Opening Special Report: The Hill

New restaurant in Closter from Ben Pollinger is inspired by 'New Jersey's Needs.'

Ben Pollinger isn’t just thinking about what The Hill will look like, what its menu will offer and what meetings with his contractor he has on this chilly fall morning. He’s thinking about you.

It’s easy for the Michelin-starred chef, who is fresh off a decade at the revered Oceana in New York City, and has a resume that includes time in the restaurants such as Alain Ducasse, Lespinasse, Les Celebrites and at Tabla with Floyd Cardoz to think about you. He is, after all, a New Jersey guy who grew up in Rutherford, Fair Lawn and Lodi, and now lives in Oradell. He’s got three kids, loves gardening and riding his bike, and likes to eat a great dinner wearing his come-as-you-are clothes.

As this regular guy—who transforms into a super-star at the stoves once he dons chef whites—prepares to open The Hill in the space that once housed Harvest Bistro in Closter, he’s most aware of his audience. The people, in other words, who will be dining at the place now undergoing a transformation that will provide an elegant backdrop to his resolutely approachable cuisine.

I want it to be accessible,” Pollinger says. “Across the board, food and décor, I want it to be approachable. I want people to feel comfortable coming just as they are.”

This is about, he adds, “New Jersey’s needs.”

While there’s no date set yet for the doors to The Hill to open, Pollinger says he’s looking—possibly—at the very end of this year or early 2018. So you can put on your wish list for next Christmas or Hanukkah “Comfy Duds to Wear to The Hill.”

Meanwhile, Pollinger has a few details for you to chew on:

The setting: “The bones of the building are great. I’m doing more of a cosmetic renovation, bringing in industrial and farmhouse elements. We’re next door to a farm, after all (Schraalenburgh Farms), and I want clean lines, elegance. Weathered barn wood. A Nordic, Scandinavian sensibility. There will be simplicity. Whites, grays, black—minimalist. But there will be color—a color palette that fits, maybe sunset orange, slate blue, mossy green. I’m thinking about the upholstery now. There will be exposed-wood tables and no tablecloths—no tablecloths! Woven mats is what I’m thinking. I want to set a tone of approachability. People can wear a nice pair of jeans to eat dinner.”

The cuisine: “Our food will be seasonally done—American, with global influences. It will (express) my evolving culinary curiosity. What inspires me. I cook in a lighter style; I like to cook how I like to eat. I know how we (in New Jersey) eat and how our food thoughts have evolved. There’s a general evolution in fine-dining, and the last eight, 10 years have been a very transformative time. I learned from Floyd Cardoz (chef of the former Tabla in New York) how he evolved his own personal cuisine from his homeland (India), and at Lespinasse (from chef) Christian Delouvrier how he managed the economics of the highest level of fine-dining. (Chef Alain) Ducasse at Louis XV (in Monaco) made the workplace an atelier—couture—and (showed) how to use that mind-set to make couture transportable to the world of food and dining.”

The attitude: “I’m going to take all these sensibilities, all the things I learned (from the world’s greatest chefs) and make it approachable for the clientele, for the area. This restaurant is inspired by my needs out here. I think it’s an untapped need to have this level of dining be this accessible.” Beverages? “We will have a focused wine list, with a good selection of by-the-glass wines, and also we’ll be doing wines on tap, as well. You will have the opportunity to explore, but it won’t be forced on you. Straightforward, approachable.”

Sounds worth waiting for, yes?

The Hill, 252 Schraalenburgh Road in Closter. There is no phone number yet, nor website. We’ll keep you posted—and see you there.

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Speaking of eateries in Closter: Patisserie Florentine has opened at 234D Closter Dock Road, in the Heidenburg Plaza. Chef-owner Tomer Zilkha’s original Patisserie Florentine remains in Englewood. Both serve breakfast and lunch: Think sweets, sandwiches, soups, salads, sides. And the famous tartines. The Closter locale has some 50 seats and plenty of parking. 201-660-8296.

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Bang Cookies, a Jersey City-based cookie company, has opened a storefront at 1183 Summit Avenue in Jersey City. Customers can order cookies for pickup or drop in to eat them on site. Bang Cookies offers free delivery in Jersey City and Hoboken. The shop is open daily from 11 am to 10 pm.  888-834-8885; bangcookies.com.

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And, while we’re talking sweets in Jersey City: Ice cream maker Ample Hills opened Friday, November 3 at the Urby Development, 200 Greene Street. This brings the number of Ample Hills outlets to 10, with the Jersey City outpost being the first in the Garden State. Its signature flavor is The Golden Door, a reference to Jersey City’s nickname. It’s made from cannoli ice cream, Irish whiskey cake pieces and streusel crumbles. Ample Hills was born in Brooklyn in 2011. Open daily; amplehills.com.

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