Valentine Saturday night 3 couples 8 PM – quite a test for a two week old establishment.
Greeting at the desk was swift and courteous…our party arrived together and we were quickly walked through the wood and leather dining room to a large corner L shaped leather booth with full armed chairs seating half of our group.
The room is done in dark wood floors, polished mahogany walls interrupted by framed posters of 1950’s catalog advertisements leading to a large mural. It is teh center of teh decor and it is hand painted and a cartoonishly colored picture of a raucous evening out with tie loosened men and bodacious women boozily looking to arrange post dinner fun. It is certainly a male “clubby” feel and the large leather booths surround four, six and eight tops with crisp white table clothes and shimmering flatware and crystal. It was great to watch the severs and busboys collective set up tables and polish each glass and set of flatware, an attention to detail I hope does not fade as time goes by.
The place is packed, noise spilling over the wall from the long bar but plenty quiet enough for easy conversation across the long booth table. Diners mainly in their 30’s and 40’s were dressed much more casual than the surroundings call for, jeans and shirttails hanging out all over. It is couples night but not too many around, until we notice the small private dining room in the back has been taken up by 6 two tops in a couples club room staring out on the busy main dining room through window panes, looking much like a group of children’s tables observing the main dining event outside.
Servers are clad in tan kitchen jackets a la The Capital Grill or Smith & Wollensky’s and presented us the large single sheet of paper menu as they take cocktail orders. Drinks were big and bountiful and service crisp. Drinks arrived before the menu can be fully read, a small slip of specials have special wines on the back, the main menu a large sheet of wines printed on the reverse side.
Menu is what you would expect at a steak house, Raw bar and fish appetizers, chowder and soups, wedge and other salads, six cuts of beef, 8 oz filet, 16 oz strip, etc. Salmon, swordfish and halibut offering from the sea along with Lobster described as being in limited supply with prices on request.
I solved my wine challenge from the previous week at Nicholas by taking a chowhound suggestion and announcing while I was not drinking this evening I would like to select a special wine for all to enjoy. Everyone accented and I dove with gusto into the wine list. Selected a magnum of2004 Philip Togni wonderfully priced at $319 ($239 retail, discounted sometimes to $209 but a remarkably small markup for an excellent wine.
Wine list has a good range and a full selection of opus, insignia, caymus and all the quality California regulars. Pricing is high on the lower end of the scale (a Blue Rock cab for $68 2.5x retail), but much like the Togni magnum we ordered the higher priced wine have the lower the markup. Our wine is decanted in expert style and beautiful Riedel Cabernet glasses are set. My wife tasted it without any fanfare and everyone was pleased by the choice.
First courses were presented quickly, but not before warm popovers were delivered, crunchy tops and eggy interior,a taste not wanted by all, but loved by most.
Starters came on a wheeled cart to our booth. Each table has two severs assigned, one who takes orders, one who checks on things and the black dressed bus people wheel in the carts. The carts are elegant and draped in crisp white linens. Highlights included the arugula salad in a cider vinaigrette that was served on a square plate, in each corner a candied walnut and small slab of blue cheese. There must have been a half pound of arugula on the plate and it could have easily served a family of four. The dressing was tart and perfectly matched to the arugula. The heirloom tomato salad looked a bit out of season and half was left over without any takers, the oysters and crab cocktails were never offered for share and disappeared very quickly.
Dinner service was perfectly timed, the same cart brought all the steaks cooked just to desired temperature, they had a charred coating that signified a very, very hot broiler in use back in the kitchen. The salmon eater was please, the huge piece of fish had a crispy top and a lemon drenched emulsion that the diner mopped up with some of the potato side.
Side dishes were incredibly impressive. The Baked Potato looked like something from “the Land Of The Lost”, it was the size of a Nerf football and given its own terrine of butter and an offering of bacon bits, sour cream, chives and cheddar cheese. The broccoli was crisp and firm with tons of slices of roasted slivers of garlic, French fries well done and stacked in a copper pot around wax paper.
A white flag was raised well before the desert menus were presented as we could just not eat one more thing and we left a pile of food behind that could have feed another 6 people. The manager stopped by to supervise the delivery of our treasure trove of take home paper bags (all take home containers were environmentally sensitive) and told us that each group had a butter pound cake desert placed in our bag compliments of the establishment.
Eating the desert yesterday I vowed to really minimize my intake at our next visit to Roots as the butter cake was one of the best I had ever tasted, with blueberry’s and fresh whipped cream it would be just delightful.
Overall I would highly recommend this steak house as an equal if not superior to the Ruth Chris, Arthur’s and River Palm Terraces in New Jersey and maybe even if the crowd was a little more hip as an alternative to heading to New York or Brooklyn. It certainly is one of the best new places to open in Morristown since Copeland and it will be a tough table to get for a while at least. The most impressive part is they did all of this with 2 weeks of experience, but we noticed many staff members from 3 West, Roots in Summit and other members of their corporate chain in attendance, working extremely hard to make this right.
And it worked!
Blue Rock Cafe
522 Amboy Rd, Keyport, NJ 07735
665 Martinsville Rd Ste 101, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
River Palm Terrace
41-11 State Highway 4 N, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410