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Spectacular: A Toute Heure in Cranford, NJ

I just came home from a truly exciting dinner at A Toute Heure in Cranford. This is a very special place and in all likelihood will eventually become one of my top favorites.
Without any attitude or pretension they serve up the most amazing food creations and they do it with very fresh locally sourced meats and vegetables. From a food perspective - and that is one of the most important perspectives in my life - I haven't had such a pleasurable evening in quite a while.
This little French Bistro has a lot of potential. One great innovation are the "bites". Conceptually between amuse bouche and traditional appetizers, "bites" are a more refined French interpretation of tapas. Large enough to be sharable but small enough to order quite a few, they are an ideal set up for a flavor and texture joy ride. One example was the one with grilled peaches and ricotta that opened up new possibilities.
After a few "bites" we decided on the two steaks that were on the menu tonight. Both the hangar and flank steak were expertily cooked as ordered. The meat was clearly high quality, tasty and had the right texture. The sides were creative, well made and had their own flavor contribution to the overall flavor profile of the dish.
And for dessert I had something that my friend called pretty adventurous and that I never had before in my life: Goat Cheese Ice Cream. Yes, you got that right. This is not a gimmick, but quite enjoyable.
More details in my blog
We are planning to go there again this Thursday. If a fellow hound wants to join send me a note.
The place is small (30 or so seats). So during a busy time there may be some wait. They do not take reservations but you can call ahead and they put you on the waiting list. And it is BYOB.

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  1. Thanks for the report, FF. Having already put A Toute Heure on my "go to" list, I'm pleased to hear that you had a very positive experience. Btw, I've had goat cheese ice cream and it is, indeed, delicious!

    3 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      I would love to go but that no reservation policy is a killer. For the locals it may not be such a problem but for the rest of us who have travel at least a half hour and who need to procure a sitter, its a big problem. A shame as I really wanted to try it.

      1. re: bgut1

        You're right about the no reservations policy, b. It's really a bummer!! Even for those of us who don't need a sitter but are not local, it could be a problem. I'm guessing/hoping if we go early, there's a better chance of snagging a table. However, I plan to have some back-up restaurant(s) in the surrounding area in mind just in case....

        Here's a thought. I don't remember if they take reservations for larger parties, say 6 or more. If so, we could consider going there for one of our CJH get-togethers. :-)

        1. re: RGR

          A fantastic idea RGR. I love your thinking. :)

    2. Why the hell is'nt this place in Monmouth County!!!! ha ha...wishful thinking, besides we lack on Italian restaurants :) yeah right!!

      Anyway, have not been on this board in a while as I was away, savoring the most AMAZING French food possible, aside from France, but this place looks fabulous! The menu is very inviting.

      I really will hate the drive up to Cranford, but it is as good as RGR's Lorena's in Maplewood, then I will sure be a happy girl!

      I am glad to hear everyone had a plesant time at Indigo Moon while I was away!

      1. Great report FF. Now I really have to make a point of going. Did you get a table right away or have to wait? And if so, for how long?

        This place really sounds devine. I'm glad we live close by, I guess even if we had to wait, we could find something to kill the time.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sivyaleah

          Sivyaleah, I called ahead when I left home and we immediately got a table. That was around 7:30. There was just one table left at the time. Around 8:15 most other guest had left and there were only two other parties there. They are open till 10:00. Seemingly after 8 or so it is a bit more quite.

          1. re: FoodFetish

            That would work for my husband and I on weekdays for sure. We both don't normally get home until after 7pm anyway so, by the time we got ready and drove over, it could be nearly 8ish. Thanks for the info. Definately looking forward to trying this one!

        2. Thanks for the report. I would love to try this place.

          1. Does anyone know of a liquor or wine store nearby? (I am familiar with all the surronding areas, so if you know a place..please post!!) Merci

            1 Reply
            1. re: Angelina

              There is a liquor store in Cranford on their main shopping street right near North Avenue. There is also a liquor store (Shoprite liquor formerly Town and Country) about 5 minutes away on South Ave, in Westfield. There is another in Garwood, off of South Ave. across the street and down the block from Roberts Steakhouse. A votre sante!

            2. I really, really wanted to love this place. It's very pretty, airy and comfortable. The staff is very friendly. The fact that the restaurant uses the freshest locally-obtained ingredients automatically sets it apart and above most other places.

              The menu changes by the day, and there were some true standouts, particularly the tomato soup, which was bursting with the flavor of heirloom tomatoes, and the oft-mentioned goat cheese ice cream, which was rich, creamy, tangy, silky and elegant, all at the same time.

              Without question, a serious restaurant run by talented and caring owners.

              But, at the risk of comparing apples and oranges, this is not in the same league as Restaurant Lorena-- at least not yet. And, for all the documentation of ingredients and sources, I felt something was missing. Just my opinion, and it may be due to the fact that we use a lot of herbs and spices at home, and really like restaurants that do the same, but it seemed to me that there was a certain restraint in the technique that made me wish for more, well, oomph. I found myself wishing that the zucchini crumble had a little more substance to balance out the sweetness of the figs, or that the broth that my mussels were cooked in had the sort of substance like what I'd experienced at a Belgian place in Quebec City several years ago, instead of being a light, underseasoned broth that I found it to be. The peach buckle (locally grown peaches) suffered from not having enough peaches, and was lackluster.

              As I said, just my 2 cents, but I don't think ATH deserves unqualified raves just yet.

              6 Replies
              1. re: albinoni

                Thanks, albinoni, for your unvarnished assessment of A Toute Heure. Obviously, since I've not yet been, I can't make the comparison you did here. However, having just had yet another mind-blowing dinner at Lorena's last night, and based on your description of the food you had at ATH, I feel confident in saying that ATH has miles to go before it comes close to Humberto's truly exquisite cuisine.

                You don't say much about the service at ATH other than that it's friendly. But I think it important to mention that at Lorena's, fine cuisine is accompanied by service that is cordial and polished. In short, for my husband and me, perfection!

                Your report will not stop me from trying ATH. But I will hold my expectations severely in check.

                1. re: albinoni

                  Thanks also. Good to get differing opinions. When we get around to going, we'll also keep our expectations in check.

                  1. re: albinoni

                    I have to agree with you 100% albinoni. The plates did seem to miss a certain UMMPH! The tomato soup definately needed some salt added to it. It was just very bland to me. The lamb meatballs were also missing something, we could'nt quite put our finger on it. The meatballs just tasted like ground lamb with no seasoning.

                    The steak and fries were very tasty as the steak had carmelized onions on it. The sea scallops were just that...sea scallops. No kick, no, "WOW" factor. The clams were also in such a boring broth. Very dissappointing.

                    You are right about the owners very caring, and accomodating, but the food itself was definately missing something. We were all glad we tried it. My girlfriend and I were a little mad they did not have salt and pepper on the table. Quite annoyimg when every dish that was served needed to be doctored up.

                    All in all, we will wait a few months to see if they can fix this problem, and then return. Hopefully by then, I will have a more glowing review.

                    1. re: Angelina


                      Thanks for the report. More confirmation that it is no competition for "RGR's Lorena's." lol Well, at least, not yet. But just to note that the very first time we set foot in Lorena's (when it was still called Jocelyne's), Humberto's cuisine totally blew us away!

                      I may put off trying ATH right now, but just in case I change my mind, what time did you get there? And did you have to wait for a table?

                      1. re: RGR

                        Hello!!! We arrived around 8 p.m. and had no problem getting a table. It was a small place, but there was about 6 other tables in parties of 2.

                        I just think you should wait a while and continue north to "RGR's Lorena's" ha ha ! I love saying that!! I am still thinking about my monkfish from Lorena's.

                        1. re: Angelina

                          And I love that you're now referring to it that way! lol

                          The monkfish is now off the menu. We never did get to have a full course of it; however, luckily, two weeks ago, Humberto suprised us by sending out a sample. An ugly fish ("the poor man's lobster") + mundane spaghetti squash, and the man managed to turn the combo into heaven on a plate! Pure culinary genius!!

                  2. ATH's website is misleading--through a well-placed source I learned that they do not do any composting whatsoever, and although they say their used oil is available for bio-fuel, there is no such relationship established as yet. The oil just goes in the garbage.
                    Also, I'm told they do not bake their own bread either.

                    1. We had eaten at A Toute Heure during the summer and loved it as well. One thing and the other, we didn't return till 11/10, a Saturday night. Good grief! The noise level (and we were there starting at 6:30) was so loud, it bordered on painful. I would recommend NOT going there on the weekend. - Also, we love vegetables; since the restaurant emphasizes fresh and local, veggies were in short supply on the menu and on our plates. - And just back from Paris, I wish that they had simply put "un pichet d'eau" on our table. It was so busy, that at times we had to wait and wave for refills of water.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CaroleK

                        We were there for the first time last Thursday and truly enjoyed this place. I am glad you told us about the weekend noise because one thing that made it so nice was how quiet it was, I think noise would spoil it. I guess it will only be a mid-week destination for us.