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May 29, 2011 11:43 AM

Went to Pairings in Cranford

We went to Pairings last night with high expectations. We've used thge owners former catering company "Clyne and Murphy" a few times and have had lunch there on a number of occasions and had always been happy. The new restaurant is very attractive, beautiful wooden bar (the restaurant iis BYOB), the lighting was good, the tables not right on top of each other. It started well. The price point seemed a bit high but we figured we'd wait and see what the meal was like. The apps were good, 4 crab cakes the diameter of a 50 cent piece w/a little salad - $15, 2 lacquered ribs - $10 and a beet salad (don't remember the price but it $10+. All in all it seemed overpriced for what we got.

Entrees, we we were stick in the muds. The four of us each ordered 2 of the same entrees. We had the horseradish crusted salmon which was served rare and was accompanied by charred brussel sprouts.
The dish was very bland but tasted very fresh.
The second entree we had was the Red snapper and scallop provencal with pea-saffron risotto. The dish was outstanding and more than any of us could eat.

The service was wonderful, there was a very long wait for our apps and then between the apps and the entrees and as I said to the table, "they certainly don't rush you here".

The total for 4 entrees and 3 apps including tax and 20% tip was $200.

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  1. We went here when they had their soft opening - I believe it was early February. We weren't overly impressed with the food. My husband's pork was rather bland and my gnocchi were just okay. However, the dessert we got was very good. We live right in town but haven't been back since that one time. I'm hoping they correct whatever issues they have so we can add it to our regular rotation.

    1. I finally got my friend who lives in Cranford over to Pairings for their Wed night prix fixe special...$35 pp for an amuse, 4 courses (including intermezzo), AND mignardises. I'll say up front that while I've met the owners before, I wouldn't be posting about it here if I didn't genuinely enjoy the meal and the experience.

      We got there on the earlier side and by 7pm, the restaurant was hopping. Choices for each course read well, and straddled the spring-to-summer season. The amuse was a mini quiche that was tasty but I had to think about it just now, so I guess it didn't stay in my brain once we got around to eating everything else. For my app course, I went with a wild mushroom soup that was silky smooth and just what it should be imo--liquid mushrooms! He had an 'island' caesar salad with coconut, mango, almonds, and, according to him, "Just the right amount of gorgonzola--I hate when it overwhelms everything." (Since he's TOTALLY not into food like I am, I refrained from saying "But it's GORGONZOLA--that's a good thing!" :-) )

      For the pasta course, he had gnocchi w/broccoli, tomatoes, and sausage. I had the fettucini marsala, which was rich but worth every calorie. And here I'll interrupt myself to say that when the pasta dishes hit the table, I said "OMG--and there are still TWO MORE courses? I'm never going to be able to eat all of this!" Our waitress and the runner promptly jumped in to say that they're happy to pack up any/all leftovers, which was great, as I only ate half the pasta, and half of my entree--and then got to enjoy them again the next night at home. That kind of service and attitude is MUCH appreciated by me, esp these days, when my appetite just isn't what it once was.

      The intermezzo was a melon ball-sized scoop of housemade cantaloupe/ginger sorbet. I'm a huge ginger fan, not so much w/the cantaloupe, but it was a refreshing and tasty palate cleanser, and just the right size.

      For entrees, he had sock-eye salmon over a very tasty corn and edamame succotash, and I went with the lamb sirloin over spinach and chick peas...hardly a light dish, but it was a stunning piece of lamb, and cooked to a perfect medium, as requested. The spinach was excellent; I wished I had more the next night!

      I'm not a sweet freak (I've been known to literally eat ONE bite of dessert or just drink something instead), but they had me at lemon and buttermilk ice cream, which came with a fruit salad of watermelon and a few blackberries. I wished I had skipped the fruit and had a double scoop of the ice cream, as it was just my kind of stuff! My friend tasted it and said "'s like a lemon shortbread cookie turned in to ice cream." This is NOT a bad thing! hehe He ordered the peanut buttter torte, which I gave points to b/c it wasn't sickeningly sweet.

      Coffee was v good and served in decent-sized cups, which is something I appreciate, as one of my peeves is getting a tiny (non-espresso, of course) cup of coffee.

      We were told that everything is made on site, including the desserts and ice creams, and even from the table, we could see some of the action in the kitchen, which does have an opening behind a 'bar' (no license: it's BYO)...I could definitely dine solo there and watch the 'show' or have a glass of wine while waiting for friends...

      The space itself is lovely; huge windows make you feel like you're dining al fresco, but without the car/train fumes :-) and although I was skeptical when looking at the (all-) wood chairs, they turned out to be very comfortable--and we were there for a couple of hours, as we intended on a leisurely meal so we could catch up. For those who are interested, the place was built with green intentions; not sure if it's LEED-certified or not, but my friend is an urban planner, and he was commenting on all sorts of things, including the waterless urinal (I'll trust him on that).

      And on that note, I'll say this--Pairings is well worth a trip, and if you can go during the week, the prix fixe is more than just a good deal--it's a yummy one!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Curlz

        Thank you very much for this informative, well written review. :-)

        1. re: Tay

          I agree. This definitely makes me want to give it a second chance.

        2. re: Curlz

          Was there last night for the Wednesday night tasting menu--some differences in the options, but quality and attention to detail and presentation is outstanding, and you can't make a bad choice.

        3. We have been three times now--the food is good to very good, but hasn't hit the 'great' mark. I do think the potential is there, though...hopefully soon!

          1. I was back again a few weeks ago, and our group of 7 had a great meal AND a great time. In addition to good food (some of it variations on the theme of my previous dinner, others new), whatever they're doing in training their floor staff is VERY right, imo. It's rare that I'm cognizant of just how good the balance is between knowledgeable and friendly, but I really feel like they're hitting all the right notes there.
            With the exception of one, none of the friends who came along are nearly as interested in food as I am, but every one of them declared it a terrific meal AND the prix fixe one of the best values you can possibly get in NNJ. Twice in a row I've taken home some leftovers as I just can't kill 4 full courses AND an amuse AND wine.

            1. I know that Pairings has been mentioned in other threads about Cranford and Westfield, but I thought it was time to give 'their' thread a bump... I was there recently for a small wedding dinner; there were 18 of us, and it was exactly what the brides wanted--something low-key, not fussy, but obviously an 'occasion' dinner. Pairings gave us one side of the restaurant for the first hour+ before starting to seat other tables (which was fine), but we all felt that we received the right levels of attention and service, and the food was terrific! We ordered off the regular menu (sans prices), which had been personalized (v nice touch, imo), and while I can only speak to the apps/entrees/desserts that I tried, I just felt like they've hit their stride in the kitchen.

              I started with the poached pear salad; my date had the arugula, which came w/fig and onion jam that was delicious, and thankfully, he shared. :-) For entrees, I had the duck 3 ways (pan-seared, lentil/quinoa side w/crispy duck, and duck fat fries on top. ALL good!! Next to me were the pork short ribs (and a totally cleaned plate). For dessert, I ordered the carrot cake just to get the pumpkin ice cream that came with it, and he had the apple strudel. Both were v good, but even the next day (yes, I took home most of the cake b/c I was so full by then) that carrot cake ROCKED. I'm not a sweet freak, so when I'm raving about a dessert, you know it was good!

              The restaurant was full and the energy in there great--if you haven't been yet, I think it's a terrific value (it's BYO) and they're putting out delicious dishes in a lovely but unpretentious atmosphere. My kind of place!