Chakra Restaurant Review: Paramus, NJ
Took my boyfriend to Chakra restaurant last evening for a "romantic dinner"... I had read its review in the Bergen Record and I was looking for something close to home, innovative, and romantic. What a dissapointment.
It seemed as if our waiter had just traded in his Chili's uniform for a black ensamble, as he introduced himself to us and proceeded to talk like a former game show host meets used car sales man.
After setting down the 5 pound menus (not to mention the 10 pound wine list) he asked to take our drink order. When we asked about the specials, he said he'd tell them to us when he got back with drinks. We purused the ambitious menu (dried miso crusted fois gras with sautern jelly) then asked the waiter for the specials. He read them off to us, quoting the prices for each. Maybe I'm a stickler about service, but come on, it's my anal rentive believe that if you're not leaving the restaurant without dropping 100$ for 2 people, the specials should be memorized...I digress....
An amuse bouche - what seemed to be a hushpuppy with mayonaise- was dropped off at the table, though not explained.
We ordered (my date, the fois gras app. and salmon entree; me, the romain salad with fried egg app, roasted halibut with mushroom jus entree) he took our menus away but left the 10 pound wine list, without ever asking what wine's we wanted.
Our first course was delivered in less than 5 minutes. The fois gras was over salted and still had that wierd vein in it while the romain salad had a seriously overcooked egg atop. Finally we were asked if we would like wine, though the waiter did not know where any of the wines came from, nor the variety. The wine list was interesting, and not altogehter overpriced, though the waiter was absolutely no help with the wine's by the glass. He merely stated it was "a new list" and he hadn't tasted any of them...I ordered a red with my first course and a white for my second, confusing my waiter who it seemed was not used to people not ordering multiple pitchers of Coors Light.
Our "small plates" (along with my forks and knives) were whisked out from beneath us literally at the same moment I ate my last piece of romaine and, within 1 minute, were replaced with our entrees in inverse. We looked at the entrees as they sat before us, trying to recall what exactly it was that we had ordered and why it did not look like we had thought it would and realized we had one another's dishes. Our waiter returned and sensed our confusion and attempted to pick up the platters and burned his hands on their superheated surfaces...I asked about my fork and knife and was given a butter knife and new fork.
My halibut was cooked well, moist on the inside, crisp on the ousided. The chive speatzle it was served with was seriuosly overcooed and the mushrooms SERIOUSLY oversalted. My date's salmon was overdone and undersauced, though his carrot/saffron sauce would have been delightful if there had been more to it.
we skipped the desserts,as both of our menu cards had some sort of funk on it (his a splash of last month's berry sauce, mine just overall dirty).
We were out the door within 1 hour 15 minutes of being seated, feeling hurried and like we had just ate a 125$ fast food meal in our car.
Wow, sorry about your evening, this whole thing would have pissed me and the hubby off. Did you say anything to the manager? You should have. If nothing else, so they can try to fix what is broken. It sounds like they tried to put together a place that pleases but missed the mark.
Where is this place exactly? It sounds like a place that has been recommended to me by my soon-to-be ex SIL. If it is the same, I would not be surprised, she is a bit off (actually more than a bit) :-)
Does this place have a martini/fancy drink list and a cool bar to hang in? What do they categorize the food as? Just want to be sure this is one and the same.
Chakra is on rt. 4, just after the garden state mall and rt. 17. Yes, it does have a fancy drink menu (i had a pear sakatini, my boyfriend, a strange drink with brazillian curacha).
The menu is "eclectic" but, should you look at it without tasting, sounds like innovative neuevo american cuisine- not quite fusion, but not quite not -if you know what I mean.
Yes, the bar exists but unless you want to hang with Bergen County's very annoying neuvo rich, i'd skip it, though they did say they had a happy hour (which would help, as no cocktail was less than 9 dollars, most were $10+).
It got a "very good" in the nytimes jersey section, and a good review in the Record.
I don't know if you're from Bergen county but I find that many of the "fancy" restaurant -i.e. America, Bistro En- are trying too hard to be like their over-the- bridge/tunnel- neighbor, and it shows...
Maybe Chakra management read the above cause a lot of the criticisms seem to have been addressed. I went last night with the wife. I was hesistant because of the lukewarm reviews here and other blogs but my wife likes these kind of places so I gave it a shot. I was on the look-out, however, for mediocre food and service as described above. Everything turned out fine for me, though.
I went at 7 on a Tuesday night. The place was about a third full and it was about half full when we left. A live jazz trio played throughout the night. The decor is a combination of exposed, rough bricks (lit from below for dramatic effect) and dark woods. Strewn here and there were vaguely South Asian artworks. The booths had a thin curtains that looked like mosquito netting --I guess to further create that exotic atmosphere.
The service was excellent --very attentive without being intrusive. The server had memorized the specials and was very knowledgeable --whatever questions we had about items on the food or drink menu, he gave us very insightful advice. The amuse bouche was fully described at time of service. We were given a basket of bread and a side dishes of butter and sea salt. The bread was just so-so and cold. Frankly, the bread was the biggest disappointment of the night. I had expected a place as ambitious as Chakra would serve warm, home-made bread.
I had a couple of Mojitos. They were excellent and strong (although not up to the standard of "real" Cuban bars). My wife had some fruity mango drink that was pretty and fruity (which is all she really cares about --she's not much of a drinker).
We shared the Calamari and Endive Salad for starters. We usually order Calamari whenever we go to a new place as sort of a standard by which to compare restaurants. The Calamari here came out mostly crisp with a delicious dipping sauce. Some of the pieces had a little bit of gristle to it. Overall, it was pretty good. The Endive Salad was excellent. I'm not a big salad eater but this was delicious -quite possibly the best salad I've ever had (I do admit, again, that I'm not a big salad eater so my tastebuds maybe somewhat limited in this field).
I had the Crispy Salmon for my entree and my wife had the scallops. The salmon was apparently quickly broiled at high temperature because the inside of the salmon was barely cooked while the skin was indeed crispy. It was pretty tasty. it was accompanied by a piece of bok choi and mashed potatoes. The bok choi was stringy, mashed potatoes was fine. I had a taste of my wife's scallops. It was good. While I did enjoy my salmon a good deal, overall, this was not the best meal I have ever had but it was certainly better than I expected after reading the above.
For desert, we had the coffee brulee. The server told us that it has a very strong coffee flavor. That it did. It was also delicious.
We spent nearly three hours over our meal. We never felt rushed and the server never abandoned us for any long period of time. We were able to sit back and enjoy a pretty good meal in a leisurely fashion and people watch. It's not the same as people watching in Manhattan but it was interesting nevertheless to observe the crowd (a mix of business execs; Ladies who Lunch; well-healed couples; nervous young men trying to impress their dates while worrying if they had enough money to cover the bill).
We left with full stomachs and in very good spirits. My wife is planning on going back for the next Girls Night Out. We might try to take advantage of their early $29 prix fixe dinner. Definate thumbs up and four stars out of five.
We - three adults and one child - went to Chakra one Sunday evening a few weeks ago. I would say that the service was excellent - attentive but not intrusive or syrupy - and the food was good - delicious, all plates cleaned, although I thought the flavors/combinations were not especially exotic. A tad exepensive all in all but we were celebrating so paid no mind to the bill.
The bread was fine, artisanal. We noticed sediment in one of the wine glasses and they brought fresh wine on the house for the two wine drinkers even though one glass without sediment was practically finished. They attended to my 10-year son just fine - Shirley Temples and a hot plate for sampling from what we ate. Being Sunday the restaurant wasn't crowded so we got a roomy booth. It was a relaxed atmosphere and the service was nicely paced.
Recommended. 3 out of 5 stars.
re: Sra. Swanky
This is a beautiful restaurant but my oveall experience there was lackluster and I would not return. I didn't pay the bill; if I did I would have been even more disappointed. I was there several years ago also. The one highlight was the foie gras but other than that it was not impressive. They were also out of a number of items on the menu which I thought was odd. I know someone who went there recently experienced the same thing.