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Best molecular gastronomy in NYC is in Montclair, NJ at Adara! [moved from Manhattan board]

StevenCinNYC Dec 11, 2011 09:51 PM

Please excuse me for being off topic, but this place is good enough and close enough to be here.

Plus, at least during the week, it's accessible by train from Manhattan, straight shot by train, just across from the station. It's that easy, but not on the weekend because that train line (Boonton) that stops at Walnut St. in Montclair doesn't run (another one does, that goes to Bay St, a bit further away, does).

I went today to visit friends who live in Montclair and had a really great, innovative, and exciting meal. I have a very low regard for WD-50 (all intellect and pretense, no sensuality) and totally miss Tailor. Corton is very innovative, but is overdone with and super expensive. Dovetail is wonderful and innovative, they deconstruct, but they're not really molecular. There was a great place in Seattle called Veil, but, like Tailor, it closed. I don't want the same fate to befall Adara, especially since the chef's next move is likely to be a spot in NYC!

Adara is small and personal with great, exciting food. It's unpretentious, not too expensive, and the best molecular gastronomy in the area.

They have several menu options
A la carte
3-course ($59)
5-course ($79)
7-course ($105)
12-course ($165)

We had the 5-course. There were 5 of us, my friends and their two kids who are 7 and 4. I want to point out that these kids are exceptional, and others their ages might enjoy the menu as much as they did. That said, the restaurant was very gracious and kind to them.

I've pasted the whole menu below, but there were also multiple amuses which were like courses on their own. These included
Umi amuse with hickory smoke, umi lobster espuma and umi ice cream
(the smoke is trapped under a glass that is hollowed out on top with espuma, ice cream underneath the glass)

Keffir lime donut hole, mango sponge, white chocolate lime ice cream, lavender gel, mango sauce. The dessert amuse! This was absolutely incredible--probably the best dish of the whole meal.

There was also a banana bread with white chocolate shavings and a cream cheese sauce.

There may have been another amuse I missed here.

I also have to mention their "brioche" which this yeast-less bread that they make with nitrous--it's fun and doughy and yummy with butter.

The whole meal was great.

I didn't try the clam chowder, but my friends enjoyed it, and one of the children really loved the quail egg and doesn't want chicken eggs any more!

The suspended melon gazpacho was more than thick--it was in a firm sake gel. The flavor was very good, the texture was a little unsettling, but it worked.

Campania didn't work too well. I thought it was the weakest dish of the night, but even so it had some redeeming qualities. The evo gelato--olive oil as I recall--was the best part. The problem was the mozzarella which, in order to inflate as a balloon, they soaked in water which left it rubbery, but it was also bland mozzarella, I don't think it would have tasted so great even prior to the manipulations.

Natura Mia was a great salad. The interesting highlight was the marshmallows.

I didn't get to try the White Truffle Envelope, but the vanilla lobster was great. The vanilla butter sous vide process imparted a very nice flavor though the completion of the cooking process left the meat a bit chewy (not as good as Nana's in RTP where they using a béchamel cooking medium to keep it moist and tender).

The sea scallops were very flavorful. The filet was really great. The sous vide had the greatest impact here--incredibly flavorful, tender--we ordered it rare, and it was great, though the chili sauce was too spicy for me and the kids.

We ended up trying three desserts, all of which were great, including the cucumber sorbet (really!). My favorite elements in the desserts was the tahini ice cream in the cranberry almond dish.

I don't think I've really done it justice, but it was a great meal. We all loved it and wanted to go back, young and old alike.

Adara
http://www.restaurantadara.com
77 Walnut Street Montclair, New Jersey 07042
(973) 783-0462

5 course

first

ne clam chowder
quail egg/masago/maple pancetta/deep sea win

suspended melon gazpacho*
sambuca/almond cream/herbal varietals/sake

second

campania
heirloom tomatoes/mozzarella "balloon"/evo gelato/basil

natura mia
nasturtium/hearts of palm/savory marshmallow/aromatics

third

white truffle envelope*
hudson valley foie gras/kumquat mostarda/pomegranate/pistachio/cappuccino

vanilla lobster
champagne/baby fennel/corn/umeboshi

fourth

acqua di gio*
sea scallops/baby octopus/peas and carrots/bacon/chaat

filet anti cucho*
purple potato/manchego/porcini soil/avocado

fifth

bittersweet chocolate orb
chevre/black cherry/violet/orange blossom nectar/smoky cocoa nibs

cucumber shiso sorbet
warm matcha sponge/yuzu ginger/basil seeds/shiso

79

We ordered an extra dessert:
sesame and cranberry
tahini ice cream/halva soil/ black sesame

They also have these great Mocktails (Tulsi is the best/most interesting):

zengria
green tea/lemongrass fizz/kava kava/yuzu cotton candy

vudu snafu
red verjus/strawberry/grenadine/blood orange granita/tropical punch effervescence

tulsi
coconut water/basil/galanga/mango/lychee caviar

bahamadia
iced hibiscus tea/rasberry ginger beer/bay leaves/sugarcane/ginseng/vanilla/pineapple

bloody maya
meyer lemon lassi/tomato rasam espuma/celery

lady grey
iced earl grey tea/vanilla cream/lavender vapor/carbonated grapes

nude buddha
sparkling asian pear/fennel/ginger mint/egg white/jasmine bubbles

8

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  1. StevenCinNYC Dec 11, 2011 10:04 PM

    I left out the eggplant amuse which was pretty much a typical miso eggplant that you might have in a Japanese restaurant--cute little baby eggplant, but it was a little chewy, and the sauce was too sweet.

    I also left out the tea service which interestingly came with a tea timer that had three strengths. They also gave us extra pop rocks for the kids (they came with one of the mocktails, the first photo).

    Finally, the photo of the umi amuse doesn't do it justice. Sorry, but it the remains of one and the other had already been disturbed and then put back together for the photo, so the smoke was gone, and the pea shoot had fallen.

    I really feel like my report doesn't adequately convey how great it was. I guess I tend toward understatement, but it really was extraordinary, and like nothing you can get in NYC. It's much closer to the molecular gastronomy I've experienced in Barcelona. I miss that--haven't been in five years after going about a dozen times in the prior five or so years. I never made it to el Bulli, but I'd been to restaurants run by disciples of Ferran Adria in Barcelona. This meal reminded me of meals I'd had there, especially the originality and sensuality of the food, but also the convivial atmosphere. Philip, the manager, made us feel very welcome, and his explanations of the food brought the menu to life.

    I hope that's a little better!

    12 Replies
    1. re: StevenCinNYC
      f
      fourunder Dec 12, 2011 05:28 AM

      Very impressive review....thanks for sharing.

      1. re: fourunder
        StevenCinNYC Dec 12, 2011 06:14 AM

        Thanks! The moderators moved it, but they said I could put a Pointer Post up in NYC so I did.

      2. re: StevenCinNYC
        r
        RGR Dec 12, 2011 11:06 AM

        I have avoided going to wd-50 because I'm not particularly interested in science experiments on the plate. I do, however, love Corton. We recently had a sensational dinner there. By NYC standards, I would not call $115 for 5 courses + amuses + mignardieses "super" expensive.

        I'm not totally against molecular gastronomy so long as ingredient combinations aren't extremely weird (at least, to me), and the result is delicious food. For example, all upscale restaurants in NYC use the sous vide method, and the results are meats and birds that are extremely tender, juicy, and flavorful. And, of course, foams are ubiquitous.

        Regulars here know that we split our time between NJ and NYC. I'd not heard of Adara before you posted. Prices are very much in line with those at other upscale NJ restaurants like Nicholas and The Peacock Inn, which is as it should be. After reading your review and looking at the photos on the website, I'm very intrigued and have put Adara on my NJ "go to" list.

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        1. re: RGR
          StevenCinNYC Dec 12, 2011 11:22 AM

          I'm very pleased to hear back from you as I'm a fan of your postings and share your love of EMP.

          My experience of Corton was based on ordering the most expensive tasting menu with a truffle supplement--that ended up being pretty expensive, I think the total for two with maybe one glass of wine was around $500, but I can't say for certain at this point. It was about 8 months ago. The food was very interesting and mostly enjoyable, but our service experience was not.

          I didn't realize that people split between NY and NJ--very glad to hear it, and in particular that my Adara posting may influence you to give it a try. I want to support them and would love to know what you think of it.

          1. re: StevenCinNYC
            d
            dock Dec 12, 2011 11:34 AM

            after reading the mostly negative review in the nyt, was it bruni's column?, i had no interest in this restaurant. i have been to wd50 and alinea and was underwhelmed by the food at both. although alinea was an experience i would suggest for any foodie. one of the highlights there was the wine pairings. i see that adara is a dry restaurant and the site has nothing about byob. any incite? also, how long was dinner? i expect like the ss minnow, a 3 hour tour.

            1. re: dock
              StevenCinNYC Dec 12, 2011 12:02 PM

              Yes, BYOB--I believe that all restaurants in Montclair are BYOB (something about the local laws). Seems Bruni mentioned the place and interviewed the chef. David Corcoran gave a vague review (which he said wasn't a review) that definitely had a negative tone, but it was odd--said the food was too caloric and mentioned the mozzarella dish as I did, but didn't highlight much in the positives column. Seemed a bit slanted and non-specific to me. I hope that they get a real review soon, but also that they eliminate the mozzarella balloon which people seem to agree doesn't work.

              1. re: StevenCinNYC
                tommy Dec 12, 2011 04:25 PM

                Not all restaurants in Montclair are BYO, but for the most part, any non-licensed restaurant in NJ allows BYO (only beer and wine, technically, not spirits). Just an FYI for our NY friends.

                A MG restaurant opened in Hoboken some years back (I want to say 2004 or so) and quickly closed. I don't think Hoboken was ready to support this type of place, and I'm curious if a few years and a few miles are going to make a difference with this place.

            2. re: StevenCinNYC
              r
              RGR Dec 12, 2011 12:07 PM

              I'm very flattered to learn that you're a fan. :)

              I don't know if there are others who are as fortunate as we are to have a house in NJ and an apartment in Manhattan. But there are many Jersey Hounds who do dine in the city.

              The 9-course tasting menu at Corton is $155, which is relatively reasonable compared to the cost of tasting menus of similar size at other upscale NYC restaurants. Of course, when you add the significant supplement for white truffles (as is the case in other upscale restaurants) + wine, tax & tip, the cost does mount. When we do tastings, I drink very little, so my husband always does pairings.

              We had perfect service at Corton. I'm curious to know what problems you encountered.

              After I posted, I took some time to look at the menus. Great that they offer a big selection of "virgin" cocktails. I'm inclined to go with the 7-course because it has some options that interest me which are not included in the 3- or 5-course. But we shall see. I also looked at the video of Tre's appearance on the CBS morning show (I don't watch morning t.v.). We've experienced the g.m. technique using nitrous oxide with regard to cocktails. I'm looking forward to having a dessert prepared that way tableside. When we go, I will definitely report back with, of course, photos.

              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              1. re: RGR
                seal Dec 12, 2011 01:34 PM

                Lol. I had the same reaction and am also putting this place on my short list.

                1. re: seal
                  StevenCinNYC Dec 12, 2011 02:00 PM

                  Super! Glad to hear it. I hope you enjoy and am looking forward to hearing your impressions.

                2. re: RGR
                  StevenCinNYC Dec 12, 2011 01:59 PM

                  That totally accounts for the Corton costs ($310 + $80 for truffles + a drink + tax/tip = ~$500).

                  The service at Corton was rushed and uninformative on my visit. They brought the dishes which were very complicated and had many different elements, and then identified one element and then ran off. Sometimes the runners had such thick accents that I didn't even know what they said. More than at any other meal, I really felt like I needed a roadmap to each dish, some of which had 12 different components on a couple different plates. It was fun that they would do a presentation, plate, sprinkle, pour, and crumble onto the dishes, and much of it was really good, but most of the time, I had no idea what I was eating. Based on your experience, maybe mine was an off night, but I really felt lost and overwhelmed throughout the meal (not my usual state of mind, particularly at a restaurant!).

                  I don't drink either so the mocktails at Adara were great for me. The best for flavor was the Nude Buddha--interesting and yummy with the fennel predominating, but the Tulsi was the most fun experience (you mix it and then it's got bits of galanga and lychee caviar that leap up the straw into your mouth, plus there's a foam on top).

                  We didn't experience any tableside preparations at Adara, but that would have been fun. The service was very engaged. Very much looking forward to your report!

                  1. re: StevenCinNYC
                    r
                    RGR Dec 12, 2011 02:53 PM

                    I can fully understand being overwhelmed by the complexities of Liebrandt's cuisine. Our servers did take the time to explain the different elements with only one instance of a server whose accent was a bit too thick to be fully understood. Not that it bothered me much. This was our third time at Corton and to be honest, even with the explanations, I've always ended up feeling that aside from a few ingredients, I really didn't know exactly what I was eating, but it was all seriously delicious. Since that to me is the ultimate bottom line, I don't get too worked up or feel at sea if I don't know all the ingredients.

                    I did have my eye on the Tulsi though I'm not sure about having little pieces of this or that leaping into my mouth. Looking again at the Nude Budha, its combination does sound good.

                    In the video, Tre was asked if the pumpkin dessert he was demonstrating is prepared tableside, and he answered that it was. I think that t.v. appearance was in October. That dessert is no longer on the menu, and maybe the current ones don't involve the use of nitrous oxide. Every time I've watched it being used, it immediately made me think of the three witches' lines in "Macbeth."

                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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