The Montclair Social Club, a stylish, intimate restaurant and lounge, is the newest jewel in the crown of this Essex County community’s ever-expanding claim to fame as one of the most steadfast culinary communities of northern New Jersey. The club recently hosted an evening reception during which proprietor and entrepreneur Jason Miller said he chose the name Social Club to reflect the vibe and business strategy that he’s charted for this enterprise.
Miller explained the new establishment will be “true to its name.” He said, “We want to create a venue that’s very social in nature, while at the same time providing excellent food, beverages and entertainment. Our global menu is designed for sharing.”
The best example of the “sharing” feature described by Miller will be a Chef’s Tour tasting menu. This will allow patrons to sample a variety of appetizers and main courses. He said the prix-fixe option will be portioned for the size of the sharing party.
The Social Club menu does reflect the global influences of Asian, European, and Latin American culture and flavors. Alluring seasonal selections include the following categories: Nibbles (Parker House rolls, glazed corn bread, deviled eggs, and kettle chips); Harvests (roasted carrots and Shisito peppers, tempura Vidalia onion rings, baby beets and goat cheese, romaine hearts, and Mediterranean flatbread); Shells (market oysters, shrimp cocktail, lobster toast, and crab cake tots); Social Bites (salmon and ahi tuna poke, meatballs, Buffalo wings, Peking duck buns, and gazpacho); Butcher’s Block (Berkshire pork chops, skirt steak, and burgers); Grand Fare (roasted chicken and an assortment of seafood dishes such as Faroe Island salmon, sushi-grade tuna, and grilled swordfish); and Additions (side dishes such as truffle-herb parmesan fries, glazed asparagus, charred cauliflower, and sautéed spinach).
During the July 17 reception guests were treated to the salmon and ahi tuna poke, served on a crispy rice wafer with fresh herbs, avocado slices and sesame dressing, and bite-size portions of the Berkshire pork chops. While these items were absolutely delicious, the round, golden, deep-fried buñuelo-style zeppoles, served with a delectable chocolate dipping sauce, turned out to be the real zinger of the evening. It was a grand, sumptuous dessert and the perfect choice to cap off the convivial evening. (For the record, this disciplined reporter showed great restraint and consumed only one zeppole; well, OK, maybe three.) Lemon meringue tarts, Vahlrona chocolate strip cake, coconut brown butter cake, banana splits, ice cream and sorbets are offerings on the dessert menu.
Michael Merida, executive chef and partner, is the Social Club’s culinary artist. Merida said he has created a “whimsical, playful, progressive Americana menu. The food we serve will fit with the concept of the club,” adding that the dishes are intended to inspire sharing and a fun, social dining experience among patrons.
Originally from Long Island and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY (Class of 1993), Merida outlined his sterling resume, which includes international ports of call in New York (Le Bernardin and the Park Avenue Café), Paris (Le Regence); Spain (El Bulli); England (The Fat Duck) and Tokyo (Nihonryori RyuGin).
At the Bar
The bartender team of Bridget, Christopher, and Shyyan demonstrated an efficient, deft, skillful touch in their preparation of cocktails and assorted libations. The bar menu features classic cocktails, “signature” social club concoctions, wine, spirits, cordials, and a variety of beers, ciders and ales. After-dinner drinks include liqueurs, brandies and fortified wines. Violette, a solo pianist, vocalist and singer/songwriter performed silky smooth standards for during the reception. She hails from France and studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Live music will be a mainstay feature at the club.
This is Miller’s first venture in the restaurant business. John Mutovic serves as a managing partner. In addition to the 7,000-square-foot main level, the Social Club has a downstairs lounge for gatherings of up to 50 people. Miller said there is a “phase two” in the works for the Social Club—a separate, 7,000-square-foot upstairs catering hall and reception area, which will include a dance floor and another bar. He said the soon-to-be-completed upstairs space will be suitable for weddings, class reunions, family parties, and corporate events, and can be configured to accommodate up to 200 guests.
The club’s interior, a romantic vision expressed by Garrett Singer Architecture + Design of Englewood, whispers a relaxed, inviting atmosphere with an understated Art Deco influence, which echoes and reimagines the neighborhood charm of downtown Montclair. An eye-catching marquee above street level proclaims the arrival of the club on the Montclair scene. Located at 499 Bloomfield Ave, across the street from the Bow Tie Clairidge Cinema, the new establishment occupies the space previously held by Rascals Comedy Club.
Nibbles, harvests, shells, and bites—the Montclair Social Club has opened its doors, welcoming patrons to enjoy sophisticated food, drink, and music in an engaging, elegant setting, deep in the heart of Montclair. Did I mention how much I enjoyed the zeppoles with chocolate dipping sauce?
The Montclair Social Club
499 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair, NJ 07042
All photos by Michael C. Gabriele unless otherwise noted.