A Pleasant Evening at Pluckemin Inn

It is no surprise that this restaurant has been listed on the New Jersey Monthly Top 25 restaurants list every year since 2008.

Since 1750 there has been an inn in Pluckemin, and there are many references to George Washington being there, including 20 letters  he wrote that mention the village of Pluckemin. George, and even Martha, may have spent time in this charming town, but they certainly did not have as memorable or elegant dinner as we recently experienced at The Pluckemin Inn. It is no surprise that this restaurant has been listed on the New Jersey Monthly Top 25 restaurants list every year since 2008.

From the crunchy amuse of mini apple-and-pear balls in herb syrup presented on a porcelain spoon to the dessert plate of cookies (chocolate chip, blondie brownies and an intense coconut meringue macaroon), we were enthralled. Even the bread stood out with choices of olive, cranberry/walnut, rye, multigrain, sourdough and breadsticks all from Balthazar bakery. The addictively spicy bread sticks are made in house. It took a lot of will power to not fill up on the different choices.

Although a five-course tasting menu with an amuse is available, with or without wine pairings, we opted for the a la carte menu, which also had some half-portion items, allowing diners to mix and match and create their own tasting dinner.

We have high praise for the extremely flavorful bucatini pasta with guanciale, tomato conserva, parsley, chiles and Pecorino Romano; a most satisfying dish. Seasonal vegetables were highlighted in a cold and colorful zucchini soup presented in a chilled bowl with pickled ramps, yellow and red grape tomatoes, basil, ricotta, black olives and diced zucchini. Also notable was the rich Scottish salmon, perfectly cooked medium rare, with porcini, leeks, potato puree, walnuts and pea shoots. A raft of red snapper sat upon zucchini, arugula, fennel confit and fried mussels, all which added texture to this dish that was tied together with a lobster broth. Both desserts were deeply satisfying. Lemon curd with pistachio cake, milk sorbet and raspberry coulis was tangy and refreshing while the strawberry shortcake with macerated strawberries, whipped cream and strawberry-and-cream gelato provided a sweet counterpoint.

Wine lovers should note that the restaurant has been honored with Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, the wine world’s highest honor and there is an inventory of about 40,000 wines with 5,500 selections on the wine list. If you find the two massive wine books, one red and one white, overwhelming there is a “Pluckemin 200” wine list with selections hand-picked by sommelier Brian Hider with prices ranging from $30 and $75. A wine tower with 10,000 bottles is a focal point in the dining room. Retail wines can also be purchased online at their website.

Kudos to owner Gloria LaGrassa, executive chef Andrew Lattanzio, general manager, Tal Itzhaki and the whole team at the Pluckemin Inn for doing everything right. The knowledgeable staff, comfortable surroundings and exemplary food, all created a most relaxing and enjoyable evening.

For a more casual dining experience the “The Plucky” tavern offers a raw bar, pizza, small, medium and large plates and the a la carte dining room menu.

The Pluckemin Inn is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM and Saturday from 5 PM; closed Sunday.

The Pluckemin Inn
359 Route 206 South

Scottish salmon.

Pluckemin red snapper
Red snapper with a lobster broth.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

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