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Aug 16, 2012 01:36 PM

Pig and Prince - new Gastro Lounge in Montclair

VERY exciting news, imo...Chef Michael Carrino (formerly of Restaurant Passione in Montclair) is opening a Gastro Lounge in Montclair later this month/early Sept. There's a full article about it on the Baristanet site; here are a few excerpts, some of which have me swooning... :-)

"Chef-owner Michael Carrino, in creating a sprawling restaurant, with a gastro-lounge, tap room and huge dining space, has also brought back a piece of Montclair history in his thoughtful renovation of the long neglected Lackawanna Terminal.

Carrino, a past winner of Food Network’s Chopped who became a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs at age 28, conceived Pig & Prince as a place where everyone – families, couples and late-nighters can feel comfortable. “This is more my style,” says Carrino, of Pig & Prince, as opposed to his former, more formal Restaurant Passione.

About that menu: It’s an eclectic and approachable Modern American showcasing local meats and produce. Dishes include everything from Duck Duck Goose (duck prosciutto, duck rillettes and foie gras crème brulee) Spanish chili empanadas with chorizo and smoked sausage, fish and chips, spicy Korean lamb, to a sweet pea risotto with country ham and cracklings and a lobster tagliatelle that will “change your life.”

The kitchen, which faces Bloomfield Ave, has a pizza oven that Carrino plans to keep busy baking bread for the restaurant, as well as a glass curing room visible to diners from the tap room, where aromatic meats already hang seductively.

Carrino has plans for a beer club, wine club, special tasting menus and experiences with pairings, a butcher’s table, where you can dine in the kitchen an experience a meal “unedited,” and by next spring/summer, dining outdoors in a bordered patio.

And finally, here’s what Carrino intended with the name Pig & Prince:
"The funny answer- it represents the duality of man.
The real answer- it’s where the casual and elegant can co-exist."

1 Lackawanna Plaza
Montclair (under construction)

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  1. Looking forward to this. Passione was pretty good. Montclair is by far the best restaurant town in Northern New Jersey! Similar sized towns like Summit, Westfield, Ridgewood are not close.

    1. Wow, I can't wait to check it out! I wish they had their menu up!

      1. Did anyone get to P&P for the opening night(s)?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Curlz

          I'm invited to pretty every other opening (and I have to attend any), and i didnt get an imvite to the one I would have actually gone to. That's a no for me.

        2. We have 5pm reservations this evening and will report back!

          10 Replies
          1. re: gwh912

            Unfortunately, Pig and the Prince did not deliver.

            We wanted to love this place. A huge fan of places like the Breslin, the Spotted Pig and Jimmy No 43 in NYC, gastropubs and similar type establishments are definitely missing in the area, and the thought of one opening in NJ was more than exciting.

            To be fair, the space is BEAUTIFUL. From an architectural perspective, this may be the best space in NJ, and after sitting down, it almost felt like having a meal in Grand Central terminal.

            Unfortunately, however, the food did not deliver. We started with a Mexican cocktail with bourbon and "autumn spices", which was good, but nothing spectacular. The wine list appeared to be trying to be well priced and eclectic; with a few options from New Mexico and a Riesling from Finger Lakes; but I found the list to be lacking depth especially when looking for a nicer bottle. Not too surprising since it is a gastropub, but I was hoping for a few more choices to our liking.

            The beer list seemed stronger, with most of the usual suspects, but with 15-20 craft beers (Dogfish Head, Chimay, Troegs, etc....). The seasonality of a few of the choices suggested to us that some of this list would rotate from time to time which should keep the bar crowd coming.

            A quick side note before going in to the food. For whatever reason, there a lot of dishes on the online menu that were not on the menu we were given. Items like the Pigeon, the Duck Duck Goose and the Spicy Korean lamb were not on the dinner menu, leaving a few less options. That was fine, but recognizing the bar menu had some options that appealed to us, we asked to see a menu but were told (despite being seated right next to the bar) that it was not available in our section. Now, I understand in a packed restaurant not allowing patrons sitting in the dining room to order anything off the potentially less expensive bar menu - but we were the only diners in the dining room in the hour we ate, and this simple request, in an opening week, could have been honored rather than starting the meal on anything less than stellar foot. Not a big deal, but counter intuitive...

            We started with the Foie Gras, which was seasoned and seared well, but a bit chewy in the middle, leaving an inconsistent texture throughout. It was paired with melon and a cured meat (if I remember, it was prosciutto ) The cure and the foie competed for focus of the plate, with the melon providing a light and fresh break from the stronger flavors, but in the end, the prep didn't come together for me, although it tasted fine. The other issue we had with the cured meats (and all the cured meats in each course) was that they looked unappetizing - most were translucent and just appeared limp on the plate

            My wife had the pizzette with arugula, house cured pancetta and whipped ricotta. Totally bland - so much so, that we didn't finish almost half of it. It needed some acidity, some salt, some "something" to make it more than ricotta cheese and some dry arugula. The pancetta suffered the same fate as what was paired with my foie gras and was a far from impressive example of what cured pancetta could be

            My bourbon smoked chicken breast was actually pretty tasty, although it struggled from inconsistent seasoning, with some bites delicious and well balanced, and others inedibly salty. The potato rosti and carrots were fine, if not unmemorable. It could have benefited from some greens with some acidity on the plate to round out the dish, but all in all, it was the most successful savory dish of the night.

            My wife's corn risotto on the other hand was not, and in truth, was a total disappointment. With some house cured guanciale on top, the corn risotto was entirely one dimensional, with little to no flavor and grilled corn that in the heat of summer did not feel fresh and flavorful. The risotto itself was not cooked to our liking either, as it lacked the texture a true al dente risotto should have. She finished less than half of her order.

            Wanted to have a full experience, I opted for some dessert, especially when I saw "Donut Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Toast Crunch Ice Cream". This was my favorite dish of the night, and while the Cinnamon Toast Crunch needs some improvement, tasting more like Cinnamon ice cream with Cinnamon Toast Crunch crumbs around it, the Donut Bread pudding was delicious and helped round out an otherwise disappointing meal.

            WIth such a beautiful space, it is hard to not like the restaurant, but the food needs a lot of work to compete with some of the other restaurants in the area. I would return for some craft beer and to try some of the bar menu (and maybe some donut bread pudding) but would not go back for dinner for awhile, to allow them to find some momentum with the menu and hopefully improve some of the preps. I have heard great things about Chef Carrino and hope these are just some of the growing pains of opening a new restaurant, but I'll wait for some positive reports that suggest our experience was an anomaly, that we ordered wrong, or the food improved before returning for a sit down meal in the dining room

            1. re: gwh912

              Well that's a shame, but I'd probably cut the kitchen a little slack as they get their legs under them. I popped in with my wife for a drink last Thursday before heading to meet friends elsewhere for dinner. I had same bourbon cocktail and thought it was nice, but nothing I'd order again. I'll probably stick to beer there. We did sample the pizza from the bar menu - pistachio pesto, tomatoes and ricotta salata - which was good.

              Hey, it's great to have another option to get a drink in town! And the space is indeed gorgeous. I'm sure over the long haul it'll be another great addition to our town.

              1. re: harrison

                I'm looking forward to trying this place, although as noted it's best to wait before giving it any sort of critical eye. A restaurant can take months to find the groove, and weed out the unsuccessful dishes and servers.

                That said, the inclusion of PBR in cans is getting pretty old. Save your refrigerator space for something worth drinking.

              2. re: gwh912

                " We started with a Mexican cocktail with bourbon and "autumn spices", which was good, but nothing spectacular."

                Was that two drinks and not one? Looking at the menu, the Mexican cocktail is tequila based, as one might expect, and the Bourbon drink is essentially a Manhattan with a bit of spice, which sounds pretty good, if it's executed well.

                1. re: tommy

                  I was referring to the "Autumn's Breath" in my post - It's a little Old Fashioned, a little Manhattan...i probably wouldn't order it again. They used Makers. Bourbon selection is decent (although they list Jack Daniels there which may ruffle a few purist feathers!)

                  1. re: harrison

                    My question was directed toward gwh912. But that's OK!

                    Anyone who gets upset that Jack is listed under 'bourbon' on a restaurant menu needs to chill out.

                    1. re: tommy

                      Yeah - I think I remembered the name of the Mexican drink, and the flavors of the drink I actually ordered, which was the Autumn's Breath, that Harrison mentioned. Maybe I ordered one too many = P

                      To Harrison's other point, about cutting the kitchen slack...

                      I totally understand that a new kitchen deserves some patience which is why I stated, "I have heard great things about Chef Carrino and hope these are just some of the growing pains of opening a new restaurant" in my earlier post. I usually try to avoid being too negative when reviewing new restaurant, especially considering the blood/sweat/tears (and money..) that go into a new endeavor, and I do think that with some substantial changes, the concept and the space could perservere as a solid dining option long term.

                      That being said, the whole purpose of these online boards are to provide both honest feedback to fellow diners, and the tuned in chefs/owners/etc that are looking to improve. Having spent an hour in transit to go to the restaurant, I think a fair and frank assesment of how we perceived the dining experience as a whole is important to all interested parties.

                      1. re: gwh912

                        I stopped in just to have a drink. I did think spending almost $40 for 4 beers (with tip) was a little excessive for the location. It's not SoHo.The prices on the menu seemed pretty high as well and I'm skeptical that this place will generate a 'loyal ' following and honestly the nieghborhood isn't the sort that will be able to support it on a daily basis. It's definitly worth trying for dinner though. It's pretty cool inside and like someone said it's like eating in GC Station. It must be cold in there during the winter. The other plus is there is plenty of parking around it.

                        1. re: bifpocaroba

                          What's wrong with the neighborhood? It's close to Montclair, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, West Orange, and not far from the Parkway. Look at The Orange Squirrel. That place seems to be doing well, with a following, and it's in a somewhat less desirable part of Bloomfield Ave.

                          Not sure if the prices on the menu are accurate, but bottled beers are $5-7, and tap beer runs $6-8. Bud is 5 and the dreaded PBR is 4. These prices seem somewhat reasonable regardless of the neighborhood, but could be about 75 cents cheaper.

                          1. re: tommy

                            You are taking a broader view and missing the subtle Montclair classism. Pig & Prince's location is where demographics begin to change. If the dowager countess lived in Upper Montclair, she would not hang out at Lackawanna plaza.

                            My review: Space is beautiful, cocktail was decent, bar food was forgettable. They do not have glenlivet or a reasonable selection of irish whiskey.

            2. Bumping this up to ask...does anyone else have a more recent report? Was thinking of going tonight, but seeing *Taziki* on their menu (I suspect they mean tzatziki, so I'd like to once again offer chefs my editorial skills in exchange for good eats) + the entree prices ($19 for a burger?!?) doesn't exactly leave me inspired to do so.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Curlz

                You could always order the ubiquitous "Ceasar salad!"
                Yet to go to this gastropub. But it sounds entertaining if iverpriced.

                1. re: scarlet knight

                  I've been here about 5 or 6 times so far. I wanted to like it but something about it just doesn't click. When I walk in and see the staff all grouped together chatting at the end of the bar , or staff out in front smoking (at least go to another spot besides the doorway) . Another time bartender was in a real pi$$y mood and obviously in a battle with other staff. You need to hold that stuff and so customers don't pick up on it. To be honest for the prices you pay the whole scene is a bit odd. I think my problem lies more in the bar scene , it just seems unprofessional, imo. We ordered a specific drink three times I was there and all three times it was made differently. I did have the flat bread appy and it was very good.

                2. re: Curlz

                  I went 2 weeks ago and had a horrible experience. It took forever to get drinks, the mussels were inedible and very fishy, and I think what really bothered me was the fake souffle. If you don't know how to make a real souffle, call it a warm chocolate cake. Even for a warm chocolate cake it was cooked too long. That being said the lobster pasta dish was pretty good, and the space was beautiful. I dont believe this restaurant has even had an opening yet but still trying to figure it all out. I hope they get their act together. I would love to see that area pick up.