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May 30, 2007 03:24 PM

Fine Dining Near Westfield NJ

I'd like to get a gift certificate for my brother and his wife for their anniversary. I'm not familiar with the restaurant scene in Westfield (or environs) at all. They enjoy fine food, lots of cuisines. Any stand-outs?

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  1. I haven't been there for years but my vote would be for Chez Catherine. There are several hounds on the board who can give you more current information but I don't think you can go wrong with this outstanding restaurant.

    1. I second Chez Catherine...I haven't eaten there in a LONG time, but I still remember a fabulous duck salad I had for lunch one afternoon. Service was top tier as well...I'm guessing it still is and would be worth a visit.

      1. I'll third it. I also haven't been there in a while but my last meal there was very memorable. Beautiful restaurant, very romantic, impeccable service - very high quality. You can't get any better in Westfield - it really is the creme de la creme for the area unless you're going to another town. (Do not let anyone talk you into Stage House in Scotch Plains, whatever you do - there is no comparison.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: sivyaleah

          Would you please elaborate re the Stage House. I seem to recall it had become a "destination restaurant". Sounds like things might have changed.

          I did not suggest it because I haven't been for a long, long time (think decades!).

          1. re: ambrose

            It used to be a destination restaurant many years ago, when David Drake (now of his own restaurant in Rahway) was the chef. It has slipped many notches since. The current owners are not the friendliest, IMHO. The food is still kind of "fine dining" and decent (although spotty, somethings are very good, others not so much) however, they have changed their service, so many of the niceties are now gone. It just doesn't have the same feel as it used to and frankly, I find the room uncomfortable as far as a fine dining experience is concerned. We do enjoy their sister restaurant next door, The Tavern, which is a low key bar type menu which also incorporates many of the items on the Stagehouse menu, some at lower prices. They happen to have the best burgers in town there and we do go there very frequently. I just wouldn't spend the money for SH any longer.

        2. Everyone is right! Chez Catherine is it! Superb French cuisine. Your brother and his wife will adore you! Trust what everyone syas about the place!

          1. David Drake's is in Rahway, not too far away. We really liked it, and it gets a lot of praise on this board.

            Not so near, but also very very good, is The Petite Chateau in Bernardsville--a country-style inn on a back street in town--the food is outstanding.


            18 Replies
            1. re: albinoni

              I very much enjoyed Stage House, the food was v good and the staff friendly. BUT I really like Aquaviva in Westfield. I love Il Castello in Woodbridge (out of your requested area). I do not like DDrake -- the menu is too weird albeit all the other hounds love it.

              1. re: nyebaby37

                Aquaviva della Fonti (sp?) would be a nice moderate choice. It's a beautiful Italian restaurant in Westfield with lovely presentations, great food, good wine list , efficient service and not over the top prices. Not casual, more of ai dress-up kind of place (I think I'd feel a bit out of place just walking in off the street in jeans for instance).

                1. re: sivyaleah

                  I wouldn't see Aquaviva Delle Fonti as "Fine Dining". IMO, it is a somewhat upscale Italian Restaurant, with a liquor license (at least for indoors) which is rather unusual for Westfield. It is somewhat above other choices, like Theresa's, Brick Oven or the North Side Trattoria but not a lot.
                  For real "Fine dining" service is not refined enough (still pretty good) and the kitchen is a bit inconsistent (same dish can taste very different). The menu has a good variety and some innovative dishes. However, the dishes are typically designed and made in a more traditional manner, not in a way to express flavors and textures in a more pointed way which is what I expect from fine dining. I'm missing, what I call, the "sensual experience" of fine dining a bit.
                  Certainly, a good destination for a nice upscale dinner at a reasonable price. In particular, in the summer dining al fresco using the pleasant outside seating patio (BYOB) is another good reason to go there.

                  I recently posted a review about Aquavina Delle Fonti with more details at my blog:

                  1. re: FoodFetish

                    Hence the reason I said it was a "moderate" choice.

                    1. re: FoodFetish

                      I'm curious -- which places would u say you experiencee the WOW in Westfield? (read your blog)

                      1. re: nyebaby37

                        Nyebaby37, IMHO there is no restaurant in Westfield that consistently generates the WOW effect. Mojave Grill was close several years ago, but - as other people on CH also have pointed out - they lost a bit of their edge after they moved to Elm Street. Service is often so-so, although the food items are still pretty good. Years ago I had several outstanding dinners there.
                        Theresa's once in a while gets up there to the WOW. Last year I had an outstanding pasta special with truffle, mushrooms, etc. that was to die for. (Don't remember all the details) compared with outstanding service and a great bottle of perfectly matching wine (that I brought myself).
                        I haven't been at Chez Catherine or Blue Wave so I can't tell if they could make it. Blue Wave I will try pretty soon. Chez Catherine is a bit on the expensive side for my taste.
                        At Jeffrey's I had a really great dinner experience a couple of years ago with personal attention from the Chef which I still remember vividly and then I had a few ones that were just good. (and a bit overpriced).
                        I think with the retail rent inflation in down-town Westfield, things are getting more mainstream, the restaurants are trying to appeal to the average palate to maximize their turnaround which conflicts with my idea of fine dining which is about exploring new tastes, smells and textures.
                        I would certainly wish for a real upscale, "Manhatten-type-dining" restaurant to set up shop in Westfield.

                        1. re: FoodFetish

                          Blue Wave has been consistantly good for us. Even the non-seafood dishes are done very well. My husband does not eat seafood, which is how we found this out. Last time we were there he had cheese ravioli and the sauce was a perfect tomato sauce, very fresh, and flavored nicely with just the right touch of basil. I especially enjoyed the onion crusted tilapia. It's pricey, but the quality of the seafood is very high and it's something that was missing from Westfield. Very good service and they did a nice nautical theme from when Mojave moved out. Very soothing look, not over done. Food has been very solid every time we went.

                          We enjoy Jeffrey's a lot but it can be inconsistant but not so much that it stops us from going. Sometimes, we are utterly overwhelmed with our meals there. He can be very innovative with the ingredients. Other times, things fall flat. For instance, we had a fiddlehead appetizer once with garlic - but could barely taste the garlic and it really needed it. He does make an excellent hamburger at lunchtimes and serves it outdoors on the "patio" during summer hours, wish he would serve it indoors too at dinner. In fact, I'd rate that burger one of the best in the area (next to the one at The Tavern at Stagehouse, theirs is wonderful too). We love the atmosphere, service is always good. It is somewhat over-priced. He has an amazing wine/beer list tho - this is a huge plus with us. Always something new and interesting. Chef has a great knowledge of wines and it's apparent that it's a real love of his.

                          1. re: FoodFetish


                            Chez Catherine is definitely Manhattan-style dining of the highest order. And, in my view, this is *the* place in Westfield to have that "Wow!" experience.

                            The late Catherine Alexandrou, a very talented chef, opened the restaurant around 1980 and through the years, consistently served superb French cuisine every bit the equal of the best restaurants in NYC. I can still remember our very first meal there in the early 1980's when I absolutely swooned over my main course liver dish -- yes, liver! -- and my poached pears dessert. That was the way it was each time we would go there during the years Catherine was in the kitchen.

                            Current owner Didier Jouvenet, who purchased the restaurant shortly before Catherine died, was formerly maitre d' for many years at La Grenouille. In addition to being thoroughly charming, he truly understands what it takes to run a first-rate restaurant. His chefs are continuing Catherine's tradition of producing wonderful French cuisine though the menu has been updated to a more contemporary style. All the meals we've had at Chez Catherine since Didier and his wife, Edith, became the owners have been seriously delicious!

                            So, give Chez Catherine a try. I feel confident you'll come away saying, "Wow!"


                            1. re: RGR

                              I have to agree with RGR about this. CC is way above everything else in Westfield, and around the area in general other than David Drake. When we moved here 6 years ago from NYC, we were stunned the first time we ate there, to have found such a NY worthy restaurant, let alone when we found out that Didier was in fact from La Grenouille, which was one of my husband's favorite restaurants when living in NYC (I never had the pleasure of eating there). In Union County, this and David Drake are the only two places I can think of which could be transplanted into Manhattan effectively and qualify as "fine dining" in every aspect. If there are others, I have not been to them.

                              1. re: sivyaleah

                                Yes, yes, yes. I'm convinced. I will try both CC and Blue Wave as soon as my wife is back from a longer trip. And I will report back here.
                                By the way, there seem to be quite a few Chow Hounds in Westfield and the surrounding towns. What do you guys think of complementing our virtual chow hounding interactions, with some real world activities?
                                We could meet a small group to check out local restaurants and other food-related places, in particular new openings, etc. and then report back here. Any ideas?

                                1. re: FoodFetish

                                  A few of us have been trying to do this, me included. I have the same problem as you w/my spouse - he's been traveling non-stop on business and I'm waiting until he gets a much needed break (I'd sure like to have a meal out with him for a change!).

                  2. re: albinoni

                    We had been to Le Petit Chateau the first time many years ago and had had a very good meal. So, several years ago, we decided to try it again. It was mid-week, and the restaurant was not busy. After being seated, we were then promptly ignored by the staff, i.e., no water, no bread, no questions about the menu, etc. There was only one other occupied table in the room at which a family celebration of some sort was going on. As we sat waiting for even a small sign of staff attention, the children at the other table got up, began running around the room and making a racket. Not one of the adults bothered to control them. My husband and I looked at each other and sensing a disaster in the making, closed our menus, got up and left the restaurant. We did a walk-in at the nearby Bernard Inns, where we had a delicious meal with gracious service and very civilized ambiance.

                    1. re: albinoni

                      David Drake is excellent, probably the best in Union County. But, the recipients would have to be real culinary adventurers. DD is not for the faint hearted, it demands a refined palate to appreciate - unusual flavor combinations abound. Also, not the best area - although they just added valet parking, because a lot of people had concerns the neighborhood. Frankly, the parking garage is literally around the corner, so I don't know that the big deal was but it's still nice that they incorporated this perk.

                      1. re: sivyaleah

                        Since Westfield is in Union County, I'd say it's a toss-up between Chez Catherine and David Drake's for the title of "Best."

                        I agree with you regarding the parking situation at DD's. I've never understood the concerns about walking just around the corner to a very well-lit garage where there is an attendant on duty -- at least, whenever we've parked there.

                        1. re: RGR

                          David Drake was (and still may be) offering Valet Parking.

                            1. re: sivyaleah

                              Another place to consider is Le Rendezvous in Kenilworth, no more than 10 minutes from Westfield.

                              1. re: OGguy

                                I've always enjoyed going to Le Rendezvous, and the food is excellent. However, I feel the service is not polished enough and the overall ambiance is a little too casual to be considered "fine dining."