The Capital Grille, a national steakhouse chain with about 50 locations across the country, recently debuted a bar menu. Essentially a reduced menu from the one offered to dining room patrons, it’s divided into categories such as plates to share, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and sides. What’s new though are a couple just-introduced dishes: seared dry-aged sirloin with sweet chili vinaigrette and wasabi oil ($15), very tender and full of beefy flavor nicely balanced with a bright chili vinaigrette, and cast-iron garlic shrimp served over olive-oil crostini ($18). Both of these new items are sized to be shared although I would have been quite happy with the sirloin as an entree.
You’ll find the same size salads, apps, soups, salads and entrees on the bar menu as you would on the dining room menu. If you’re looking for for a quick bite before visiting the Westfield Garden State Plaza’s AMC or after a long afternoon of shopping, the sandwich selections may be just the ticket. There’s a hefty signature cheeseburger ($18) or Maine Lobster roll ($21) which are sizable portions.
Flanked by two flat screens with a row each of bar and counter seating and a half-dozen tables, the bar still offers a more luxe feeling for patrons looking for something more upscale with table linens and a full bar. In fact, the bar menu has a number of hand-crafted cocktails to boot which explains the large groups of men and women mingling at the bar. On a recent Saturday night visit to the Capital Grille at Westfield Garden State Plaza, that was the case, making it a festive scene for couples and clusters of friends who chose the bar over the dining room as their destination.
Another desirable aspect of the restaurant is free valet parking for guests. Since this Paramus, NJ mall can be challenging to park in, this feature is very welcome.
Address: 1 Garden State Plaza Blvd, Paramus, NJ 07652
Open for 12 months, Roots Steakhouse in Ridgewood, NJ is Harvest Restaurant Group’s third Roots opening, with others located in Summit and Morristown. A classic old-fashioned New York style-steakhouse, Roots is a stand-out for multiple reasons, ranging from a luxe swanky club-like interior to excellent food and super polished wait staff under the watchful eye of GM Scott Hooyman, a young, capable gent who cut his teeth at Ruth’s Chris before joining the Harvest team, and the skilled kitchen leadership of Chef Jason Morey, a man who clearly enjoys running the show with precision and creativity. Chef Morey handpicks the menu each day and changes his specials weekly to offer peak season freshness in locally sourced produce. Everything made at Roots is prepared from scratch, including tartar, cocktail and steak sauces. This attention to detail and fussiness over ingredients shows. But the biggest surprise, and one of the most delightful aspects of the restaurant, is its tremendous value for the dollar. Menu prices are designed to keep patrons coming back and not view the restaurant as a special-occasion-only destination. With a menu that spans seafood, lighter fare and entree-sized salads, it’s easy to view Roots as a fine choice for leisurely lunches, weeknight dinners of grilled protein-topped salads and a modestly priced 10 ounce burger ($11.95) for weekday business lunches.
The Roots name came from the Summit clothing store of the same name, which was where its restaurant was first located. The restaurant offers a spirited yet classic selection of steakhouse standards updated slightly with Chef Morey’s whimsy and an enveloping upscale, yet not stuffy, ambience. At full capacity, the restaurant can be noisy. Impeccable detail in floor to ceiling decor and a formidable array of military-inspired artwork that reflects the owner’s veteran status adds to an ambience that is masculine without alienating women. A smartly outfitted bar area is elegantly old school with the welcome absence of flat screens that dominate most bars today. That lack of technology lends a sedate, grown-up feel free of the clutter of busy screens and more noise.
Roots’ 16 cooks are visible in an open glass-walled kitchen and 10 wait staff tend tables, all neatly clad in jackets. All butchering is done on premises and vegetables are sourced locally.Popovers and whipped butter are served upon arrival to whet the appetite. Appetizers on the lunch menu range from $6.95 to $22.95. From an excellent colossal lump crab cocktail and huge, nicely crisped crabcake to half-dozen salads that are abundantly portioned, crisp and dressed with well-seasoned dressings, lunch at Roots delivers on all fronts. On a recent lunch visit, about 80% of the customers were women, which speaks to the menu’s success in appealing to women. The lunch menu sports a larger salad selection with prices $9.95 at its lowest and $13.95 at its highest. All salads, from sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to a colossal iceberg wedge, comprised of two wedges topped with a lip-smacking Ranch dressing and smoky bacon nuggets, are enough for two to split or one to take home leftovers.
Fish is a big seller at Roots, I am told. Large portions, deft cooking and excellent quality make seafood options attractive, even if you visit hankering for beef, veal or lamb. Roots’ lunch menu has 19 different entrees ranging from $10.95 to $30.95 including spicy barbeque baby back pork ribs, lobster roll and swordfish steak. The dinner menu is more streamlined and steak and chops centric.
Roots is known for its slow roasted prime rib which comes in 12 ounce ($29.95) and 24 ounce ($39.95) cuts. Unfortunately, the kitchen had sold out before I arrived, but I am determined to enjoy this on my next visit and have been told to call ahead to reserve a cut of the roasted prime rib on the afternoon of my planned visit. However, I couldn’t have been happier with the prime strip steak (10 ounces wet aged) at $42.95, perfectly cooked and full of wonderful beefy flavor. All beef, available in wet and dry aged varieties, comes from cornfed cattle in the Midwest. Roots’ dry aged Kansas City styled steak was juicy with intense flavor. The three-pound porterhouse steak for two at $79.95 was well cooked with a delicious crust and quite tender. A variety of different sauce selections supplement steaks including its horseradish cream and Hollandaise sauces, all house made. Steaks can be prepared Oscar Style, topped with asparagus, crabmeat and Béarnaise sauce for an up charge of $15.
There are 18 different sides at $6.95 each. The grilled local asparagus is a top seller followed by lushly flavored creamed spinach. Creamy Brussels sprouts are toothsome thanks to chunks of smoked bacon and pearl onions.
The desserts, courtesy of Chef Denise Scanlon, all priced at $8.95, are presented in enormous portions and well-executed. Fabulous cheesecake made with ricotta was very creamy and light. Warm butter cake with a blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream is a cross between pound cake and tea loaf, at once delicate yet deeply rich. The desserts are offered alongside over forty different wines. Connecticut artisanal maker of gelato and non-dairy (sorbet) gelato, Gelato Giuliana, cover a wide assortment of flavors and are the perfect way to cleanse and freshen the palate. Roots offers loose teas at $3.50 that are freshly brewed at table side.
Roots offers an extensive wine list of over 100 different wines by the glass and bottle organized by region and type. Servers and the menu suggest pairings to suite palate and wallet. Staffers are knowledgeable working under wine and beverage director Vincent Comunale. This is a steakhouse in the classic tradition that is hitting many marks. Go hungry and go often.
Brasserie is defined as “an unpretentious restaurant that serves drinks and hearty meals.” Brasserie Brandman located in Park Ridge, New Jersey lives up to its name. The restaurant serves an American menu, many of the items informed by hotelier owner Steve Brandman’s personal favorites. Housed in a 100 year old home (formerly Valentino’s restaurant), the space has been restored and has a minimalist vibe spiked with Brandman’s collection of large Man Ray photos. Why would a successful hotelier open a brasserie when he’s got so much on his plate already, plus a wife and growing family in Saddle River to tend to? Turns out he’s a steak lover. His wife and kids are vegetarians. He needed a place to go for steak. He built one. That’s Brasserie Brandman. Brandman brought in Julie Farias, who held stints at several notable NYC restaurants, to serve as executive chef.
The polished, handsome bar has flat screens which show loops of Godfather parts 1 and 2 on mute. The dining room’s ambience is straightforward and understated. Yet the beauty of Brasserie Brandman is in the details. Like exquisite, delicate glasses for water and wine. Elegant Bernardaud candle hurricanes on each dining room table with sweet peas etched into them, flames dancing within. Half-inch discs of danish butter accompanying house-made Southern biscuits, which, while oddly cool in the center, were redeemed by a slathering of that creamy, super fatty butter and a generously sprinkling of the flake salt served alongside. Drizzled with local honey, which came in a small syrup dispenser, helped me forgive the cool interior. Brandman’s excessive attention to the small things, which makes a big statement about all that Brasserie Brandman is and has the potential to become, that’s compelling. Brandman is also a wonderful host and it’s clear he loves owning a restaurant as he circles the dining room and bar frequently, asking questions and making small talk with guests.
The menu’s selections speak to comfort and familiarity. Prices are on par with other Bergen upscale restaurants. Tempura Rock Shrimp, crispy fritters in a pleasantly hot sauce, was among the better choices and Chocolate Spare Ribs, a riff on BBQ ribs cooked low and slow and served with a glaze of Mole, were tasty, sticky and satisfying. Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice was our favorite, a smart melding of yielding, delicately flavorful flesh with salty, crispy rice crackers. Steakhouse Slab Bacon (pork belly) had intense flavor and a maple sweetened soy sauce to add further depth.
Selections in the mains section of the menu include a buckwheat crepe with vegetable stuffing, a variety of seafood options including bouillabaisse, pastas, local poultry, steak and chops. Veal Milanese with arugula, tomatoes atop made a beautiful presentation. A breading of something that resembled matzoh meal didn’t produce the crispy exterior I would have hoped for, but the meat (sourced from Pat La Frieda) had good flavor and tenderness. Skirt steak was nicely cooked with delicious beefy flavor. Spaghetti and meatballs scored with well-seasoned meatballs in spite of the pasta being cooked too long. Portions are good size. Hand-cut fries were meaty and toothsome and served with mayo for dipping.
Most desserts were unavailable due to our late arrival, but looked as thoughtfully chosen as the rest of the menu items. The chocolate cake we ordered, several layers of dry, inedible cake cemented by a nearly flavorless icing, was beautiful to look, defying gravity.
This is a new venue and my prediction is that the kitchen will work out its kinks in the coming months. I’d recommend the brasserie for quiet evenings out or dining with couples. It’s low-key enough for conversation and service is polished enough to keep a comfortable pace. The bar is ideal for dining solo and challenging your Godfather I.Q.