Valentine’s Day might seem far away, but to Dominique Paulin and Olivier Muller, early 2019 looms with expectation; that’s when the duo hopes to open the doors of their ultra-French brasserie-style restaurant Faubourg on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair.
“The pressure’s on the construction manager,” Paulin, Faubourg’s operating director, joked when I spoke to him last week. Muller will be Faubourg’s executive chef. Both French natives, they have 38 years between them working for Daniel Boulud’s renowned restaurant group. “I learned everything from Daniel,” says Paulin, who met Muller when they were both working at DB Bistro in New York City (Paulin was the GM and Muller was a chef). They bonded over a dream of opening a restaurant, but it didn’t click immediately. That changed once Paulin was promoted to director of operations at DB Bistro. “That’s what I was missing,” he says. His last four years working for Boulud saw him “overseeing a few restaurants in Palm Beach, D.C., Montreal.” Ownership suddenly felt possible. “I talked to Olivier again. I felt like I was ready,” he says.
“And I had found the place.” The long-time Essex resident “was driving on Bloomfield [Avenue] one day and saw signage for a restaurant space for rent.” Paulin recalls: “I stopped the car right away and met with the landlord.” It took about one year between that December 2016 meeting to sign the lease, but Paulin and Muller didn’t have any doubts. “I fell in love,” Paulin says. “I could picture the restaurant right away.”
That says something about Paulin’s vision: the double-decker space at 544 Bloomfield was formerly a bank and a movie theater, not the obvious choice for the traditionally relaxed brasserie vibe. “It is a big restaurant,” Paulin admits. He enlisted the help of Craig Shillitto of New York-based Cycle Projects. “We were thinking about something very homey,” Paulin says of the interior. “The seating is mostly banquette,” with classic brasserie touches like “big lighting coming from the ceiling, mirrors, shiny fixtures,” says Paulin. “We want to remain very approachable.”
As for seating, “the upstairs has two private rooms, a bar, and additional seating at the mezzanine. Downstairs has a bar, 90 seats, and the outdoors, separated into two areas. The front facing Bloomfield will be more like a dining scene, the back will be more like a lounge scene. But you’ll be able to sit anywhere. It’ll be very flexible.”
That seems to be the spirit at play here. “Not too casual, but not too fancy,” says Paulin. The restaurant’s namesake—faubourg—is an old school term used for suburbs on the brink of Paris, little pulsating satellites of Big City fun. That’s what Paulin hopes the restaurant will become. “We want it to be an everyday restaurant.” Dinner with wine, he says, will average $75 per person.
Muller is still developing the menu. “It’s going to change every season,” says Paulin. “We’re going to do a lot of French classics: coq au vin, steak frites, poulet chasseur [Hunter’s chicken], some fish, some seafood. Brunch will be very American, with a touch of French.” Pastry will be similarly classique: “Souffle, crème brulée, floating island [a classic French dessert].” And the wine list, no surprise, “will be mostly French,” with some American and Italian. The cellar will “go from the main floor to the ceiling,” although they’ll start with a limited list, “maybe 200 labels.”
As for that ultra-French staple, le pain, Faubourg will actually be outsourcing: “There’s a bakery that opened a block away, Le French Dad.” Outsourcing bread to experts isn’t really sacrilege, so anyone tallying authenticity points, take Paulin’s assurance to heart: “It’s going to be very French.”
Faubourg is slated to open around Valentine’s Day 2019. It’s located at 544 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair. It will only be open for dinner, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The outdoor space is slated to open in May.Click here to leave a comment