The Pass - New Charcuterie/Restaurant in Rosemont, NJ
- ambrose May 3, 2013 08:30 AM
Can't wait to go to this place. It's in what used to be the Cafe at Rosemont, which was one of our favorite spots for Sunday brunch. The Cafe closed some time ago because of "issues" regarding unpaid taxes.
The Pass is apparently a charcuterie that is also a French countryside restaurant in the evening. The owner/chef is Matt Ridgway (of PorcSalt in Philly). The restaurant opened for dinner on May 1 and Sunday brunch is going to be offered "soon". The charcuterie is open every day except Monday
If anyone has been here, I'd love to hear a report.
We paid our first visit to The Pass this past weekend. It certainly shows promise as being a valuable addition to the Hunterdon-Bucks dining scene, a scene that has shown great strength with the addition of several new venues in the past year.
Located in Rosemont at the site of the (legendary) Cafe at Rosemont, The Pass retains much of the appearance of the Cafe, including the bookshelves lining the walls, the vintage lighting fixtures and the basic design of the cafe (enter through front or rear, kitchen and rest room in their same, familiar, locations, tables in basically the same distribution in the dining room as those of the Cafe.
The Pass features a three-course prix-fixe menu, priced at $38.50. The menu appears to be one that will change with the market. Since its May 1 opening, the menu features choices of one seafood starter or four meat starters. Similarly, the main courses include choices of one fish or two meats.
The service is attentive and friendly. At any given time, there are three servers on the floor. In addition, one sous-chef was seen delivering plates to several tables. So, a server is never more than a nod of a head or a wave away. The servers take a team approach: any one of the three will attend to your needs or deliver plates.
The meal started with a real treat, a feature I bet will become a signature for the Pass: a bowl of puffed rice-shrimp chips with an herb mixture sprinkled on top. These are delicious and a pleasing start to the meal.
We both started with the marinated mackerel served with scallion pancakes. This was the highlight of our meal, as the mackerel filets were tender and tasty. The scallion pancakes were not your neighborhood Chinese restaurant variety, but a rice-flour (The Pass makes an extra effort to please gluten-sensitive guests, as well as others with food preference issues) based crepe.
We continued with the Atlantic fluke in a brown butter sauce served alongside a seaweed salad. This was, in our opinion, the only weak link in our meal. Fluke is a very mild fish, demanding a distinctive treatment. Our fluke were just a bit bland for our tastes.
Along with the mains, we received two small dishes "compliments of the kitchen": a warm Romaine salad and a delightful bowl of Castle Valley Mills (Doylestown, PA) polenta. Would like to see the polenta worked into becoming a main course, perhaps topped with shrimp (I'm thinking of a New Orleans-style shrimp and grits).
For dessert, I chose the whiskey tart with honey ice cream. I recently had whiskey bread at a popular Brooklyn restaurant and became a fan. The tart similarly appealed to me. My wife had the rice pudding, which was well-executed.
Tables are close enough together to allow the predictable interaction among guests. Our neighboring diners were enthusiastic about the sweetbreads and the carbonara.
An acquaintance who dined at The Pass the same night as we did told me she was able to request a vegan meal for one of her dining companions.
Several neighboring tables were occupied by wine-savvy diners. A Chateuanueuf-du-Pape and a Chablis Premier Cru accompanied one table's meal, while a Cru Burgundy accompanied another's. (Our meal was paired with a Washington State Viognier and a Sonoma Pinot). It looks as if The Pass is attracting a wine-loving crowd (like so many other Hunterdon and Bucks restaurants, it is BYO).
We were generally pleased with our meal at The Pass and recommend it highly. As the menu changes, we look forward to Chef Matt Ridgway's take on other fish and seafood, but we hope the mackerel becomes a regular part of the menu.
Certainly worth a visit. I'm always reluctant to pass judgement on restaurants that are newly-opened, but The Pass did not suffer from any of the post-opening jitters some restaurants experience. Although the fluke didn't excite us, the remainder of the meal did and I'm still having memories of those shrimp chips, the mackerel and the polenta.
Hope your spring and summer will also permit you visits to D'floret in Lambertville and, if you're willing to drive a bit farther afield, Maize, in Perkasie (Bucks Co.).
Famdoc, thank you for the excellent, and thorough, review. We will definitely be going to The Pass soon though I must say I am disappointed by the limited menu.
We are also anxiously awaiting news about Sunday brunch. We used to go to the Cafe at least twice a month and still miss it. I was never impressed by dinners there but the brunch was outstanding.
Second visit to The Pass was every bit as enjoyable as our first.
Shrimp chips, salad and grits remain a part of the meal.
Menu changes weekly. The soft-shell was done in a chili-lime salt and served with red onions and cilantro, a sort of deconstructed banh mi. Silken tofu with pickled vegetables was a hit, mussel flan a little less so. Service attentive. Price about right.
Am I the only hound going to The Pass? Just had our fourth visit there and Matt and his kitchen crew are really hitting their stride. The menu changes weekly, so I can describe what I had this week, but if you go next week, you'll have a completely different menu.
The puffed shrimp chips with zattar spices are still part of the welcome at The Pass. I started with the white prawn/onion mousse stuffed zucchini blossom and had the lobster as my main course. The lobster was done perfectly..not a minute too long or too short. Finished with a blueberry pudding. Best meal there yet.
The Bucks/Hunterdon area now has at least a dozen fine restaurants. The Pass is at or near the top of that line-up.
Went to The Pass, or At The Pass, whichever, Saturday. If you have ever driven an hour for a meal, drive here if it takes even two hours. Beautiful ride through the country over the last covered bridge in New Jersey takes you to Rosemont NJ...and one of the reasons I love NJ Dining more than NYC. It's the thrill of the hunt, and when you find it, the pay off is golden. Read the reviews, this place has the pedigree and the goods. And...it is a BARGAIN. $38.50 prix fixe. Check out the menu, see what they are serving, and make the trip. Or don't. More room for us.
Near perfection is the best way to describe dinner here.
Everything written by coldbeer, famdoc and the print reviews linked above holds true. We couldn't say it any better, other than make your way here and return often!
Last night's dinner was a throwback to many dinners enjoyed in small rural kitchens in Italy, France and beyond. A chef with outstanding talents selects the best ingredients locally available and crafts a refined menu of outstanding dishes.
A new menu is posted online weekly on Weds and to us, there is no better way for a chef to keep his customers engaged and his cooking fresh.
We look forward to returning often.
Yes, this is a terrific restaurant. The food is outstanding and the value simply can't be beat.
My one disappointment is that they have decided not to offer a Sunday brunch (their FB page kept saying that brunch was coming soon). The Cafe at Rosemont was our go to place for brunch and we still miss it. I think this is a missed opportunity to bring back a lot of old Cafe customers.
They probably just signed on with Open Table, because I got this error message:
Your Request Cannot Be Completed
We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your reservation at The Pass. A temporary connectivity issue occurred between OpenTable and the restaurant's electronic reservation book. To look for other availability, please try a new search.
The Pass has fast become our favorite Bucks-Hunterdon restaurant. On Saturday evening, despite the cold weather and snow earlier in the day, the restaurant (and parking lot) was packed. Nevertheless, we were seated promptly and service was top-notch. This week's menu featured a roasted shrimp app served in a slightly piquant shrimp butter, topped with "sweet and sour" turnip, followed by a crisped steel-head trout. Both were excellent and servings generous. Our dietary exceptions (ie, no beef, no dairy) were taken into consideration by the busy kitchen and a delightful meal was the result. Matthew Ridgway is doing great things at The Pass and I'm particularly impressed by his ability to come up with a fresh, new menu each week. The Pass is a gem.
ever order something off a menu and when you're enjoying it you're wishing the more than ample serving was triple or quadruple of what's on the plate?
That was the game terrine we enjoyed here last night. Without question this ultra fresh and perfectly crafted terrine was simply outstanding. A testament to the skill and talent of chef Matthew Ridgway. Craving more of it now as I type this post.
J and I enjoyed an early dinner of the game terrine, lamb and tarte for me and portobella, tilefish and panna cotta for her. Standouts for J were the lobster and green onion tortellini served with her tilefish and the silky smooth, yet just firm, consistency of the panna cotta.
We couldn't resist taking home a lb of the red wine bacon from the charcuterie and it proved to be the star of J's homemade breakfast hash this morning.
Make any excuse you have to - bypass your local favorites and make the journey to The Pass.
Wow, that was the best meal I've ever had in the "Middle of Nowhere"!
OK, I guess the New Hope PA / Lambertville NJ area is not exactly the middle of nowhere. In fact it's a pretty cool place to visit if you like antiques, art galleries, or a quaint riverside setting. But it is true that I'm not used to finding cuisine "worth a 1-2 hours drive" that far away from the big city either.
The illustrious @PhillyFoodDude and I decided to meet up for an afternoon of hanging around Lambertville (somehow managing not to buy anything), and then headed over to Chef Matthew Ridgway's new BYOB in Rosemont NJ (10 min drive) for supper. PFD knows Matt, a Chef with strong credentials including Lacroix, but who most recently started PorcSalt, a charcuterie that supplies many notable restaurants like Café Boulud in NYC. But it was the recent NY Times review that really had our mouths watering:
Philly's Craig LaBan previously gave them a strong 2 Bell review, but particularly seemed to fault them for service, which in contrast we found to be a strong point:
Amusingly, at least 3 gallery owners in Lambertville hadn't heard about the new BYOB in town. But that didn't seem to be hurting business, since it looked like the 36-seat restaurant was on its way to doing 60 covers on a Saturday night.
The restaurant itself totally charmed me...a rustic former farmhouse (ex-Cafe at Rosemont) for which Matt couldn't have done a better job of preserving its history without coming across as too kitchy (we'll give him the benefit of the doubt regarding the "mascot" on the wall!). The barn next door is destined to become his enlarged charcuterie in the future.
After a quick tour of the modest-sized kitchen (loved the painted back kitchen door!), we sat down and started opening our bottles of wine. The tables and seating are comfortable, although there wasn't a lot of room on the table for 3 bottles and multiple glasses (I brought my own, but the house stems seemed serviceable). But the support pillar next to us had 2 clever metal wine coolers mounted on it, so this is definitely the 2-top to ask for if you are planning to bring a lot of wine.
The menu is a $38.50 3-course prix fixe with a choice of 5 apps, 3 entrees, and 3 desserts that completely change on a weekly basis. Between the two of us, and a few extra plates that the Chef kindly offered us gratis, we ended up trying the entire menu. Yes, that was a lot of food (and my diet has now suffered as a result!).
Conveniently, the website is always up to date on today's menu (and past menu's are archived), so it's easy to plan ahead what wines to bring.
~Chicken liver terrine, marinated sweet potatoes, pea shoots, black vinegar--a very nice pate if you love a strong liver flavor, but I think it got a bit ignored next to the venison
~Venison tataki (seared on the outside, rare in the middle), maitake mushrooms on a mushroom cream--This was my Dish of the Night, which was melt in your mouth tender and went wonderfully with the Cab
~Steelhead caviar rissole (a little pastry dumpling), lime dressing, baby kale--the salinity of the unusual Riffault, an almost orange wine, went well with this
~Soft amaranth, lobster & red wine salmis--another standout dish, I don't think I've ever had lobster in a red wine sauce before
~Farine and onion soup--Intensely oniony, this was Matt's take on French onion soup, but the melted cheese was on the crispy cracker rather than the soup
~Stuffed rabbit leg, chickpea fries, fermented black bean-escargot sauce--PFD's Dish of the Night, I love rabbit (grew up raising them), but am always nervous ordering because it is often over-cooked. But this wasn't...even more remarkable considering that it wasn't prepared sous-vide.
~Roasted lamb, sweetbread & sauerkraut ragout, whole-grain mustard--Another standout (there were a lot!), we actually received a duo of lamb, with some braised lamb loin just for us. Interestingly, the Riffault went really well with the sauerkraut.
~Tilefish, baby leek & carrot salad, satay sauce--My second favorite dish, the sauce made it, and it wasn't your usual Thai restaurant satay sauce, but a much more complex, thin sauce with just a hint of peanuts. Chef Matt spend several months working in Taiwan, and Asian influences seem to pepper his French technique.
Sides were fairly basic but good: Smashed potatoes, and cold roasted beets.
~Chocolate mousse bombe--As described!
~White wine tart--An unusual tart, made with Chardonnay and Riesling, this was my favorite dessert
~Tarte normande--A perfect version of the classic of apples, almond and custard. Matt told us the key is the Golden Rush apples he uses, which are locally sourced like most of the menu items (he gave us a couple of the apples to take home and try).
~2007 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Akmenine--an rare and unusual "natural" Sauvignon Blanc, that showed really well with about 6 hours decant
~2011 Cameron Hughes Lot 359 Riesling-Chenin Blanc
~2009 Stags Leap Winery Napa Valley Syrah
This was a last minute 5:45PM reservation, and they needed the table for an 8PM reservation, so with all this food we started to run over a few minutes. So we volunteered to move to the coffee tables at the front to finish our coffee (very good French-pressed Rival Bros). And who should be waiting for our table, but the delightful Deborah Scoblionkov, the former wine columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who obviously knows how to BYOB in style (last night: 1983 Bodegas Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único).
A wonderful evening at a BYOB that being only 45 minutes drive from my house (actually closer than Philly most evenings!) is sure to become a regular haunt. Service was excellent, although they were obviously busy, and Matt is a gracious and interesting host to chat with. He exudes a quiet confidence that his life and work are at just the right place now, and his cooking reflects that confidence.
Parking was pretty easy, with a small lot behind the restaurant (you can enter at the back or front, but I recommend the back so you can stare through the funky kitchen door), with some extra space on the side of the road across the street.
And don't forget to pick up some of PorcSalt's fantastic charcuterie on the way out (if it's good enough for Boulud, it's good enough for you), which is arrayed in a deli case up front. The red wine bacon is supposed to be great, but was sold out, so I had to "settle" for 6/10th of a pound of Margret Muscovy duck prosciutto, which is killer (I'm nibbling on it as I write this!). A variety of other delectables are also available at the front of the restaurant, including Rival Bros coffee, Matt's Dad's honey, and Douglas Dussault's Burgundy snails (the "snailman" who supplies Bibou).
Thanks to Chef Matt, Steve Schiavo our server (you may remember him from Lacroix and Fond), Steve's lovely girlfriend who was helping out for the evening (Matt's significant other also works there), and the rest of the kitchen for really going all out for us. While they did give us quite a few extras (it pays to know someone in the business like PFD), I can honestly recommend that this is a restaurant you really MUST TRY.
The Middle of Nowhere really can be as as good as anything we have in downtown Philly (as long as you don't miss the crazy taxi drivers, traffic jams, hipsters, and unplowed streets).
Another enjoyable visit to The Pass.
Matt Ridgway has fine-tuned his front-of-house and service personnel to make dining there an even more pleasurable experience. A new hostess welcomes guests at the entrance without delay and had no hesitation in seating guests. Service was even more attentive than ever, with two new faces on the floor and one very familiar woman whom we've appreciated as our server on prior visits.
What impressed me most about my most recent visit, at which I ordered the fish starter and fish main was the kitchen's ability to deliver perfectly-done, still warm food.
The rouget sat atop squid, two foods with different cooking times and potential for over- or under-cooking.
Both were tender and tasty.
Last night was our first non weekend dinner here and it's definitely recommended.
We arrived at 7 to a half full dining room and as it turned out, we were the last party to be seated for the evening. The resulting vibe was more like a dinner party with friends. Most guests lingered at their tables after dinner, enjoying their evening out. As the night was coming to a close, Chef Matt visited with everyone. Service was again superb.
This week's standouts are the tuna carpaccio, the beef cheek goulash served with ricotta gnocchi and the bostock arabella (almond toast).
... and the hits and wins keep coming, like the '98 Yankees!
Dinner last night, outstanding again.
If you're within an hour's drive or even further, put the Pass in your GPS (88 Kingwood Stockton Road, Stockton, NJ).
It's the best $38.50 dining experience in NJ.