Zod Arifai, executive chef/owner of Montclair’s Restaurant Blu, open since September 2005, and Next Door, open since December 2007, announced that both restaurants will close on August 30. Fans will miss both of these highly lauded, excellent restaurants.
I was lucky enough to enjoy a recent dinner at Blu. We started with risotto and wild mushrooms, truffle oil and Pecorino Romano; an earthy satisfying dish. A roasted eggplant similar to a capanota was plated with creamy ricotta, crunchy endive and walnuts, creating multiple textures and balanced flavors; a knockout. Another standout was salmon topped with finely chopped scallions and peanuts plated with colorful dots of yam puree and a swirl of sweet-and-sour glaze adding a spectrum of tastes to this dish. Veal short ribs, always a favorite, were accompanied by a delicious combination of spicy eggplant puree, chickpeas and goat cheese.
Do not bypass dessert, especially the chocolate and peanut butter crisps with caramel ice cream or the heavenly chocolate truffle terrine. Other worthy options are the black-olive cake with basil ice cream and orange sauce, or the peanut cake with avocado cream and sesame ice cream; an unusual combination that works.
There are some can’t-take-off-the-menu dishes, such as seafood dumplings in a spicy coconut broth, duck and caramelized turnip and braised red cabbage with a fig-red wine emulsion. At Next Door, the Napa and Asian green salad with spicy peanut dressing and 10 oz burger, known as “the one” with white sharp cheddar and caramelized onion, which won New Jersey Monthly’s 2011 Great Burger Showdown, are still offered.
A successful ten years in the restaurant business is very impressive. We wish blue skies to chef Zod Arifai and we do not doubt that the next door that he opens will be filled with customers, memorable meals and rave reviews. Certainly, if you have never been to these restaurants now is the time to go and if you are already a fan, then it is time to return. After August 30, chef Arifai plans on traveling and then will open a restaurant in NYC sometime 2016.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
554 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair, NJ 07042
556 Bloomfield Avenue
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