I am not ordinarily a man with hedonistic tendencies. If you follow my blog, you should already know that my epicurean manifesto would read like a diner menu, not a bourgeois carte du jour, but every once in a while one must overlook budgetary concerns in order to experience a gastronomic adventure that is simply like no other. Adara, located at 77 Walnut Street, in Montclair, NJ, is one of these rare fiscally irresponsible exceptions, that takes you on a culinary journey that you won’t soon forget.
My wife, Kat, and I decided to visit Adara on a Thursday night, to celebrate my Birthday. Since Adara is not on the ordinary Montclair strip, I had to employ the assistance of Google Maps to locate this seemingly forgotten section of town. Once we arrived in the neighborhood, parking was stress-free and even better; it was free. (Make sure to read all the signs when parking in this area, some areas are free and some have restricted meters.) As we entered the eatery, I immediately noticed the comforting contemporary design scheme complete with modern art, and inviting lighting. As we walked further into the restaurant’s quaint foyer my olfactory senses were bombarded by the various stimulating aromas that wafted through the restaurants, intimate yet not cramped dining room.
As we were seated, our extremely welcoming waitress/hostess/General Manager (according to the website), Naomi, doled out our menus, and retrieved a bucket of ice for our bottle of white wine, that we brought from our own private stock. That is right, thanks to New Jersey’s archaic and stringent liquor laws, even a high end establishment like Adara can’t finagle a liquor license from the cold hearted bureaucrats, and therefore instead of paying $60.00 for a $15.00 Californian White, feel free to bring whatever you feel will pair well with awesome.
Something that you should know about Adara before planning your evening is that they serve a version of what is known in the foodie community as Molecular Gastronomy. (For people that are not in the know, click on the link above to read all about this innovative and fun modern cooking style.) The reason why this is important to know before making your reservation is because one cannot simply enter Adara without first reviewing their menu choices. The options are as follows:
1: A three course prefix menu that is available for $65.00 per person, “which is intended as a brief insight into the culinary world of Adara” and allows the diner to choose from a variety of tantalizing dishes. *This was the option we chose to partake in considering it was our first edible expedition with Chef Tre Ghoshal . (Who by the way was recently featured on Food Network’s Chopped!)
2: The chef’s tasting menu is a more comprehensive expedition into Adara’s rabbit hole and is artfully arranged by the chef to pander to all the senses. This gastronomic indulgence will set you back $115 per person and your entire party much agree on the menu one day prior to your reservation.
3: The grand tour menu is for major league food connoisseurs and offers a chef’s choice 15 course tasting, described as a true culinary adventure. This option costs $200 a person, which even for the wealthy can add up quickly.
4: A tasting of vegetables is offered for Vegetarians that still want to join the Chef’s Gastronomic Movement but don’t want to bend their meatless morals. This option costs 115.00 a person and sounds amazing; I might not even miss the meat, if I were to partake in this vegetable foodgasm.
5: An option entitled Omakase, a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you,” is described as five small plates of the chef’s creation. This is the most inexpensive option at $40.00, but the word small leads me to believe that I would leave hungry.
6: Finally, a separate dessert and drink menu is available. If Adara’s prices seem too high, I highly recommend stopping by for an after dinner treat or a mocktail to enter Chef Tre’s world. I guarantee after your visit, you will head over to the nearest Coinstar machine and slaughter your piggy bank in order to afford a full course meal at Adara.
Now down to the most important part of any restaurant review and what separates Adara from any restaurant that I have visited during my career as a food enthusiast, the food. First and foremost, Naomi, was not only extremely professional but she was our own personal living Google, when it came down to the food that we were being served. She answered every question we threw at her during the course of our evening at Adara and did it with style and gracious poise. After speaking to Naomi we ordered our meals which commenced the single greatest foodie experience of my life.
Our first course was a complimentary bread course, which included an Egyptian side dish named duqqa. Duqqa consists of a mixture of various herbs, nuts, and spices and is used as a dipping concoction for the bread that was provided. Another small bowl full of a magical garlic oil potion was also included on the serving dish. Naomi explained that Egyptians eat this appetizer in preparation for a large meal, and instructed us to dip the bread in the almost foam like liquid and then in the duqqa before eating. Kat and I followed Naomi’s instructions and both sighed in unison. The warm doughy bread was the perfect canvas for the duqqa, liquid combination to creatively decorate. If this course was any indication of where this meal was headed, we were both in for a treat.
Our second course was our first amuse-bouche of the evening. “Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are done so for free and according to the chef’s selection alone. “ (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) This complimentary and tremendously appreciated amuse-bouche consisted of compressed watermelon, accompanied by Humboldt Fog goat cheese and red onion, topped with a sliver of pickled red onion glass. Go ahead, you can reread that, I won’t judge, I asked Naomi to repeat it several times as well; I will wait for you here. Much like the first course, the second course was equal parts delicious and beautiful. The myriad of flavors that fused together to create this dish was astonishing.
Our third course was our second amuse-bouche of the evening and was comprised of asparagus accompanied by porcini mushrooms and a quail egg, topped with a hollandaise sauce, and some sort of Balsamic reduction sheet. This dish was another example of the painstaking attention to detail that Chef Tre Ghoshal puts into every one of his dishes. Not only did this dish taste fan- (Insert four letter word that begins with F and rhymes with luck in its present participle form) tastic, the presentation was done with both precision and a level of artistic talent that that Donatello and Michelangelo would be jealous of, and no I am not talking about the Ninja Turtles.
Our fourth course was the appetizer course that Kat and I ordered. After some substantial deliberation I decided on the Foie Gras with a Buffalo Chicken Composition, while Kat ordered the Beef Short Rib combined with tamarind, tellicherry peppers, butternut squash, and coriander.
Once again Chef Ghoshal did not disappoint. The Foie Gras was served cold, which was unexpected, but actually very pleasing to the palate. The unorthodox addition of a buffalo chicken sauce to my dish was superb and executed flawlessly. As for Kat’s dish, one can never go wrong with a short rib, especially when it is prepared by a Chef of this caliber. The beef was expertly cooked and seasoned just right as to not overpower the brilliant flavor of the meat.
Our fifth course was our entrée, the Colorado Lamb for me and the Berkshire Pork Rib Chop for Kat. The chop was escorted to our table by Apple Wood-Smoked bacon, Kim Chee, Oats, and Liquid Cornbread, while my Lamb attended the party with Spring Peas, Sheep Milk’s Yogurt, Porcini Mushrooms, and a Pumpernickel Chip.
When these dishes arrived I was taken aback by their exquisiteness. I hear you sighing, and I understand your apprehension. I am spouting off adjectives that are usually reserved for revered pieces of art, not food, but I assure you each and every descriptive phrase that I am attaching to these dishes are both warranted and justified.
Our sixth course was another amuse-bouche, but this time the dish was sweet, a pre-dessert if you will. This plate was involved a Mango Papaya Sorbet with a sliver of Mango Glass garnished with strawberries and chocolate ganache. This dish created a seamless transition from savory to sweet. After finishing this chilled concoction my palate was cleansed and I was prepared for our last course.
Our seventh and final course was the desserts that we ordered off the menu. Knowing we were going to share these dishes Kat and I decided on two different creations. I ordered the Fig Newton paired with maple, cardamom, and warm hemp milk, and Kat decided on the Havana Banana complemented with dark chocolate ganache, coconut, coffee, and salted caramel. Although the Ginger Cake portion of the Fig Newton was delicious, especially paired with the Hemp Milk, the Havana Banana stole the show. This dish was so extraordinary that if word got out about its shear decadence Julius Caesar himself would rise from his grave in order to try just a bite. Yea, it was Zombie, Julius Caesar good.
Although Adara is quite expensive, I implore you to attempt to get past that point of contention. When the bill hit the table, I was not flabbergasted or cross, I was still smiling as I gave my credit card to Naomi and she walked away from the table. The service that was provided by Naomi and Edgar, her accomplice throughout the evening, was better than any New York City hoity-toity establishment that I have ever had the pleasure of eating at. Furthermore, the food that was prepared by Chef Tre Ghoshal was honestly and without a doubt equal to if not better than anything that I have eaten in my entire life. When all was said and done what we paid for was not only a dinner but a guided tour through the culinary Wild West known as Molecular Gastronomy. To paraphrase Mr. William Shatner, Adara facilitated us to boldly go where few foodies have gone before!
Mike Arp a/k/a The Blue Collar Foodie was born and raised in Northern New Jersey and has spent most of his adult life on a relentless quest to uncover eateries that deliver white collar fare at blue collar prices. This never ending journey, combined with his passion for writing gave birth to his current food blog, The Blue Collar Foodie, which is published on both WordPress.com and The Fair Lawn Patch. This blog chronicles him and his wife Zoe’s excursions to eccentric, unconventional, and of course affordable restaurants throughout the great state of New Jersey and beyond. If you are the type of person that would rather rock a Nirvana T-shirt and jeans while eating your filet mignon then you most likely will enjoy what The Blue Collar Foodie has to say. Follow him on Twitter @Fairlawnfoodie or Like him on Facebook to keep up to date with his current gastronomic gallivanting.