, leaving the salts and minerals in tact while removing added chemicals and flavors. It can be carbonated or left still. They are the only place in New Jersey licensed to operate this system.
And then there’s the fact that he personally knows all the suppliers of his products and understands, for example, how the livestock are raised. This is important to uproot. Their informative and well-organized website can be found at: http://uprootrestaurant.com/.
The proceeding was the easy part to write. It is all secondary, however, compared to what is more important but somewhat harder to convey.
Wikipedia notes sincerity as the virtue of one who speaks truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, and desires. I can think of no better word to explain just why everything that I was served was as amazing as it was. It was prepared, cooked and served with sincerity.
The Don Juan character from Carlos Castaneda’s novels advises Carlos to determine if a path has heart? “If it does, the path is good…” and “…makes for a joyful journey”. Clearly uproot is a path with heart for Chef Bucco, and I’m glad to have found my way out of the woods.
9 Mount Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059
Phil Sikora: In his own words “I have a T-shirt from a club for owners of Russian motorcycles with a motto that translates to: “Eat to ride; ride to eat.” I’ve taken that to heart. And so the stories will unfold.” Phil is a motorcycle enthusiast and System Engineer for AT&T. He works in Middletown and lives in Paramus and will be reporting on his culinary adventures in his “Reviews from the Road” series for Jersey Bites.