A true resurgence has taken place at The Ryland Inn, which had been closed since 2007 when a water main burst and flooded its basement. Situated on over 10 acres of land in Whitehouse Station, the former Grande Dame of the New Jersey culinary kingdom is now owned by Frank and Jeanne Cretella of Landmark Hospitality. The dynamic duo rescued, restored, and redesigned the property at a cost of over $2 million. “‘Country Elegance’ has been our collective goal from the start of this project,” says Executive Chef Anthony Bucco during a recent interview. A crystal chandelier hangs in a wooden shingled alcove, the wait staff is polished and top notch, yet every member’s in jeans. Country elegance? I’d say yes.
Chef Bucco’s style is modern American with some French influences. His inventive menu is crafted using pristine ingredients reflecting the seasons and executed using expert techniques. “The approach to the food at the Ryland is simply allowing the wholesomeness of the ingredients play out naturally,” says Chef Bucco. “While our kitchen can be defined by our ability to execute on a modern level, our true strength lays our ability to source responsibly,” continues Bucco.
Chef Bucco perfected his skills working at some of the best restaurants in the New York / New Jersey metro area, including Uproot in Warren, NJ; Restaurant Latour in Hamburg, NJ; Provence in Manhattan; and Stage Left in New Brunswick, NJ. Joining him in the kitchen at The Ryland Inn is Chef de Cuisine, Craig Polignano, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and lists The Copeland in the Westin Governor Morris in Morristown, NJ; Bernards Inn; and Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point, CA on his polished résumé.
The menu is exciting with some classic dishes reinvented using modern techniques and creative ingredients. “I want the cuisine to echo the years of successes the Ryland has shared with this community and the state, in addition to its national accomplishments,” says Bucco. On a recent visit, our table opted for the seven-course tasting dinner with wine pairings. Most of the pairings worked well, yet a couple of the wines need tweaking to match the finesse of the food. Here are the courses we enjoyed:
Amuse-bouche of uni mousse served in a dainty tea cup. I’m a fan of sea urchin, also known as uni, and appreciate it served most ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the delicate mousse as did most of my dining partners. The amuse is served on a vintage picture frame that’s cute in concept but that I couldn’t wait for the waiter to take away once I was done.
Scallops with coconut green curry were outstanding. The scallops were mostly raw and served with “pearls” of green curry and slivered cashews. Just a fabulous dish.
Spanish mackerel in pork broth. The impeccably-fresh fish is lightly poached in a rich pork broth and served with a slice of Pancetta.
Veal sweetbreads were likely the best I’ve had, and that sentiment was echoed by my fellow diners. The veal was masterly-prepare to tender, melt-in-your-mouth morsels.
Organic Irish salmon with horseradish crème. The salmon is just-cooked and better than any salmon I’ve had in recent memory.
Niman Ranch strip steak. The rare and amazingly flavorful steak is served over slow-cooked leeks and with Miitake mushrooms.
The cheese course is comprised of a fried piece of cheese served with quince. While I appreciate the different take on this course, it’s nicely fried cheese, nothing more.
Black forest cake is a deconstructed version of the original with cherries and crumbled chocolate cake. I already know I’ll be ordering the foie gras tourchon with Gewurztraminer sabayon, the tasting of lamb with smoked polenta or the Berkshire pork loin with crispy pork belly, on my next visit.
The wine list encompasses some gems from the former Ryland Inn cellar and some affordable yet interesting finds. There are creative cocktails and an extensive list of wines by the glass for folks who prefer those in lieu of bottles.
An exciting project Chef Bucco is looking forward to is the rebirth of the garden at the Ryland Inn. Until then, his goal is to source his ingredients locally, as was traditional of the former Ryland Inn. Talk about paying homage to his predecessors.
The attentiveness of the staff is perhaps what differentiates the experience at The Ryland Inn to that of other upscale restaurants in New Jersey. Where else in the Garden State is one helped into her coat by an unassuming hostess while her car magically appears under the portico, perfectly-heated? The Ryland Inn, that’s where.
Some of the Garden State’s top culinary talent has landed at The Ryland Inn and anyone looking for a special meal should be very pleased.
The Ryland Inn
111 Old Rt 28
Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889
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.