There is nothing common about Common Lot. From the handmade ceramic dishes, jugs and French press pots to the gunmetal silverware and fresh flowers, this exciting new restaurant is uncommon. The space designed by Studio 1200 in Millburn has an open kitchen, long communal table, dramatic lighting and orange shelves (upstairs) that display some of executive chef/owner Ehren Ryan’s cookbooks. The décor is as luscious as the food.
Australian-born chef Ehren and his partner and wife Austrian born Nadine have impressive bios. He has worked at Michelin star restaurants in Sydney, London, the Channel Islands and Austria, including Heston Blumenthal’s London restaurant. Nadine who runs the front of house, worked at the luxury Kristiania Hotel in Lech, Austria.
We were invited to a press dinner and four of us started with five appetizers from the “smalls to share” section of the menu. Char-grilled octopus with a spring onion relish, potato salad and drops of shellfish oil was tender and a beautiful presentation. A salad composed with grilled creamy avocado, firm rye berries, date-and-onion puree, fermented chili and a fennel confit was refreshing and light, as well as containing various textures. Chiles added zip to the charred broccolini. Our favorite was the silky salmon sashimi with pickled kohlrabi, lime and chili dressing, sprinkled with crispy garlic chips. Our “we do not get this preparation” was a bag of egg and crisps. This is how it was presented: a sous vide egg was placed into a brown lunch bag that contained thin fried potato slices and was shaken up by the waitress and then presented in a bowl. The egg did nothing to enhance the potatoes and made them soggy.
The entrees contain a Bigs and Shared Mains for Two section in which a steak for two was listed. After asking the waitress where the steak came from, and we were told DeBragga, a quality meat purveyor, so we ordered the in-house, dry-aged rib eye for two, which was a beautifully marbled piece of meat that was tender, juicy and flavorful. The steak was topped with cubes of ox tongue adding to the beefy taste and was also accompanied by al dente string beans and potato wedges. Equally impressive was a butter-poached halibut with a morel cream sauce containing morels, chanterelles, peas, fava beans and green beans. A vegetarian-friendly entrée consisted of roasted cauliflower, cauliflower puree, sultanas (seedless grapes) and caper relish, purple cauliflower and pieces of pistachio.
Pavlova, with a dusting of chocolate, reminded us of a lemon meringue pie because of the citrus mascarpone topping. Brown-rice pudding served in a hot bowl was chewy and had a lid on which pistachio sorbet sat. Pick up the lid and eat each separately or combine the two. Lemon semi freddo was also a hit with its graham cracker crust holding lemon crème and a topping of marshmallow cream.
For an even more special experience consider the “Kitchen Pass,” a four-seat counter directly overlooking the kitchen (think of it as a Chef’s Table) where diners are served dishes of the chef’s choosing.
Look for a review of Common Lot in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly!
Common Lot, Millburn
27 Main Street
Dining Room and open kitchen at Common Lot
Rib eye for two
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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