You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we've got a better idea. Each week, Patch picks a great restaurant either in town or nearby that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:
Overview: When the occasion calls for a special meal—perhaps an important business client is in town, or you're ready to "pop" the question—it's not the time to skimp. You'll want a place that is tastefully decorated, serving food that's a step above other restuarants.
In this area, that's a pretty high bar: we're close enough to Manhattan that it's hard to find original cooking or design, but Uproot meets any test you wish to apply. Your client will be impressed, your fiancee will be delighted and, best of all, you'll have a great meal.
After opening about two years ago, Uproot quickly established itself as one of Somerset County's premiere restaurants. Executive chef Mark Farro, a Warren resident, has created an impressive menu offering twists on classic fare—like the Classic Cheeseburger, an 8-oz. monster served with aged cheddar on a Brioche bun—to finer fare [perhaps a duck breast or Maine Lobster Carbonara entices your tastes].
But the real treats come before the entrees. Try the Wild Mushroom Pasta, with its delicate seasoning, savory mushroom sauce and just the right hint of Parmesan cheese. How about shrimp and grits? It's on the menu and is amazing: the marinated shrimp balances perfectly with the rich grits, cooked with a bit of cheese and smoky bacon.
We started dinner with the Uproot house salad, impossibly-thin apple slices served in a careful stack of arugula, with walnuts and a light dressing. I thought the seared tuna, served with avocado, tomato, tortillas and sour cream foam sounded enticing, but passed—a wise choice because the portions are surprisingly rich and generous.
Much of Uproot's cooking uses locally-grown and seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs. This makes the restaurant worth at least seasonal visits, since new variations will always be a part of the menu.
Decor: After New York Times' reviewer Patricia Mack visited in July 2010, she wrote that she was left thinking about the decor. It's bold, modern and very comfortable. The dining area is divided between an open section with tables for four, and a galley section with tables for two and a booth big enough for eight or 10. Interesting carved panels divide the sections, and are echoed in ceiling sculptures; walls are covered in a rich brown fabric, offset by a hall in red.
Also, stop in most weeks on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights and enjoy some of the area's finest jazz musicians performing, adding to the ambiance.
The Drinks: Uproot's bar draws a fair crowd most nights, where sports games can be watched [not heard] on TVs. And the restuarant's trademark innovations don't end at the kitchen doors—the bar offers Hibiscus Margaritas, the "Sleepy Buffalo" [made with Bison grass-infused vodka, honey, citrus and grapefruit bitters], and S3 [Stoli vodka, strawberry liquor, Prosecco, citrus and Sprite].
If you prefer straight liquors, enjoy a single-malt Scotch [the bar stocks Speysides, Highland, Lowland and Italian Scotches] or perhaps 21-year old Appleton rum.
The wine list is ample. I enjoyed a glass of Chiliean Ventisquero Queulat Carmenere, which was not too heavy and proved well-suited to our meal.
Entrees: I had the Braised Short Rib, cooked so delicately, it would surely have sliced with a harsh look. The meat was tender and moist, with a full flavor. I considered the Amish Chicken Breast [served with seared spatzle, and roasted root vegetables] and Cod [served with butternut squash, charred Brussel sprouts and a red wine gelee], but the beef was enticing. The restaurant offers four cuts of steak, a 28-day aged porter house and lamb shank as well.
Desserts: The dessert menu includes a warm brownie, cinnamon and sugar doughnuts—served with coffee pot de creme and salted caramel [I don't know how I avoided ordering this], apple pear tart and creme brulee. You can also enjoy house-made ice creams and sorbets, or the Chef's Selection of Artisanal Cheeses.
Service: Our service was first rate, with the waiter appearing on cue anytime we had a question or were ready for the next course. Best of all, the service was quiet and unimposing—and we didn't feel rushed.
Address: 9 Mt. Bethel Road, Warren