Though the press release came this morning, the NJ food scene has been rumbling since 2014- at several outlets, to the tune that Blu, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in NJ is closing, and that the fate of Next Door, its more casual sister is undetermined. It's been a rumor hard to believe - and an even harder fact for foodies to accept.
But, it's true. Blu, as well as Next Door, will close, definitively, on August 30, 2015.
Shortly following the press release via Diaz-Schloss Communications (at 10:25 am today, 2/19, to be exact), I've been asked, separately, by three different "industry" people, "so, Blu and Next Door are closing? Really?"
To quell a bit of the rumors -- for now-- here are the facts, as they currently stand:
Zod Arifai, Executive Chef/Owner of the much-loved and lauded Restaurant Blu, has confirmed that both Blu and its sister-restaurant, the more casual Next Door, will close forever on Sunday, August 30th. Blu's reputation far exceeded its modest size and sensibility, receiving kudos and rave reviews from local, national and even global journalists and critics.
"Montclair has been wonderful to me for the past 10 years," said Arifai. "We have some great eaters here who truly enjoy food and it's been a pleasure cooking for them."
That said: true. And, yes, we were definitely among Zod's groupies. Both, Hot From the Kettle and Montclair Food & Wine Festival, enjoyed the talents of Chef Arifai at Blu, Next Door and Daryl Wine Bar rather immensely. (Not to mention other outlets like NYT and Q104.3)
The release goes on:
His unconventional, exciting and wholly unique world-influenced New American cuisine -- coupled with his iconoclastic personal style and great sense of humor -- has made Arifai and his restaurants consistent favorites among consumers and critics alike.
Cited by New Jersey Monthly early on as "Montclair's temple of exceptional food at everyday prices," Blu left a lasting impression on all who visited. And when Arifai launched Next Door, The New York Times reported, "You might have thought there no way to improve on Blu ... but Zod Arifai ... had what seemed like an even better idea" -- to create a resto that was smaller, more casual and even less expensive. Acclaimed for its unparalleled burger with caramelized onions and aged Vermont cheddar, Next Door offers sandwiches, salads and simple fare at extremely gentle prices.
The restaurant closures will enable Arifai to travel throughout Europe and Asia for three months and to finalize plans for a new concept that will open in NYC in Spring 2016. He's also considering offers for projects outside the U.S. as well as in Montclair.
Right now, "business as usual" is the plan for Blu and Next Door. Watch for future announcements of possible special celebrations as the closing date approaches.
At Hot From the Kettle, we are in no way happy to lose the talents of Chef Arifai. Instead, we applaud his time here and wish him only the best on all future endeavors.