A Montclair Staple Will Close August 30

Zod Arafai confirms plans to shutter Blu and its neighbor, Next Door.

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.

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Salmon with yam puree.

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Chocolate truffle terrine.

Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

Blu
554 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair, NJ 07042
973-509-2202
BYO

Next Door
556 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair
973-744-3600
BYO

RECENT NJ RESTAURANT OPENINGS

Korean food is featured at Ahri’s Kitchen, 227 7th Street, Jersey City (201-963-6056).

Benissimo, which was originally open in Madison, has reopened at 545 Union Boulevard, Totowa (973-595-5595).; BYO.

Calabria Pizza, 239 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell (201-523-9228); BYO.

The Corner Café, open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 AM to 5 PM,  offers coffee, teas, house-made pastries and a savory menu at 115 Grove Street, Montclair (973-783-2400).

The name and the menu (for the most part) are staying the same but Carlo Apolloni, is the new chef/owner of Sorrento, 132 Park Avenue, East Rutherford (201-507-0093), offering traditional Italian cuisine with a modern flair. Lowell and I were there under the previous ownership in April 2013.

CLOSINGS

Penzey’s Spices, Summit

Sublime, Gladstone

If you hear of a restaurant opening or closing e-mail me at [email protected].

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