—About a month ago, we reported restaurateur Russell Stern’s Closter new Stern and Bow would open “soon(ish).” As of Monday, the 155-seat restaurant is fully open, with emphasis on “full,” as Stern & Bow isn’t so much a regionally-focused culinary experience but more a patchwork of some of Stern’s favorite cuisine categories, well-chosen to avoid a scattered menu. Think brawny, seasonal, regional American—big bold flavor, seasonal product, a dash of southern inflection and repeat appearance of seafood, i.e. Big Easy Prawns with Stone Ground Grits and Smoked Chilies, Jersey Farm Minestrone, Short Sleeve Genovese Pasta with Slow-Braised Beef Ragu, Fishermen’s Stew with Aioli Toast. There are also wood-fired pizzas and an expert-curated oyster and shellfish selection at the 33-foot-long quartz oyster bar.
Pasquale Frola will oversee the daily cooking as executive chef, with input on the menu from chef Paul Gerard and Joe Castelo of Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken. The opening marks a return for Stern, who bought Harvest Bistro in 2004 (then located in the space that’s now The Hill) and ran it to rave—even New York Times-lauded—reviews until its closing in 2016. Stern & Bow is in the dramatically refurbished former home of Azucar Cuban Cuisine, blending posh industrial-chic with more natural tones and textures, with nautical elements poking around here and there (stylishly, i.e. this isn’t Red Lobster). The bar, which opened a day earlier, looks to have the build of a craft cocktail program. Stern and Bow, 171 Schraalenburgh Road, Closter; 201-750-3350
—Just in time to bring a dash of Mediterranean warmth to your (eventually chilly?) fall, Bistro D’Azur in South Orange opened its doors on Tuesday. Chef Richard Krug is both partner and executive chef in the restaurant, which combines French and Mediterranean flavors with a graceful, contemporary restraint (think Lobster Crepes, Grilled Octopus with Nicoise Olives and Pimenton, Pan-Seared Diver Scallops with Foie Gras and Carrot Saffron Sauce). Krug is a CIA graduate and former chef at Whisper Springs as well as Lorena’s in Maplewood. Some serious construction transformed the space (formerly Noodlefan), which is now done up with natural wood, blue (or “azur”) and white tones and enough glimmer and shine to bring home the low-key-glamor bistro vibe. Open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. Call for a reservation. Bistro D’Azur, 14 Academy Street, South Orange; 973-327-9725
—In what seems like—but probably isn’t—a sudden move, Leah Cohen (who some might know from Season 5 of Bravo’s “Top Chef”) announced plans to close her two-year-old Piggyback Bar in Jersey City as of September 30. Cohen and husband/operations manager Ben Byruch made the announcement just over a week ago on social media; the pair still run the original Southeast Asian and Filippino-inflected Pig & Khao on the Lower East Side and even have a Piggyback Bar in the works for West 30th Street in Manhattan (the reason for the Jersey City closure is to focus more attention on the second New York location). Fans of the Jersey City spot have a couple days to stop in, pay their respects, and snag one last order of Korean Honey Butter Wings. Piggyback Bar, 200 Hudson Street, Jersey City; 201-345-7775
—The Bergen-Lafayette satellite location of Jersey City’s Sam a.m. restaurant is closing, but (here, too) the original in the Paulus Hook neighborhood lives on. A social media post a week ago announced the closure—a matter of quality of life for staff, it seems—but fans can head to Paulus Hook from 6:30 am to 3:30 pm weekdays (8 am to 3:30 on weekends). Sam a.m. 196 Pine Street, Jersey City.
Celebrity chef and Food Network regular Carl Ruiz passed away unexpectedly in the early hours of Sunday, September 22. Ruiz had recently opened La Cubana in New York’s Meatpacking District, although he was perhaps best known for his many appearances alongside Guy Fieri on Food Network shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” and “Guy’s Grocery Games.” Prior to his time in the spotlight (and throughout his career), Ruiz was a dedicated chef, with La Cubana opening just this past June. Prior to that he’d worked as a chef in several New Jersey restaurants, including Sabor in North Bergen and Cuban Pete’s in Montclair. Chef tributes for Ruiz are pouring in, including Fieri’s touching salute and one from Kimchi Smoke owner Robert Cho. “We lost a great one,” says Cho. “Chef Carl Ruiz, a Rock Star who did not act like one.” Ruiz was 44.
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