Bishop’s Bistro Offers A Culinary Blessing

A Metuchen native returns home to open a new venue with an inspired menu.

The new kid in town isn’t exactly a kid. He’s chef James A. Graham, a veteran banquet and event chef, who graduated culinary school way back in 1994 and has spent the past couple of decades building a reputation as a chef with a global range.

Graham came home to Metuchen—a bustling ‘burg with a veritable United Nations of restaurants—to open an eatery that bears his name, or to be precise, his nickname: Bishop. Opened this past spring on a side street off downtown’s main drag, Bishop’s Bistro finds its soul in the cooking of the South, and its ingredients anywhere and everywhere Graham finds inspiration.

Cod sliders, anyone? Why not? They’re a spiffy starter, for sure, starring cakes of mildly seasoned codfish zig-zagged with smoky chipotle aioli and sandwiched on mini potato rolls along with a dollop of mango salsa. Doesn’t that sound like a terrific way to start dinner?

Cod sliders

It is. So are the “angel” eggs, Graham’s take on deviled eggs. They’re known as “grandma’s recipe,” and finished with a flourish of neon-orange fish eggs, but they’re given that polar-opposite name at the request of the chef’s padre at an area church, where Graham serves as a deacon. Understandable, for the moniker; good eating, for us diners.


Angel eggs

Also-rans in the starter category are a lobster martini, a grand-scale production with nuggets of wine-poached lobster layered atop a somewhat watery and bland concoction of tomatoes and avocado, and an ahi tuna tartare taco in which the tuna was laced with too much spicy mayo, then plopped unappealingly on a crisped wonton skin. The wonton didn’t do anything for the fish and the garnish of pink, pickled ginger atop limp salad greens didn’t connect with anything else on the plate.

Lobster martini

The braised oxtail is a star on the entree menu: Expertly cooked and destined to be gnawed to the bone, the beef was partnered with pigeon peas, a crunchy, vinegar-spiked cabbage slaw and fried plantains with just the right touch of sweet. It’s a dish you’ll want to hug.


Braised oxtails


So is Bishop’s Down the Bayou, Graham’s own take on gumbo. It’s a stew of shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage swathed in a pepper-onion-tomato sauce that might be a little too heavy on the tomato, but still kicks up the taste-o-meter.

Down the Bayou

Less appealing is the honey-glazed duck breast, billed to come with a leg that is confited. The glazing was barely there, the breast overcooked and the leg tough and bland—hardly the texture or flavor associated with a preserved duck leg.

Bishop’s Bistro’s sincerity, however, is on display at finale time. Desserts are openly described as made-in-house or purchased from a vendor. Count on a solid made-by-Graham bread pudding (and hope for his homey chocolate-banana rendition) or an orange-infused crème brulee that’s mighty custardy.


Crème Brulee

This multi-level storefront has much on its side, in addition to sincerity: There’s variety and value on the menu, as well as items clearly marked for the gluten-conscious among us (is that now at 87 percent of the population?) and an all-around homey attitude. Graham’s goal is appropriately noble: to serve the community by feeding his flock very well.

Bishop’s Bistro, 7 New Street in Metuchen. BYO. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sunday for brunch. Closed Monday. 732-549-0759.

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