While Turkish storefront restaurants are abundant in Paterson, and the Safersteins’ dine in this culturally diverse town often, we were pleased to discover Zeugma, an upscale Turkish fusion restaurant that opened recently in Montclair. The cuisine was refreshing and innovative and although there are traditional offerings such as hummus and Shepard salad, a few of the unusual items that pleased our palates were the creative avogannush made with smoked eggplant, avocado puree, parsley oil and coriander as well as the pumpkin muhammara made with sweet pumpkin puree, walnut, garlic and feta cheese rather than red peppers and walnuts.
Where does the name Zeugma come from? It was an ancient city in Turkey, where excavations uncovered Roman mosaics. One of these, the gypsy girl of Zeugma, is replicated in tiles on the back wall of this charming restaurant. A bar is at the entrance and although Zeugma is BYO, they have a CA wine license. The dining area has wood tables, cloth napkins, a large fish tank, red and brown banquettes, blue hammocks and a fresh-flower arrangement. Tables are far apart and the noise level is tolerable.
Whole wheat pita bread and olive oil were brought to the table, when we were seated. Along with the aforementioned appetizers we shared the grilled octopus colorfully plated with string beans, baby carrots and fingerling potatoes paired with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce. Shredded cheese topped a baby eggplant, which was stuffed with onion, peppers, pine nuts and raisins, reminiscent of ratatouille. Borek, a crispy cigar-shaped savory pastry made with a phyllo-type dough was offered with leeks, feta cheese and a tzatziki dip, rather that the traditional feta, beef and/or spinach; a refreshing riff on this classic dish and a tasty offering.
We devoured the manti dumplings which are usually filled with meat, but here were stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and topped with a yogurt sauce. Not as successful were bland lamb chops, although the accompanying vegetable mix of tomatoes, string beans, fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts were enjoyed. Keftah, pucks of grilled ground beef and lamb mixed with fresh herbs were flavorful. Highly endorsed is the char-grilled, juicy whole sea bass, and the cheese-topped shrimp in a garlic tomato sauce.
Be sure to order the Z-Chef dessert created with crispy French meringues filled with pastry cream and surrounded by a strawberry and raspberry sauce. Ginger rice pudding was rich, and four people easily shared the not overly sweet baklava.
Open daily from 11:30 AM.
Zeugma, 44 South Park Street, Montclair 973-744-0074; zeugmagrill.com; BYO
ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTS
TRATTORIA GIOTTO, RUTHERFORD
We would not hesitate to return to Trattoria Giotto, a newly opened BYO Italian restaurant. The food and service were commendable, prices reasonable, and although the décor is dated, tables are set far apart allowing for quiet conversation.
There were some interesting starters to choose from such as jumbo lump crab meat, ginger, avocados and hearts of palm or sautéed baby artichokes with pistachio over mache salad and Parmesan cheese. We opted for a zucchini Parmesan timbale over tomato sauce and an impressive arugula salad with silhouette slices of pears topped with rafts of truffle pecorino cheese.
Three exemplary pastas were ordered: homemade wide pasta with mixed wild mushrooms; rich spinach and ricotta half moon-shaped ravioli with butter and sage; and homemade fettuccine in a classic Bolognese sauce. The winner of the night was a moist whole branzino presented on a large platter surrounded with clams, mussels and cherry tomatoes in a light tomato sauce. Desserts are made on the premises and we shared a tiramisu which was a lovely end to our dinner.
Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday from 5 PM; Sunday 2 to 9 PM.
Pst! The web page of this BYO restaurant says, “Never a corkage fee” but they obviously are unaware that it is illegal to charge a corkage fee at a BYO restaurant in NJ.
Trattoria Giotto, 15 Park Avenue, Rutherford 201-528-7142 www.trattoriagiotto.com; BYO
UNCLE MOMO, MONTCLAIR
Be sure to order the addictive puffed, cloud-like bread, brought hot from the oven to your table, at this Lebanese/French restaurant. Other worthy dishes are creamy hummus; fatouch salad scattered with crispy pita bits; moussaka with lamb; chicken or lamb tajine; and Lebanese sausage. A variety of oven-baked pitzas are offered, such as zaatar bread topped with olive oil, sesame seeds and herbs. For dessert, the homemade yogurt and fruit is recommended.
Uncle Momo, 702 Bloomfield Avenue Montclair 973-233-9500, http://unclemomo.com/; BYO
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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