6 NJ Restaurants Making More of NYE Menus

Where to dine and drink around the state as you welcome 2020.

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If all you’re thinking about for New Year’s Eve is finding a party, you’re missing one of the great dining opportunities of the year. Not only is New Year’s Eve dinner more celebratory, but it’s increasingly become an opportunity for chefs to create statement-making menus. Not that you’ll find chefs reinventing the wheel—it is a party day, after all—but especially considering the incredible state of gastronomy in New Jersey in 2019, you can expect chefs to serve up a little more ambition with their celebration. And while there are plenty of serviceable buffets and downright tasty a la carte menus happening in New Jersey on December 31, we wanted to highlight just a few places where the New Year’s Eve menu’s taking on just a bit more meaning for chef, restaurant, and, of course, diner.

Petite and Charming in Haddonfield

The Little Hen is doing a five-course New Year’s Eve prix fixe, with seatings at 6pm and 9pm. While the menu has yet to be published, given the talents of chef Mike Stollenwerk, you can pretty much count on a night of refined modern cuisine with elegant French inflection. (Their current offerings include things like Chicken Liver Mousse with Pickled Shallot, Duck Frites with Duck Jus, and a classic French Cassoulet, with garlic sausage, duck confit, pork cheek, and the traditional Tarbais beans.) Stollenwerk and partner Felice Leibowitz are the talented duo behind Two Fish, also in Haddonfield, and a Top 30 restaurant in 2018. There’s no price listed yet, either, but you can keep checking the website or ask when you make your reservation (and do so quickly—given the 18-seat capacity, tables will run out in a heartbeat). The Little Hen, 220 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield; 856-528-2282

Grandly HistoEric in South Orange

New Year’s Eve at Orange Lawn is special for a couple reasons. Yes, you’ll have the David Burke-quality prix fixe to dig into as you remember and/or strategically repress events from the past year, but you’ll also have the grand environs of the historic Orange Lawn Tennis Club (which, if you haven’t seen it, looks like an estate out of Gatsby, which fits considering we’re ringing in the Roaring 20s). The menu, of course, is the major draw for one of chef David Burke’s more unexpected, successfully mid-range luxury restaurants: a la carte from 5 to 7:30pm, after which service switches over to a four-course prix fixe menu from Burke and chef de cuisine Nick Parker, with comfort-meets-class dishes like Warm Scallop Carpaccio, Beef Cheek Ravioli, and Maine Lobster Casserole with Celery Root, Winter Vegetables, and Truffle (and, because it’s NYE, there will be gold leaf on your dessert.) Dinner is $95 per person and reservations can (and should quickly) be made by phone or online. David Burke at Orange Lawn, 305 North Ridgewood Road, South Orange; 973-552-2280

Classic and Reserved in Red Bank

Considering the fact that Nicholas Harary in many ways paved the way for fine dining in Jersey, spending New Year’s Eve at his Red Bank restaurant is a safe bet you’ll eat very well. Granted the New Year’s Eve prix fixe is just three courses, but your options are varied and sophisticated: Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Barnegat Light Scallops with House-made Ricotta and Rapini, Bourbon-braised Suckling Pig with Toasted Pecans, Panko-crusted Halibut with Smoked Shallot Velouté. The cost is $135, and while that doesn’t include drinks, it does buy you a slightly quieter New Year’s Eve dinner—children under eight aren’t permitted in the dining room, making this less useful to families looking to celebrate together and more useful to couples, those flying solo, or the rare parents who score a babysitter on New Year’s Eve and opt for a quiet night—and good food—together. Restaurant Nicholas, 160 Route 35 South, Red Bank; 732-345-9977

House-made Haute in Hoboken

Some chefs do house-made this and that. Chef Seadon Shouse at Halifax smokes his own meats and seafood, makes his own vermouth, and harvests his own sea salt from water sourced in Montauk. No shock his multiple New Year’s Eve prix fixe menus (three-course, five-course, and vegetarian five-course) are meticulously done, rich without excess, playful without losing his laser focus. You’ll find dishes ranging from White Sturgeon Caviar “Sandwich” with (of course) house-cured Crème Fraiche to Sous Vide Local Prime Beef with Foie Gras “Snow” to Local Mushroom “Steak” with Perigord Truffles and Robuchon Potatoes (which, if you’ve never had them before, yes, get some). The earlier three- and later five-course prix fixe are $79 and $199 respectively (the five-course comes with an open bar, and $38 gets you wine pairings for the three-course). Bonus points for Shouse and Halifax: they’re doing New Year’s Day Brunch, meaning you can revive your over-partied self with a gorgeously-made Smoked Salmon Benedict and/or nurse your hangover with the bottle of bubbly that included in the $42 price. Halifax, 225 River Street, Hoboken; 201-253-2500

Dinner and a Big Show in Closter

Ben Pollinger doesn’t mess around when it comes to New Year’s Eve. For the second year in a row, the chef behind the Hill in Closter is hosting Constantine Maroulis (of Broadway’s “Rock of Ages” and “American Idol” fame) to perform three sets for diners throughout the night’s second seating, leading up to the night’s big countdown. Of course where Pollinger is concerned, the menu is as much of a draw as any other talent in the room, and New Year’s Eve won’t disappoint: the five-course prix fixe is heavy on celebratory proteins done thoughtfully—e.g. Roast Lobster Tail, Filet Mignon Wellington with Mushroom Duxelle and a Red Wine Jus, Grilled Lamb Chops with Garlic-Rosemary Glaze and Roast Root Vegetables. Tickets are hefty ($190) but they pay for the show and include gratuity and a Champagne toast. Those less inclined to hear music can hit the first seating, a three-course prix fixe for $65 that goes from 5pm to 6:30pm. Make your reservations online or by phone and get ready to (quietly) rock. The Hill, 252 Schraalenburgh Road, Closter; 201-899-4700

Deluxe Regionalism in Cape May

Local and luscious is the name of the game at the Pier House Restaurant at La Mer Beachfront Resort in Cape May. While the resort itself is doing a New Year’s Eve celebration—coinciding with La Mer’s 50th Anniversary—the restaurant will have its own dazzling display, with a seven-course prix fixe “Regional Tasting Menu” that’s richly studded with local and artisanal products. The Fromagerie cheese course alone is a brief lesson in well-done dairy (including a raw, unhomogenized Great Hill Dairy Flaghship Bleu). But more than parading local products, the Pier House creatively integrates them into a quietly festive menu: Joyce Farms Teres Major [steak] with a Coffee & Cacao Crust; Local Sea Scallops with a Cherrywood Bacon Crust and Georgia “Ice Cream” Grits; Toasted Caraway and Rye Gnocchi with Senate Farm Chicken Cracklings (FYI, if you’ve never had a chicken crackling before, here’s a chance to squeeze the unparalleled gustatory pleasure into 2019). The menu’s also comparatively affordable—$85, with seatings at 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm. Reserve your table by phone. La Mer Beachfront Resort, 1317 Beach Avenue, Cape May; 609-884-9000

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