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Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield,NJ- has anyone gone? Other Options?

sixelagogo Dec 1, 2009 02:57 AM

We'll be heading to the Devils game on Saturday Night and wanted to try something new...Newark's Iberian concept of "more food is more better" does nothing for us but we want to be within a 20 min drive to the prudential center....
NYtimes gave the place a stellar review of the Orange Squirrel and, judging by its menu, it seems interesting. Problem is, I've been MASSIVELY disappointed by the restaurants given the HIGH thumbs up by the NJNYtimes reviewer in the past (Chakra- WTF? Nutley's Farm to Bistro -UberWTF? ). What's your opinion of the place and/or other suggestions for the area...

  1. r
    ryanov Nov 25, 2011 01:45 PM

    I have been. It's a good place. However, if you think that that is all you're going to find in Newark (Iberian), you are mistaken. There are a lot of options in Newark -- check http://www.newarkpulse.com for dining options.

    1. u
      ubuwalker31 Jan 30, 2010 01:43 PM

      Everyone loves squirrels. To most New Jerseyites, they are cute and inoffensive suburban woodland creatures that gather and bury nuts. They are the wildest animal that many of us see on a daily basis, and they represent our connection to nature.

      The Orange Squirrel restaurant idealizes the suburban woodland side of the squirrel. There are bags of peanuts sitting on the greeters table that you can win if you guess the number of peanuts in a glass jar. They have drinks named after squirrels. They serve cute squirrel chocolates at the end of the meal. It is a cute theme that is executed perfectly: the restaurant comes across as classy and fun without being kitschy.

      The Orange Squirrel was recommended to my fianc?e and I by a couple we know as a "reasonably priced restaurant with great food". So imagine my surprise when I saw $30 entrees and $10 soups. Apparently, even in this terrible economy, a $100 dinner for two is reasonable. Only in Baristaville, I suppose.

      A smoked salmon crepe was our amuse-bouche. It was very good, but surprisingly and unoffensively, fishy.

      Our first dish was a lovely kabacha soup which my fianc?e swore was the best she ever tasted. We also shared a delicious curry PEI mussel dish. My fianc?e found the mussels themselves to be tender and delicious, but the sauce to be underwhelming. I thought it was amazing. Reasonable taste buds can differ, I suppose. We also shared a goat cheese and baby beet salad was also to die for.

      The main courses revealed the squirrels hidden side, one unnoticed by most ordinary people who are disconnected to nature. Squirrels love raiding gardens and bird feeders and creating loud racket when they chatter to each other. Squirrels cause tremendous property damage by nesting in attics and causing power outages. And squirrels don't only eat nuts, they are also meat eaters.

      As we were waiting for our main course, the chef came out to an adjacent table to explain that the veal would not be served tonight because it was not up to his standards. He apologized prolifically as he explained that they had run out of veal earlier tonight. I thought to myself, "Hmmm...he just changed his story in the middle of his apology. Did he just lie to his guests?" He made it up to the table by serving a small pasta appetizer...the table did not look happy.

      Then our main courses came out. I had ordered the mint jelly lamb chops, which were very fatty, yet delicious. I realized after that there was no mint jelly served. My fiancee ordered whole Branzini, which was very tasty. The big disappointment were the side dishes. My truffle infused risotto was undercooked and flavorless, and we sent back a side because it was tasteless. It was replaced by mashed potatoes that had the consistancy of cheese soup. Boo...

      Like its namesake, the Orange Squirrel has a dark underbelly which takes away from a diners overall experience. The location of the restaurant, right off of the GSP in a commercially zoned area, leaves much to be desired. A view of a massive highway and a car dealership does not contribute to the overall ambiance of the restaurant. The space is cramped, mostly as a result of the poor choice of installing a full bar - I think that a better use of space would have been to add tables to service the 5 diners seated at the bar. The appetizers clearly outshone the main courses and sides. Undercooked risotto and mashed potato soup are not what I expect at a class act like the Orange Squirrel.

      We will visit again, but next time we will be sticking with sharing a few of the appetizers.

      1. t
        thinfoodie Jan 19, 2010 02:39 PM

        I give it an A-! Bronzini was great., amazing sauce. However, the bartender filleted it for me and there were still bones in it. The vegetables were unique and flavorful. Cheesecake was outstanding. Do NOT eat DIRT! Should have known better--bad name for bad dessert!
        Claustrophobics would not do well here!

        3 Replies
        1. re: thinfoodie
          f
          foodismylife Jan 21, 2010 09:10 AM

          u r quite right re dirt, did not love it but sitting at the bar and watching him do his genious stuff is worth it
          support this restaurant please they deserve it
          they really care
          just loved that branzino
          do not forget the hot cocoa made with milk
          dont need no stinkin dessert after that
          the mushroom tempura was swell
          and the house salad perfect
          i eat for free if you want a dining companion
          my wife and her girlfriend love this place

          1. re: foodismylife
            t
            thinfoodie Jan 23, 2010 02:19 PM

            I will support the orange rodent with pleasure! Any other restaurants you think are comparable? Casual, great food, fairly priced. It does not matter where.

            1. re: thinfoodie
              f
              foodismylife Jan 25, 2010 07:14 AM

              mr nino's harrison nj
              this [place is a find in a strip mall off of 280 in harrison
              easy free parking right in front
              nino does something called steakm italiana which is a chewy meaty toothsome stealk parm with great onion and peppers gravy and cheese on top
              his sicilian pie fresh only ask for the marty special fresh garlic cooked basil and then fresh basil afterwards is among the best in the state
              round pie aint too shabby
              order a personal as a starter
              fresh fish cooked to order
              very reasonably priced all entrees come with salad or cup of soup for less than 20
              see ya there

        2. j
          JohnF Dec 28, 2009 06:49 PM

          3 of us ate there tonight -very creative, good quality. Some portions good size, others small - little expensive, but good value. Room is small, noisy, limited staff. Whole Branzini fish great, polenta with mascarpone side dish very good, ravioli very good, octupus excellent, pot pie, very tasty, perhaps a bit thin but still large and filling, salads good, cheesecake exceptional.

          6 Replies
          1. re: JohnF
            g
            Gotweeedy Jan 4, 2010 09:13 AM

            Ironically, we had the complete opposite experience about a month ago which was a shame because our expectations were very high based on the NYT's very favorable review and word of mouth.

            The service was awful. Took over 30 minutes to get greeted and our drinks took another 20 minutes to arrive and they arrived at different times (i.e. her glass of wine first and my drink 5 minutes later) which I have never experienced at any eating establishment.

            The place was packed and the wait staff and the owner/chef were running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. Total confusion which to me is unacceptable given the price point and the fact that they have been in business for over a year already.

            The food was tasty but portions were extremely small. For instance I ordered a fish dish and when it came out it was on a plate only slightly bigger than a bread plate and it contained a very small filet and nothing else. I believe it came with one side but for a $40 entree it was a huge disappointment. My wife ordered the chicken pot pie which is suppose to be one of their signature dishes. It looked wonderful on the plate but upon closer inspection it was mostly filled with air and had little flavor.

            The only positive thing I can say is that the host/maitre d was very nice and tried everything he could to do damage control but even he failed.

            I would stay away from this place at all costs. Don't waste your money.

            1. re: Gotweeedy
              f
              foodismylife Jan 4, 2010 12:28 PM

              disagree completely, i am sure you haqd a bad experience but give it another try
              the trick for me is to eat at the bar
              this way it is quieter and your drink orders cant be screwed up because you are looking at the bar tender who is quite lovely and accomdating
              by the way i loved my branzino and it was huge and not expensive
              better luck next time

              1. re: foodismylife
                t
                thinfoodie Jan 4, 2010 02:27 PM

                Going there Friday night. Any other recommendations besides Branzino? Really looking forward to this place!

                1. re: thinfoodie
                  f
                  foodismylife Jan 5, 2010 05:58 AM

                  branzino is lovely served in a skillet
                  i like the mushroom tempura also
                  meats looked great and big enough to share
                  re the trick the room itself is noisy so we sat at the bar withe wife and her girlfriend
                  the bartender is someone special he makes awesome unusual drinks based upon your taste
                  it makes a lovely experience, he came saying if you dont like it you dont have to pay for it and he would make another gratis, what a nice guy
                  do not be afraid to go, this is a great restaurant and great food at fair prices, if you need company i am ready to be fed
                  enjoy
                  parking is easy by the way

                  1. re: thinfoodie
                    f
                    foodismylife Jan 5, 2010 07:44 AM

                    THINFOODIE
                    IF YOU'RE TREATING I AM EATING, I AM BRIOKE
                    SERIOUSLY HAVE A GREAT TIME
                    FOR DESSERT THE CHEES CAKE IS GOOD BUT THE HOT COCOA MADE WITH MILK NOT WATER IS OFF THE CHARTS
                    sorry for the caps
                    i never learned how to type and now too old to change

                  2. re: foodismylife
                    Curlz Jan 4, 2010 03:35 PM

                    Imo, if you need a 'trick' in order to enjoy a restaurant, there's a problem. I just keep hearing/reading the same kinds of complaints about this place!

              2. f
                foodismylife Dec 7, 2009 08:36 AM

                this is a great place
                the bartender oscar is a genius in the cocktail departemnt
                we wound up sitting at the bar and agte
                the small room can be noisy.
                started with the house sald which is wepp priced at 6 six bucks which proved to be better tah the beet salad as well as the spinach salad.
                the mushroom tempura id unigue and yummy nice dipping sauce also.
                my wife had the gnudi pasta small and nice but wouldn't do it again.
                my branzino was served in a skillet which was quite hot dont touch and kept the fish hot
                the size of the fish could easily be shared simple apt presentation with a lemon inside
                would definitely re-order.
                the free side of mac and chees was curly pasta and hit the spot.
                the cheescake dessert was between a mouse and juniors and well worth the calories.
                the meyers lemon tart was astringent and a palate cleanser.
                now the best part of the meal an off the charts superb hot cocoa for 3.50 order it made with milk and your stomach will salute you.
                the staff and the owner especially are lovely welcoming people with great attention to detail given and always aiminh to please.

                in these desperate times, these peiople give great value and please the palate.
                i agreet with the nyt don't miss.

                1. f
                  foodismylife Dec 4, 2009 12:44 PM

                  by the way i am going to the orange squirrel tonite with my wife for her birthday
                  her girlfriend who is local and whose opinion i respect raves about it
                  by the way mr nino's is quite reasonable

                  1. Curlz Dec 1, 2009 04:54 PM

                    Haven't been to the OS, but all I've heard and read about is how expensive it is. You can get one of the best burgers in the area or eat a full 3-course meal at Next Door on Bloomfield Ave in Montclair for $25pp (or a lot less) and it's BYO. Hockey attire wouldn't turn any heads there, but the food really is VERY good (same chef/owner as Blu but it's his casual place).

                    There's good brick oven pizza and Italian food at Regina Margherita on Washington Ave in Nutley, or you could pop in to the Shannon Rose pub near Target on the Clifton/Nutley border if that's more your style. From either of those, you can hop on to Rt. 21 and be at the Rock in 20 mins or less.

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