Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cafe Panache, a top New Jersey restaurant, is empty at lunch

The Fish du Jour on today's lunch menu at Cafe Panache in Ramsey was pan-fried soft-shell crabs served over crunchy Jersey corn.

My friend's Crispy Duck Vegetable Salad included roasted apples and grapes.


I finally met a friend for lunch today at the three-decade-old Cafe Panache in Ramsey, one of New Jersey's top restaurants, and we had the place all to ourselves.

The lone waiter said the restaurant seats a total of 67 in two dining rooms.

Cafe Panache doesn't have a liquor license, and can't rely on big profits from the sale of wine, beer and cocktails.

Lunch prices are what lesser fine-dining restaurants charge for dinner entrees.

I brought a bottle of Sangiovese red wine from Tuscany to toast my friend, who celebrated his 79th birthday on Sunday, and bought him lunch. 

A Mixed Green Salad with Olive Oil and Vegetables -- radish, grape tomatoes and beets ($5). I especially liked the tart dressing, which tasted of lemon juice.

Our gift from the chef, for my friend's birthday, came at the end of the meal: Guava Sorbet with fresh baby mint leaves. 

Duck salad, soft-shell crabs

My friend chose the Crispy Duck Vegetable Salad ($26) and I had the Fish du Jour, Soft-Shell Crabs over Jersey Corn ($23).

To start, I had a Mixed Green Salad with a pleasantly tart dressing ($5).

I enjoyed my food, but wonder why Cafe Panache -- to attract lunch customers in August -- doesn't offer the kind of two- or three-course, fixed price meal that is available at many of the best Manhattan restaurants year-round.

A few quibbles

When I asked the waiter the price of the soft-shell crabs, he said he thought they were $20. The hand-written check listed them at $23.

The warm rolls we were served were just OK. There was a large pat of butter on the table, and I had to ask for extra-virgin olive oil in which to dip mine.

I had mentioned we were celebrating my friend's birthday, but we declined dessert and coffee.

Then, the waiter brought us scoops of Guava Sorbet with fresh baby mint, a nice surprise, but the leaves garnishing my friend's portion were blemished with black holes.

Cafe Panache and the Saddle River Inn are the only Bergen County restaurants on New Jersey Monthly's 2014 list of the 25 best restaurants in the state.

The smaller of two dining rooms at Cafe Panache, which has fewer than 70 seats.

The restaurant shares a parking lot entrance with a strip mall.

The lunch menu at Cafe Panache. In July, Chef/Owner Kevin Kohler celebrated 30 years in business at the Ramsey restaurant.

Cafe Panache, 130 E. Main St., Ramsey; 201-934-0030. BYO. Free parking in lot.

Web site: Eclectic Dining in Ramsey

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please try to stay on topic.