Cranetown Flies into Montclair

Dishes are meant to be shared at this new restaurant, which features progressive Chinese food.

EDITOR’S NOTE, DEC 13: Well, that was fast. Cranetown has suddenly closed.

Dishes are meant to be shared at Cranetown, a new restaurant that features progressive Chinese food under the direction of executive chef Bryan Emperor. Chef Emperor, a native of Brooklyn, was an exchange student in Japan and after graduating from Baruch College, worked in investment banking on Wall Street. That experience was enough to make him leave this profession and pursue his passion, so he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. Since graduating, he has lived throughout Asia and apprenticed in Tokyo. Along with being featured in Food & Wine, Restaurant Hospitality and Esquire magazines chef Emperor has worked at Nobu and withchefs Jean Georges and Gray Kunz.

We were invited to a press dinner, and we highly recommend the English cucumber marinated in Chinese vinegar and spices and topped with large cilantro leaves. Keep this dish on the table during your meal, as it is a cooling nosh throughout dinner, especially after the spicy dishes we tried, such as the lip smackin’ Kung Pao chicken juiced up with chili oil; sesame-spiced noodles with pork that deliciously set our mouths afire; and the innovative chicken wing that looked like a lollipop, as it had a Frenched bone, which was set atop of a spicy sauce spiked with peanuts. These and the other dishes we tasted were eye-catching presentations prepared with finesse and lovely layers of flavors. Edible flowers and lacy, crepe-topped, pan-fried pork-and-chive dumplings  were accompanied by a soy and vinegar dipping sauce. Tomato egg drop soup with a chicken broth base topped with finely sliced green scallions was a refreshing interlude during our meal, while the steamed shumai, one pork and one black-tiger prawns and baby bamboo, were chock-full of ingredients and textures. Our meal ended with green pea and garlic fried rice enhanced by a duck egg, which added creaminess to the dish. Chef Emperor grinds his spices and let us take a whiff from one of his jars. It was a quite aromatic, albeit heady experience.

The restaurant is decorated with pictures depicting Shanghai street scenes, Chinese lanterns, framed Asian fans and Chinese-themed red and white wallpaper. Cloth napkins and a glass full of chopsticks don the wooden tables.

The name Cranetown originates from two sources. Azariah and Mary Crane settled in the southern section of Montclair in the late 1600’s and that part of town became known as Cranetown. Additionally, the crane which is the logo of the restaurant symbolizes good fortune and longevity in Asia. The Safersteins should try to eat at Cranetown often.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 PM. Parking will be validated at the garage on Crescent.

44 S Park Street

Steamed shumai.

Green pea and garlic fried rice with a duck egg.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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Please send press releases and restaurant news, including information on staff changes, wine tastings, and cooking classes, to [email protected].

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