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Any good French restaurants in the central NJ area?

Hello all. I was hoping that someone may know about a good French restaurant in the central NJ area? I've been reading alot of the posts on here today (and I must admit they are making me hungry!) and they are great. Still can't find too much on a good French restaurant in or around my neck of the woods. I know years ago Fromagerie was supposed to be one of the nicer French restaurants-but from the recent posts it seems to have changed? All replies will be greatly appreciated! Thanks much-Cheech

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  1. It depends what you mean by French. If your talking classic French then I would suggest Chez Catherine in Westfield (based solely on recommendations of friends as I've never been).

    1. Yes, I agree that Chez Catherine is where you want to go. Just check out the menus on their web page and you'll see that this is a classic French restaurant. Note, however, that they operate on the prix fixe principle for dinner.

      http://www.chezcatherine.com/

      1. Not a lot to pick from, my vote goes to Manon in Lambertville.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tom246

          I had forgotten about Manon, which is a lovely little BYO place. Depending on where the OP lives, however, it could be a long drive to Lambertville.

          Another possibility, if this part of the state is within striking distance, is to cross the river to La Bonne Auberge in New Hope. This too is a classic French restaurant but it's VERY pricey. The least expensive entree is $35.

          http://www.bonneauberge.com/welcome.htm

        2. Chez Catherine - Classic French food, small, elegent, prices higher then average. Have dined here many times, never had anything I wouldn't gladly have again.

          Lorena's - Beautiful, very good food

          The hidden gem - Le Rendezvous in Kenilworth - small, laid back (but I feel okay when I dress up for it), BYOB, incredible food, a bargin (but not cheap)

          1. Chez Catherine in Westfiled. Well thought of on CH. Went once, it was great. Impeccable service too.

            1. Thanks all for the info-Took a look at Chez Catherine's site and it sounds wonderful! I am looking for a new place to go with friends to celebrate the holidays and we all agreed that we would like to go to a place that none of us has been to yet. I will let you know how it goes after we've gone.

              1. What about Lorena's in Maplewood?

                http://www.restaurantlorena.com/

                RGR suggested this place to me and we we were so delighted with all of our meals we have had there!
                It is a BYOB, and there is a great wine store across the street from it. You will LOVE the place!

                1. I forgot...Le Fandy in Fair Haven is quite good as well! BYOB.

                  http://www.ardore.com/listing.asp?r=l...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Angelina

                    With regard to Le Fandy, my mother taught me if you have nothing good to say about someone (or in this case someplace), don't say it at all .........

                    1. re: bgut1

                      I guess the alternative to this would be Alice Roosevelt Longworth's reputed statement that "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." LOL!

                      Regarding Lorena's, while I do agree that it is an extraordinary restaurant, I have always had a hard time thinking of it as French. I know it claims to serve French cuisine, but I think it's more accurate to say, as does the web site, that Lorena's menu is French based.

                  2. Bienvenue on Front St. in Red Bank. Very small intimate dining room run by a husband and wife team. Great duck leg confit, very nice creame brulee, and start with what ever fois they are running and their escargot! Really nice place, bring your own bottle of wine (or Two)!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: shorebilly

                      Sophie's Bistro in Hamilton NJ is, IMO, a great and affordable classic french restaurant.

                      http://www.sophiesbistro.net/

                      1. re: FoodDude2

                        I love Sophie's Bistro! However, it is not in Hamilton. It is on Hamilton Street (a.k.a. Route 27) in Somerset, just outside New Brunswick.

                        1. re: FoodDude2

                          I went to Sophie's with a few friends (and sampled from their dishes) and found the place very acceptable, but not great, or even really good. Passable, safe, sufficient are words that came to mind. Won't head back.

                      2. Isnt there a French restaurant in Lakewood? LePetit France or something similar?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: tom porc

                          I just posted this on another thread where this question came up. There is a restaurant in Lakewood called La Petite France. It's kosher and serves dairy and fish. They have a website: http://www.benelicheesecake.com

                        2. Chez Catherine in Westfield or newcomer A Toutes Heure in Cranford are better than Soufle in Summit, Epernay in Montclair or Cafe Monet in Milburn

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Nochef

                            Nochef,

                            Have you been to Epernay since Chef/owner Mark Papera and his wife, Courtney, sold it? We haven't been since the change in ownership. It used to be a favorite of ours. Totally different from Chez Catherine in cuisine style and ambiance, of course. Nevertheless, Mark's food was declicious, and his portions were super-generous. We always received a warm welcome and excellent service from Courtney and the staff.

                            1. re: RGR

                              Perhaps that is why I thought it was ok, but nothing special

                          2. Lahiere's in Princeton serves Contemporary American/French Cuisine.
                            http://www.lahieres.com

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: queenkathy

                              It's been ages and ages since we ate at Lahiere's. They were strictly French then and considered one of the best restaurants in NJ. Based on what I've read about the current status of the food, I don't think anyone would say that now. Have you eaten there recently, queenkathy?

                            2. Well, I promised a follow up after the dinner. There was a change of venue since we were going on Friday night and wanted to find something a littler closer to home then Chez Catherine. Went to Bienvenue in Red Bank. All four of us agreed that this would not be a place to return to. The restaurant is very small and intimate. We were greeted warmly by the owner (she is the only waitress) and she promptly opened our wine and placed it in ice for us. Water glasses were filled right after that and well, that was where the good service ended. We had to ask for bread-which must have been cut hours before serving since it was somewhat difficult to pry apart and forget about getting another glass of water. So anyway, we drank our wine and got our menus. We started off with the warm goat cheese salad which was very good (as were the other salads but I can't really remember all of them due to having to drink excess wine since water apparently was only dispensed on odd days and we were there on the 4th) I ordered the duck leg confit with the pommes salardaisies (potatoes and onions or what I likened to diner home fries) as did one of my dinner companions and we both agreed we have had much better duck elsewhere. Also ordered was the filet mignon in a porcini mushroom sauce. It had so much of the rich sauce it should have come with a Lipitor on the side. Also ordered was the rack of lamb which was very fatty and had little meat at all. I think at this point after the first LARGE bottle of wine was finished the discussion of going to Chez Burger King came up...So, anyway I kept seeing these large crepes with ice cream going by and decided to go for the dessert and coffee. The banana crepe was decent as was the coffee. Got the bill - 200 bucks (before tip) which is ok but definately not worth it in my book. Service and food at best was mediocre. Skip this place IMHO. Next time I will travel to Chez Catherines. C'est a vie!

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: NJCheech

                                Thanks for the review Cheech. Sorry about your meal.

                                1. re: NJCheech

                                  I hate hearing about bad evenings, sorry it went so wrong but thank you for informing us.

                                  In addition to Chez Catherine (which is one of our favorite NJ restaurants) I strongly encourage you to also check out Le Rendezvous in Kenilworth. Not the kind of polished place that one would associate with great french food and it is not at all like CC but it is wonderfully small and the owner/Chef/all around nice guy is great. And it's a BYO...

                                  1. re: NJCheech

                                    Sorry that your meal was so disappointing, Cheech. Seems your experience is pretty much in line with what most others have said about Bienvenue. I find it especially dispiriting because French is our favorite cuisine, and it would be wonderful to have a really nice, cozy bistro with excellent food within a short ride of our house. Obviously, Bienvenue is not that great French bistro hope!

                                    Btw, your description of the lamb caught my interest because I just came back from my butcher and he commented that getting really good chops and racks is difficult right now because, as he jokingly put it, lambs have their "winter coats" on and, therefore, much of the lamb is, as you discovered, more fat and less meat.

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Hi RGR - Not to get off topic but where is your butcher? Always looking for a good place.

                                      1. re: angelo04

                                        angelo,

                                        The butcher I spoke of is kosher. I have been using him for over 30 years and, although I no longer keep kosher, there are still many items that I continue to purchase there. My guess is that that's not the kind of butcher you are looking for. For non-kosher meats, I usually use the special meat counter at my local Foodtown and less often, the one at Wegmans. Both are in Manalapan.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          With a name like Agwlo, you could surmise that I am not Kosher. However, my wife is a big fan of Murray's Chickens, evewn over Bell and Evans. If your Butcher carries them, please divulge. Thanks again.

                                    2. re: NJCheech

                                      Hey cheech, sorry about the bad experience, I have never been on a weekend, usually go on a Wednesday. I heard from two of your dining companions after dinner and they said it was...(searching fo a legal term) bad:(

                                      1. re: shorebilly

                                        Hey Shorebilly....just wanted to give my imput here on Bienvenue....first of all, the place was lacking in ambiance....(note to the owner- try putting up the music so that it's loud enough to hear over everyone talking in the the restaurant)...also, maybe for a party of 4, offer a table large enough to fit all four plates, etc. While I'm at it, maybe when a customer asks for their candle to be lit....don't tell them that you'll do it when you have the time....and hey, I like a dimly lit restaurant, by why don't you give us a large enough candle to be able to see the menu, this way I know what I'm ordering...oh wait,forget the big candle, that would take up too much room on the table...nix that idea!! OK, overall the food was average...have had much better, and yet much worse French food....

                                    3. Had a nice meal at Le Fandy in Fair Haven. A Thursday evening, my husband's birthday.

                                      We were treated to an amuse -- a tiny blue cheese beignet. Delicious.

                                      Appetizers: He had the braised snails on puff pastry. So delicious! I had a pureed wild mushroom soup. It was topped with parmesan foam. The foam was really fun. It was a swirl of cold whipped cream, like you see on a dessert, with a nice cheese flavor. It melted into the soup. Nice flavors and presentation. But I didn't love it enough to order again.

                                      Husband had the scallops entree with celeriac puree, citrus emulsion on apple slaw. Very nice. Big scallops, perfectly cooked. I ordered the entree on special and I really loved it. Cod on a bed of spinach, pureed potatoes, with garlic cream sauce. All the components were perfectly prepared. It's not often such a simple dish really shines like this one did. The fish was immaculate.

                                      Desserts:
                                      Oeufs a la Neige - baked meringue with chocolate mousse. To me, it was not meringue, it was marshmallow. It didn't seem baked, it was gooey and dense, not crispy. The mousse was rich dark chocolate. Again, it was dense, when you expect a mousse to be light. I was not crazy about this dessert. I have to say, I'm tired of getting desserts drizzled with sauce and sprinkled with stuff. They do that everywhere. In this case, it was caramel sauce and chocolate shavings. Sugar overkill! If the flavors are good, I'd rather have it simple.
                                      The other dessert was Chocolate Crunch -- milk chocolate mousse on wafers, with ice cream on the side. I loved this. It was like a kit kat, but really delicious.

                                      The bill was $105, before tip, for 2 apps, 2 entrees, 2 desserts. We didn't order beverages. Over all it was a really nice meal and I look forward to another visit to Le Fandy.

                                      FYI... they were promoting a 3-course prix fixe. $45. Tuesdays.

                                      Another thing I appreciate about Le Fandy. They have very good butter. My sourdough roll with butter was such a pleasure.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: val ann c

                                        Val - Please wish your husband a Happy Birthday from me. I'm happy that you both enjoyed your meal. Thanks for an excellent post.

                                        1. re: val ann c

                                          Val,

                                          Your reports are always filled with wonderful details, and this one is no exception. Glad to hear that you and the birthday boy had such a good meal at Le Fandy which is, of course, the place where you and I and our spouses "met" but didn't know it. lol

                                          Best birthday wishes to your husband from Mr. R. and me. :-)

                                        2. Finally got "up north" to Chez Catherine yesterday. We had to go to Newark and stopped by for lunch. I was very surprised by how small the place was, we actually drove right by on the first try. Thank god for GPS, we found it and I am glad we did. Really cute dinning room. The menu while very small did have several things we both liked. We started with escargot and the soup special a shrimp bisque, both very good and very hot. I hate being served warm or cold food that should be hot. I had seafood in puff pastry (being not french I could never properly spell the name of this dish) and my hubby had the duck leg confit. Both were very good! For dessert I had chocolate mousse (they were out of chocolate souffle) and hubby had a merange (I know I spelt that wrong). Again, very good! Our server was Stephen and very professional, yet quite personable too. I would like to get back there for dinner and try the tasting menu, yet it is an hour away from the house so that may be a while.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: shorebilly

                                            Thanks for your report, shorebilly. Chez Catherine has always been a favorite of ours dating all the way back to when it first opened in the early 1980's with the eponymous Catherine Alexandrou in charge of the kitchen. A very talented chef who, sadly, died several years ago. In those days, it was our splurge/special occasion restaurant. Fortunately, as the years have progressed, we've been able to go there whenever the spirit strikes us though it has been quite a long time since our last visit. I've noticed on the website that during this period, there has been a change of chefs. So, I'm pleased to hear that the food's still as good as ever.

                                            The current owner, Didier Jouvenet, was for many years a maitre d' at La Grenouille, in NYC, and he is an excellent host. He and his staff always provide cordial and polished service, and the main dining room, which has about 35 seats, is very comfortable with understated elegant decor. (Note: There are two other dining rooms, one upstairs, the other downstairs.)

                                            http://www.chezcatherine.com

                                            1. re: shorebilly

                                              Make it a point to go back for the tasting menu, it is excellent. Their escargot is sooooo good.

                                            2. This is way too far south for most of you most of the time, but I *heartily* recommend La Campagne in Cherry Hill. IIRC, it's a BYOB - at least, we brought wine. Perfect food, ambiance, service... and the fromage!

                                              I'd also love to know how they cultivate their giant, lusty, ridiculously healthy and fragrant lavender in the parking lot and up the walk. I live in the same climate and have a hard time growing it in the summer, much less getting it to come back year after year. Clearly, some French magic going on there. :-)

                                              http://www.lacampagne.com <-- website has directions & menu including prices, which IMO are quite fair

                                              -----
                                              La Campagne
                                              312 Kresson Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034