Tasting menus are fun. A well-curated one lets diners sample the best of what the restaurant offers without having to be knowledgeable about the dishes or ingredients. North Jersey has no shortage of talented chefs capable of pulling off such a fare. Read on to find out where to get a great tasting experience locally.
Bistro d’Azur | 14 Academy Street, South Orange
(Photo credit: @bistrodazur)
This intimate bistro offers a less formidable and more affordable fine dining experience than typical white-tablecloth establishments. The dishes are loosely French and/or Mediterranean style. In addition to a daily prix-fixe menu ($69 for two courses, $84 for three courses), it also has a fully vegan tasting menu that features dishes such as grilled artichoke hearts and vegan shakshuka ($59 for two courses, $69 for three courses).
Cafe Matisse | 167 Park Avenue, Rutherford
(Photo credit: @cafe_matisse)
The restaurant opens for two dinner seatings (5:45PM and 8:00PM) every night, each offering a four-course prix-fixe menu ($115). The food is French bistro style. A sample meal can start with roasted beets with hazelnut and whipped goat cheese, move on to pan-seared scallops with sage shortbread, climax with venison and foie gras on a bed of cauliflower puree and date ginger jam, and finish with cherry vanilla cheesecake.
Common Lot | 27 Main Street, Millburn
(Photo credit: @common_lot)
After two visits to the Millburn restaurant back when it first opened in 2016, A New York Times food critic called the chef “among the most talented cooks in the state.” The seasonal menu draws inspiration from cuisines around the world, and every month or so the chef throws a “tasting night” ($135) where guests can sample some highly creative dishes not available in the a la carte menu. A recent four-course event, for example, features Japanese-style bluefin tuna, white asparagus with seaweed salsa verde, French-style lamb (or grilled mackerel with ajoblanco, a cold Andalusian soup), and black garlic chocolate mousse.
Hudson Table | 1403 Clinton Street, Hoboken
(Photo credit: @hudsontable)
Try cooking an entire tasting menu yourself at the popular cooking studio. Themed “hand-on” classes happen at least once a week, during which guests prepare a set of courses under professional instruction. Some of the upcoming events feature pan-Mediterranean classics (tabbouleh, tzatziki, pita bread, grilled shrimp, Adana kebab, and spanakopita), Cambodian street food (spring rolls, beef lemongrass skewers, shrimp curry, noodle salad, and Thai tea ice cream), and vegetarian Mexican (tortillas, three kinds of tacos, smoked cashew crema, cabbage, and jicama slaw, pico de gallo, and coconut horchata). There are also dining events where guests can just sit back and enjoy a beautifully multi-course dinner prepared by featured chefs.
Restaurant Latour | 1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg
(Photo credit: @restaurant_latour)
The restaurant is consistently rated top restaurant in New Jersey and was recently named to Wine Enthusiast’s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants, joining ranks with nationally acclaimed establishments such as French Laundry and Le Bernardin. A three-course prix-fixe menu ($120) may start with rabbit roulade with kohlrabi, continue with glazed quail with squash and tahini, and end with chocolate mousse with coffee cream. Diners can also opt for a seven-course chef’s tasting menu ($195).
Restaurant Serenade | 6 Roosevelt Avenue, Chatham
(Photo credit: @restaurant_serenade)
This is one of New Jersey’s most celebrated fine dining restaurants with a famous wine collection. The food is more traditional than avant-garde, featuring traditional French dishes along with crowd-pleasing American and Italian classics. The three-course tasting menu ($79, $45 for wine pairing) starts with corn chowder or asparagus frisee salad, with options of grilled salmon or roasted rack of lamb for the main course, and finishes with red velvet cheesecake.
The Frog + The Peach | 29 Dennis Street, New Brunswick
(Photo credit: @thefrogandpeach)
The widely acclaimed New Brunswick restaurant makes creative American dishes with New Jerseyan produce. Aside from the seasonal a la carte menu that consists mostly of simple pan-European classics, themed tasting menus are frequently available for holidays and special occasions. The Easter tasting menu, for example, features a traditional Eastern European fare with modern twists. A three-course lunch ($38) starts with potato latkes with caviar, with Kobe beef goulash as the main dish, and cheese and fruit pierogi for dessert. The dinner menu (five courses, $73) also includes a beet and pickle salad and Bulgarian sarmi (fermented cabbage leaves stuffed with pork and rice).