Remember this: Fried Chicken and Short Ribs. But we'll get to that later...
Since April, HFTK has been writing about the impending Cafe Amici metamorphosis. Last week, it became official: owner, Albert Franco debuted the "New American Southern Cuisine" of acclaimed Montclair chef, Patrick Pierre-Jerome.
Of course, during the course of our tasting Mr. Hot and I sampled much more than just Fried Chicken and Short Ribs. We began with a refreshing Watermelon Salad ($7) with mixed greens and shaved ricotta salata.
We then segwayed into the shrimp portion of tasting with Peel & Eat Shrimp ($9), followed by a peppery Shrimp and Grits ($16) with andoille sausage, tomatoes and peppers.
Crispy calamari ($9) followed, accompanied by a tangy roasted red pepper chipotle mayo. Then, the southern favorite, and all-time kid-pleaser, Mac n' cheese ($9), made an appearance, with mellow, cheesy, almost nutty undertones.
Next we sampled the Jambalaya which was a little lacking in heat and general flavor punch. I have no doubt, however, this is a small kink that will be shortly worked out.
Two items stood out on the menu as needing absolutely no working out - in fact, they were pretty *&^%$#@ perfect. You guessed it: fried chicken ($16) and braised beef short ribs ($21).
To achieve his perfect poultry, Chef Pierre marinates his chicken overnight in buttermilk, and fries it to perfection. The chicken is absolutely juicy on the inside, and cripsity-crunchity on the outside. Chef Pierre adds a bit of sweetness by lightly drizzling the chicken with peppered honey. Sweet Louise! It is good!
Another unbelievable menu item is the fork tender braised short ribs with pearl onions. So rich and savory, rife with carmelization, it's almost as nice to smell as it is to eat.
Regulars of Cafe Amici will be pleased to see that the price point is very reasonable, and that a variety of flatbreads have remained on the menu with a Creole Flatbread addition.
Albert's modern Southern cuisine is a welcomed change of fare for Church Street, and Montclair as a whole.
32 Church St
Montclair, NJ 07042