The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield NJ
IMPORTANT NOTE: This visit took place in November 2013, I learned just yesterday that as of March 2017 they have closed. Such a shame. This was great cuisine prepared so well at a fraction of the fancy city prices. If any one knows where the chefs and owners have migrated to, please email me so I can pay them a visit where ever they are cooking now.
In an odd place on Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield NJ there is a small, unassuming restaurant called The Orange Squirrel. Noted only by a sing out front of an illustrated squirrel, the inside is also nothing fancy or striking. Until the food starts coming out. Then it is the most amazing culinary experience anyone can have, at least it was for me. Often people talk about what their last meal would be if they were on death row. Godfather of the Gambino Family, Big Paul Castellano, walked out of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan and was whacked by John Gotti (allegedly, of course). If you have to go like that, what a way to go. For me, I think this would be it. I could walk out of The Orange Squirrel and be so happy I would not care if it all ended there.
I am not easily impressed by hipsters who know how to cook and cater to all the current trends. But this place was a team of people passionate about their food and it clearly shows. Nearly every plate was perfect, if not perfect, incredibly delicious. Its rare to get a perfect meal, from beginning to end. Usually there is something that just does not quite click, whether it be a flavor, concept or even if its properly prepared. This was perfect, and the only other place I can say comes close would be one of the restaurants from the Batali/Bastianich like Babbo or Del Posto. Even still, at a fraction of the price, this is something you really can’t pass up.
I don’t know where to start, but I guess we can start in the order the food arrived. Their signature nibble comes out, the Squirrel Nuts, accompanied by their homemade ketchup. When everything even down to the condiment is extraordinary, its going to be an incredible meal.
The first course was a pleasant surprise. They don’t serve appetizers, or what you would typically call an appetizer, but this was a great start. The ketchup or catsup, however you wish to spell it, was more tangy, less sugar and clearly better than anything out of a packaged bottle. If you think that buying it is easier and don’t want to take the time to make your own ketchup, try it just once and you will never spend another dime on anything with corn syrup in it.
Next was a duck pate filled tortellini with pomegranate seeds and microgreens with a caramelized onion and sauce reduction topped with fresh grated cheese. Delicious, a perfect bite.
I’ve heard about their meatballs, and quite frankly, like any Italian, I feel my mother’s were the best and mine are second best, and that is never going to change in my lifetime. But the one thing I was never able to master was how my mother got that dark golden caramelized outer crust that sealed in all the juicy deliciousness. Well, I found it and I hate to be dramatic, but I almost cried, literally, I have not eaten a meatball like this since my mother made them before she passed away.
These veal meatballs were incredibly delicious. I am not sure I needed them topped with white cheddar and goat cheese, but the meatball itself stood up to any meatball I’ve ever tasted. Along with that, there was the Duck Confit Raviola. For those who don’t know, ravioli is more than one, but a raviola is singular. Either way, once you cut it up, its easily enough for two.
What you see above is two perfect sheets of hand made pasta with duck confit (dark meat) inside with baby sweet peas, caramelized cippolini onions, beet greens, duck jus and topped with grated Grana Padano cheese from Italy.
Celery Root Puree does not sound like something I would order or enjoy, however, the presentation alone is enough to entice me. Its potato, truffle, chestnuts and pistachio oil, and it is incredible. I would say this is my new favorite soup, but its not quite a soup and even if it were, this is something you savor, not slurp.
Now for the main course. I love Osso Buco, which is veal shank (the calve), but this was a pork shank with green apple miso parsnip puree, bourbon apple glaze and green apple crisps. This meat was so incredibly tender and moist, that though I was full at this point, I had to keep eating, especially since the bourbon apple sauce was to die for along with it.
If there was any disappointment in this meal, (and there wasn’t), it was the Fontina macaroni and cheese. I think it would have been better to order the chef’s risotto (which would traditionally be served with Osso Buco), but I was with a guest and he suggested the mac & cheese. No harm done, I am just not a big mac & cheese person, but this was very good.
The Orange Squirrel
412 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield NJ 07003
Phone: 973-337-6421 Web: www.theorangesquirrel.com
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