A Frenchtown Gem, But Alas, Only a Pop-Up

The Platform Cookhouse is a seasonal treat on the "other" shore.

The Platform Cookhouse has returned to another Jersey shore—clear across the state, on the Delaware, within the enormously popular breakfast-lunch restaurant in Frenchtown called The Bridge Cafe.

It’s fun, and so is the small-plates style of food served. Which is why it’s a tad sad that this three-day-a-week dinner spot that owners Lisa and Ken Miller and their chef-son Graham dub a pop-up has but a short seasonal life: Catch it while it’s open, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 to 9 pm, now through October.

It’s hard, however, to be sad when you’re eating Graham Miller’s crispy smashed fingerlings, which come with a creamy garlic sauce and a sprinkling of chopped chives that mingle with slivers of peppers. The potatoes, served in a skillet and set on a mini tray lined with black-and-white checkerboard paper, are both crunchy and soft, a one-two punch of texture and taste.

Crispy smashed fingerlings

“I like this checkerboard liner,” my old friend Rick says to me, as we eat the potatoes and a rasher of similarly served charred broccoli set atop hummus as pure as the day it was invented by mashing chickpeas with a little olive olive oil and a dash of tahini. It’s a smoke-meets-earthy-bean triumph.

“I love this hummus,” says my even older friend Betsy. Older as a friend, I mean, not age. They are married and live in Frenchtown. I’ve often said my best-ever idea was fixing them up some 40 years ago.

Betsy and Rick told me about The Platform, and after sipping a few spoonfuls of the charred ginger and scallion broth that forms the backdrop of a soup made chunky with cubes of tofu and thick slices of shiitakes, I am mighty grateful they did. This business of charring—first, the broccoli, then and ginger-scallion combo—works quite nicely, I’m thinking, as I imagine recreating these very same dishes at home.

Charred ginger, scallion soup with shitakes

I’d love, as well, to mimic the warm-spiced lamb kofta, skewered and served with mini-ramekins of mild tzatziki and spirited za’atar sauce. It’s a swell small-plates ensemble, actually, served with near-translucent slices of cucumber and super-fresh salad greens.

Lamb kofta

So is the duck tostada, a full-throttle rendition of this street food classic, thanks to a clever intermingling of cheddar, a generous squiggle of crema and crumbles of crispy duck skin.

Duck tostada

As playful as some of Graham Miller’s small plates are, he also can do elegant—and he does, with a coconut fish cake that’s set atop crushed avocado and, in turn, topped with a swoosh of mild chutney and ringlets of chilies and chives. We liked it so much that we ordered a second fish cake.

Coconut fish cake

Possibly the best thing about the small-plate style of dining is that it tends to leave the diner with room for dessert. The Platform has its own desserts and we snag both offered on this night: mini doughnuts (chocolate-glazed, cinnamon, sesame) with a scoop of intense coffee ice cream and a parfait of strawberry-rhubarb pie layered with real-deal, 24-carat freshly whipped cream.

Doughnuts with coffee ice cream

However, if you’re opportunistic and aware of Lisa Miller’s talents with The Bridge Cafe’s sweets, you’ll do as we did and con the service staff out of a pastry or two from the adjacent space. Don’t miss either the homey, yet chic coconut layer cake or the adorable orange cupcake, which is brightened a step further by the tandem of a fresh raspberry and a graceful plop of raspberry preserves.

Orange cupcake

By the time we finished the extra desserts, I felt in need of one of Rick’s famous Walking Tours of Frenchtown, which tend to work in the story of why this borough in far-western Hunterdon County is called Frenchtown. Then I realized my awful, unforgivable, neglectful mistake: I forgot to order the signature dish—escargot.

Let’s meet back at The Platform Cookhouse sometime this summer and see how the homage to the French classic fares. Is it a date?

The Platform Cookhouse, 8 Bridge Street in Frenchtown. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 to 9 pm; BYO. When the weather allows, dining is outside, astride the river. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, dining is in a sidecar of a porch, astride The Bridge Cafe’s main room. 908-996-6040; bridgecafe.net. P.S. Much of the menu changes regularly.

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  1. Rick Epstein

    BTW, this pop-up is called The Platform because it’s part of Frenchtown’s old railroad station. But the last train through was in 1979 and it picked up the tracks. And speaking of famous walking tours, the next ones are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. Check the Frenchtown Walking Tours Facebook page for details. (Thanks, NJ Monthly!)

  2. A Lex Andra Gregorian

    Every bit as wonderful every time I go. Menu changes regularly, but I never am disappointed with the variety of flavors the menu offers. Love this place, both the bridge cafe during the day and the platform at night. Loved the duck tostada, the strawberry rhubarb parfait, and the dirty chai ice cream with mini doughnuts. Last year they incorporated some nice summer flare when Jersey corn was available. They had some delicious homemade cornbread, and even corn ice cream. If anyone has a chance to go, I HIGHLY recommend you do.