A year ago, the venerable Bernards Inn was bought by John Hanson and his family, local residents who also own Station Pub & Grub down the road. They undertook a complete renovation of the 1907 mission-style building. The work is coming along nicely; several lovely new rooms are open. Fortunately, chef Corey Heyer still holds sway in the kitchen, and expert sommelier Terri Baldwin still oversees the 8,000-bottle wine cellar.
Heyer’s sumptuous style is evident from the start of a meal. Lobster bisque is suffused with lobster flavor and boasts large chunks of meat as well. Sweet-potato ravioli in sage-infused brown butter creates a fine contrast of sweet and savory, heightened by a sprinkling of earthy black truffle and crunchy pumpkin seeds. Perfectly seared day-boat scallops, topped with American caviar, are placed on a white vegetable risotto that complements those delicate flavors.
Crustacean connoisseurs should not miss the Nova Scotia lobster served out of the shell, glistening on a bed of almond purée with haricots verts and beurre noisette. At $42, it’s très cher, but well worth it. Most of the fish is handled expertly. Soft, flaky Australian barramundi is deliciously paired with spaghetti squash, roasted hazelnuts and pomegranate reduction. Lightly cooked Maine salmon comes with slightly chewy barley risotto, a nice orange and star-anise sauce, and salad of hedgehog mushrooms and baby artichokes. Alaskan black cod sautéed with Savoy cabbage and lemon is simple but good.
I liked the New York strip steak (a special one evening), but found the rösti (shredded potato cake) with it heavy and ungainly. Far better is the crisp and juicy free-range Griggstown (NJ) chicken, which features a terrific macaroni and cheese studded with black truffles. Rack of lamb with tarbais beans and carrot purée is decent, not exciting.
I liked the warm gingerbread cake with a custardy cider sabayon sauce and egg nog ice cream. Chocolate saduze—a chocolate dome filled with passion-fruit mousse, amareno cherries, coconut ice cream, macadamia meringue, mango-pineapple sauce and chocolate cocoa nibs—sounds overwrought, but everything clicks. Truly overwrought—meaning too much going on when a simpler treatment would be more harmonious—was the mascarpone cheesecake with cranberries and white chocolate on a walnut crust with orange sauce. A worthwhile alternative to dessert is the cheese course, offering a decent variety of cheeses, with quince paste and raisin-pecan bread, served correctly at room temperature —Valerie Sinclair
27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville (908-766-0002). Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 11 pm; Sunday, 5:30 to 9 pm. All major credit cards are accepted Wheelchair access easy.Click here to leave a comment