We’ve been following one of our favorite NJ chefs, Thomas Ciszak, since he was at the Manor in West Orange and then Copeland in Morristown. He’s now executive chef/partner at Chakra, West 144 Route 4 East, Paramus, serving his scrumptious and eclectic New American cuisine in revamped and revitalized menus. Signature dishes that we recently tasted include a house-cured charcuterie plate (check out the hams drying in the wine room); a delicate Caesar salad with lemon confit, white anchovies, and Parmesan crisp; sashimi-grade tuna tartare with coconut, kaffir lime, and chile; hardy bucatini with spicy short rib ragù; exuberant chile-cinnamon-glazed Chilean sea bass with a potato-wrapped shrimp and baby bok choy; and crisp wiener schnitzel with mustard-enhanced German potato salad. Desserts deliver as well, especially the refreshing coconut tapioca with a slice of dried pineapple and passion fruit sorbet, and the peanut dacquoise with caramelized bananas and milk chocolate chantilly enhanced with Hawaiian sea salt, which was gently grated from a slab with a Microplane.
We’ve also been following general manager and trained sommelier Evelyn Hsu from the time she was at Copeland in Morristown and then restaurant.mc in Millburn. At Chakra she offers 500 bottles of wine, 21 by the glass. Seasonal specialty cocktails include a Smoky Deal, made with bacon-infused bourbon, muddled brandied cherries and orange, and bitters; and a Nutty Pear, created with Grey Goose La Poire, pear purée, and amaretto.
Chakra is a dramatic, romantic, cavernous space with multi-size candles on the tables and in wall niches. Bricks inset with Cambodian friezes, sheer drapes surrounding some banquettes, and a floor-to-ceiling color-changing water wall create a sultry, exotic atmosphere. There is also a bar/lounge area with seating, where small plates are offered.
Chakra is open for dinner Mondays through Saturdays. The lounge is open from 4 PM to midnight Mondays through Wednesdays, from 4 PM to 2 AM Thursdays and Fridays, and from 5 PM to 2 AM on Saturdays. Drink specials are offered during happy hour Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 7 PM. For reservations call 201-556-1530.
Coconut tapioca, dried pineapple, and passion fruit sorbet.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
MARITIME PARC, JERSEY CITY
Come by land or sea to the newly opened Maritime Parc, 84 Audrey Zapp Drive, Liberty State Park, Jersey City. This stunning restaurant on the Hudson with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty accepts private and charter boats and is also accessible from the World Financial Center via a seven-minute ferry ride to the Liberty Landing Marina. Those with their own water transportation can opt for boatside catering with drop-off and pick-up service, and for those of us who drive the restaurant is conveniently located right off exit 14B of the NJ Turnpike.
Executive chef and owner Chris Siversen offers contemporary dining using seasonal ingredients from local purveyors such as Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, Griggstown Quail Farm in Griggstown, and Zone 7, a New Jersey business connecting chefs with small organic and sustainable farms in NJ and eastern Pennsylvania. The menu has an emphasis on seafood dishes, such as grilled oysters with leek and bacon cream, cast-iron-roasted mussels with chorizo and fennel, and pan-roasted black cod with lobster hash, as well as a raw bar. Whole fish preparations, meant for sharing, are offered and change daily. Siversen also caters to carnivores with hearty entrées such as a natural organic steak with whipped bone marrow. Vegetarians can opt for pappardelle with arugula, spring onion, and fresh goat ricotta or any of the wickedly wonderful sides, such as crispy string beans with spicy aioli, baked polenta with cheese and truffle oil, and asparagus with hazelnuts topped with a fried egg. A separate bar menu, which is also offered outside on the large deck facing the marina, features burgers, duck fat fries, mashed potato rings, and other casual dishes. Sticky toffee pudding with English ale ice cream, poached Bartlett pear, and ginger caramel is a perfect ending for a meal, as is our favorite, the chocolate cherry brick with pistachio meringue, sour cherry compote, and cherry sumac ice cream.
Steak with bone marrow.
Picture courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
A cocktail menu features nautically inspired selections, and the restaurant’s signature drink, Maritime punch, contains rum, Sauvignon Blanc, cinnamon-infused agave nectar, St. Germain, lemon juice, and Pinot Noir. Red and white wines are available by the glass and half bottle, with full bottles ranging in price from $25 to $105.
Black cod with lobster hash.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
Architect Stephanie Goto (Aldea, Corton, Morimoto, Buddakan) envisioned Maritime Parc as a modern seaside pavilion, and this theme is seen throughout the 30,000 square feet of dining and event space with natural canvas, sailcloth whites, and white chairs and banquettes. A grand chef’s table has a view of the open kitchen and the marina, and a chef’s counter faces the open kitchen.
The bottom floor can seat 80 to 85 guests with room for 100 on the outside terrace. The second-floor event space, the Sky Room, has a 270-degree wraparound outdoor terrace and a cloud-inspired ceiling treatment, while the third-floor event space features an open indoor-to-outdoor terrace for ceremonies and receptions. Maritime Parc can accommodate 50 to 500 for a cocktail reception and seated dinner, 100 to 1,200 for a standing cocktail reception, and 50 to 375 for a gala dinner and dancing.
The restaurant is open daily for dinner and will be open for breakfast and lunch soon. For reservations call 201-413-0050.
Chocolate cherry brick.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
WINE & CHEESE FUNDRAISER AT SICKLES MARKET IN LITTLE SILVER
On November 5, gourmet foods, artisanal cheeses, and premium wines will be served at a Wine & Cheese Tasting Fundraiser that will be held at Sickles Market, 1 Harrison Avenue, Little Silver, to benefit Holiday Express, an organization that helps adults and children who are physically and mentally disabled, living with AIDS, or homeless, as well as the isolated elderly and others in need of the gift of human kindness during the holiday season and throughout the year. The event will feature entertainment, a silent auction of rare collectible wines, and a live auction that includes a “wine crawl” of three of NJ’s best private wine cellars. 7 to 10 PM; $125; denim casual. For tickets log on to www.sickleswineandcheese.com or call Tori Sickles at 732-741-9563.
JERSEY SHORE RESTAURANT WEEK
Jersey Shore Restaurant Week will be celebrated November 5 through 14, with participating restaurants offering a three-course meal for $20.10 or $30.10. On November 4, a 2010 kickoff party will be held at the Spring Lake Manor, Route 71, Spring Lake Heights, with 25 chefs and 25 wines under $25. 6 to 10 PM; $35 in advance, $45 at the door. To purchase tickets log on to www.jerseyshorerestaurantweek.com.
HARVEST WINE FESTIVAL
On November 5, sample more than 100 wines along with hors d’oeuvres, antipasti, cheese, breads, and pasta at the Fifth Annual Harvest Wine Festival at the Hilton Short Hills, 41 John F. Kennedy Pkwy, Short Hills. Three wine classes will also be held, at 7:15, 8:15, and 9:15 PM; $20. Advance reservations must be made online or by phone during the ticket purchase. 7 to 10 PM; $75 until November 1, $84 afterward. For tickets log on to www.newjerseywinefestivals.com or call 866-811-4111.
DAY OF THE DEAD FESTIVAL AT ROSA MEXICANO
Through November 21, Rosa Mexicano, Riverside Square, 390 Hackensack Avenue, Hackensack, will be celebrating the Day of the Dead with special dishes like lobster pozole and Mexican cookies and milk. On October 30 at 10 AM, Chef Dennis Lake will host a free cooking demonstration where guests will learn about Day of the Dead traditions and how to prepare select seasonal menu items. For dinner or cooking demonstration reservations call 201-489-9100.
Please send press releases and restaurant news, including information on staff changes, wine tastings, and cooking classes, to [email protected].