There are clearly great restaurants in New Jersey and I am privileged to be able to dine at many of them. One popular place that had been highly-recommended by fellow foodies is Lorena’s in Maplewood. I dined there on a Friday night a few weeks ago with a small party and found the experience outstanding.
Lorena’s has been getting rave reviews since it opened on bustling Maplewood Avenue, near the train station, in 2005. After dining there, I can easily see what the fuss is about. The ambiance is upscale yet comfortable, the service is perhaps the best I have experienced this side of the Hudson and the food is spectacular.
The nine-table dining room is compact, to say the least, but does not feel crowded. The décor is richly-appointed, the linens are of fine quality and the conversations are muted and relaxed. Even the butter is served in an elegant way.
Immediately after walking into Lorena’s, the polished staff is welcoming and unobtrusive. The servers are professionals, helpful and attentive. Our party had brought very special wines, the restaurant is a bring-your-own, and each was treated with the care it deserved, including decanting, and served in good stemware. Diners are truly pampered at Lorena’s, in an understated way.
Chef / Owner Humberto Campos Jr. is an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America and prepares upscale French fare using ingredients sourced from local organic, sustainable and environmentally-sensible farms in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Although Lorena’s menu is not extensive, making a selection is no less difficult as every dish sounds incredible.
Some stellar starters my party enjoyed are the Thai Inspired Hudson Valley Duck Confit Salad of Shaved Organic Cabbage, Jicama, Cilantro, Scallions, Spicy Peanut Dressing and the Seafood Risotto. The risotto is perhaps the most flavorful version of this dish I have had.
Must-try entrees are the Wild Caught Local Barnegat Sea Scallops with Bacon and Butter Braised Napa Cabbage and Chive Spaetzle, the 14-Hour Braised Boneless Black Angus Beef Short Ribs, Gorgonzola and Local Mushroom Polenta Cake, Glazed Baby Carrot and Beef Braising Jus and the Black Olive and Yuzu Glazed Rack of Lamb, Goat Cheese and Rosemary Bread Pudding and Lamb Jus. The scallops were ultra-fresh and sweet and complimented perfectly by the bacon and Napa cabbage. The short ribs were served as if a solid piece of tenderloin, but melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful and decadent. The lamb was masterly-cooked and its sides were delectable.
Desserts, if one can muster the appetite for them, are well-executed classics like Warm Chocolate Soufflé with Raspberry Sauce and the Tahitian Vanilla Bean & Espresso Crème Brulée “Duo”. A nice alternative to the sweet options is the artisan cheese plate accompanied by slices of walnut raisin bread and dried fruits and nuts.
For early diners, there is also a $39, three-course prix fixe menu available daily from 5PM – 6PM. Great value for the quality food served.
If you have not been to Lorena’s or have not been in a while, it is at the very top of the list of outstanding New Jersey restaurant. There is no reason to make the trek to the Big Apple with a restaurant of this caliber right in the Garden State.
168 Maplewood Avenue
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5PM – 11PM, Sunday 5PM – 9PM
Brunch: Sunday 11:30AM – 2:30PM
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie
Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.