The 25 Best Restaurants of 2017

A decade ago, we created the Top 25 to augment the Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll in recognition of the dynamism of New Jersey’s dining scene. Every year since, the scene has grown more competitive, contemporary and varied, creating a boon for Jersey diners and a greater challenge for us to select the best of the best. But, hey, it’s a wonderful problem to have.

Restaurant Latour, Hamburg

The elevator one takes to Restaurant Latour on the top floor of the Grand Cascades Lodge at the Crystal Springs Resort is metaphorical as well as physical. Every year since Latour opened in 2004, the food, wine and overall dining experience have been, to say the least, elevated. Tucked into the rural northwest corner of the state, Latour is worth the drive from anywhere. Entering the handsome dining room, with its well-spaced tables, one is struck by the panoramic view over the Kittatinny Ridge. But that is surpassed by the extraordinary 75,000-bottle wine list overseen by sommelier Susanne Lerescu and maitre d’ Gianni Chiodi, and especially by the food. Over the last two years, under the mentorship of resort executive chef Anthony Bucco, chef de Latour Martyna Krowicka, 29, has come into her own (for more on her background and their working relationship, see opposite page). Krowicka’s technique, while advanced, is rooted in maximizing the flavors of superb ingredients (not least the vegetables) and combining them in dishes that exceed the sum of their parts. Recent triumphs included seared veal loin with caviar and sweetbreads tossed in tomato-honey glaze; amberjack with sea urchin and grated bottarga; and her ace in the hole, amazing desserts.
1 Wild Turkey Way, 973-827-5996 ext 3.

Laurel & Sage, Montclair

A fork can be a shovel, but eating Shawn Dalziel’s food, it becomes a tool that hovers and gathers. There is, as Dalziel says with a laugh, “a lot going on” in his dishes. The hallmark of his New American cooking is less the number of components on the plate than that each is there for a reason and contributes to the dizzying pleasure of the whole. In his pomegranate-molasses braised short rib, you deploy your fork to combine some meat, some sweet-potato purée and some kimchi in one bite. In his black-kale salad, you want to snare some sliced dates, pumpkin seeds and ricotta salata with the ribbons of chiffonaded kale. What Dalziel, 47, produces, in short, are thoughtful forkfuls in every course. BYO.

33 Walnut Street, 973-783-1133.

Lorena’s, Maplewood

“I don’t want to be a great chef,” says Humberto Campos Jr., “I want to be a great restaurant. That’s what we talk about every night.” Setting aside the first statement, there’s no gainsaying the second. The trifecta of highly gratifying French and New American food, gracious service, and a comfortable, elegant and intimate space pretty much fulfills the stated mission. At 13, Lorena’s is a healthy teenager looking to do what teenagers do: grow. The search for larger quarters and a liquor license is now in its second year. One of these days, it will happen. In the meantime, Lorena’s has added lunch service, and it’s catching on. As Campos says, “We have to make the experience memorable, no matter what time of day.” BYO.
168 Maplewood Avenue, 973-763-4460.

Maritime Parc, Jersey City

On an inlet in Liberty State Park, the bright lights of Manhattan’s financial district beckon as you enter Maritime Parc, but chef/owner Chris Siversen puts riches of his own on the table (indoors or on the patio), with equally compelling cocktails, a wide-ranging wine list and John Sauchelli’s alluring desserts. Of late, smoking a softshell crab over applewood and serving it with peach chutney put extra savor in that seasonal specialty. Instead of the common miso glaze on luscious black cod, Siversen and chef de cuisine Johnny Delgado devised a compelling honey glaze and added chunks of yuzu-glazed ham. Black-truffle gnocchi with aged-Gouda sauce and beautifully charred filet mignon with Banyuls wine sauce show Maritime Parc is not just a seagoing vessel.
84 Audrey Zapp Drive, 201-413-0050.

Mistral, Princeton

Chef Ben Nerenhausen and his team hit every sweet spot: The food is eclectic and imaginative, yet coherent and hugely fun to eat; the prices are liberating (shareables at dinner, $3-$22); you can get in and out quickly or stay and put a feast together; the cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are fascinating; the big windows flood the restaurant with light, and there is attractive outdoor seating; servers are enthused, informed and responsive. Mistral may be named for an ill wind that blows through France, but in Princeton, it kicks up nothing but pleasure and value.
66 Witherspoon Street, 609-688-8808.

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