If only we ate with our eyes, then Yellow Plum would be just fine. The plates, colorful and photogenic, and the decor, contemporary, attractive and gender neutral. Maybe, if Yellow Plum didn't look so nice, I wouldn't feel so disappointed.
Some things about Yellow Plum, formerly Bar Cara, are right. Inside, the bar is welcoming and the dining rooms spacious. Outside, despite the whooshing and wheezing of NJ Transit buses, the comfy sofas and bright yellow umbrellas make the patio a decent, though not ideal, place to sip a cocktail or a beer.
And about those libations - they're another positive. During happy hour, my friend ordered a gin martini that was not to her liking. The male bartender, intuitive and sensing something amiss, came over, asked what the problem was, and mixed an alternate cocktail, all the time with a smile and coolness expected from a professional bartender. The beer list is diverse, showing off some unusual picks and a few local brews.
With that I segue to the unfulfilling elements of Yellow Plum: service and food. On my visits, during both lunch and dinner, weekend and weekday alike, the food service, was uninformed, confused, clumsy (breaking my friends beer bottle - but, hey, accidents happen), and once, arrogant and uncouth, as if we were a bother.
During a dinner visit with three other companions, we began with "BLT" sliders ($12), three small buns filled with a slice of pork belly, tomato jam and molasses. Nice thought, but I found the belly a bit lean and the jam and molasses too sweet, to the extent of suppressing the pork belly presence.
Also among dinner appetizers were scallops ($15) with fennel and a crimson avalanche of chorizo. Seared nicely, they looked great, but the tender sweetness of the scallop was again lost under the smoky chorizo.
The charcuterie platter ($16) was priced fairly and is plenty for two to share, though not the charcuterie enthusiasts would swoon for.
Entrees seemed to fall into the category of overpriced and underwhelming. The skirt steak ($28), though plentiful and cooked to specs, lacked depth of flavor. The steak was served with avocado, and tasty Ancho fries, as well as unappetizing pickled mushrooms that tasted, felt and smelled like they were just emptied from a can. The monkfish ($26) exhibited an awkward texture and again came up short on flavor; simply not worth the sticker price.
The risotto ($23) suffered from Mac n' Cheese Complex. The over-cheesed, over-cooked Arborio rice topped with chorizo and queso fresco bore more resemblance, both in texture and taste, to an overly done-up, orzo mac n' cheese.
Et tu, Brute? Caesar and his famous salad are betrayed at Yellow Plum. It boggles the mind - and the palate - to discern how this deconstruction is akin to a Caesar salad. Creative license is one thing, but this went too far. Essentially a pile of red leaf lettuce on one side of a rectangular plate, a few small chunks of Reggiano, a centralized dollop of what appeared to be a green pesto, and a some colorful grape tomatoes framing the plate, this was hardly an improvement on a classic Caesar salad, especially with the addition of cream cheese croutons: browned, mushy fried cubes of cream cheese.
A colorful cross-section of vegetation does not a great burger make. Field greens, yellow tomatoes, pickles, and get this - a smear of cream cheese adorned my biggest disappointment. More bun and fluff than beef, there was simply too much going on between the buns, and the burger lost its beefy identity. Requested black and blue, or Pittsburg rare, or still mooing, or what have you) it arrived, medium-rare, a bit dry for my liking. National Cheeseburger Day would have been better spent elsewhere.
The pics look nice, but good looks only go so far. Capitalizing on the positives and making improvements where needed would make Yellow Plum a desirable place to enjoy lunch or dinner.