Montclair Restaurant Review: Bistro 18

Bistro 18 has received several good reviews, including a three star rating from the Star Ledger.  During HFTK’s quest to find the best restaurants in northern New Jersey, I thought Bistro 18 would be a safe bet. Contrary to  praising reviews, Bistro 18 was a disappointment.

The dining experience began well.   We were graciously greeted upon entry, and seated in the glass enclosed anteroom that runs along the South Fullerton sidewalk, which also houses the entries to other businesses.  I’ve walked passed Bistro 18 on many  evenings and observed the glass room lined with diners.  The room is functional: it’s all-season, all weather, and allows for people watching without street noise and exhaust.  Aesthetically, however, I found the room to be an awkward, business-minded afterthought that compromised aesthetics.

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Above's Black Truffle Dinner

Above restaurant, located almost on top of the South Orange train station, has recently undergone some big changes. In March they hired Mark Sokolofsky as their new head chef, and overhauled their wait staff and menu. I recently attended an amazing truffle dinner hosted at Above, which incorporated truffles in some capacity into each dish, and paired each course with a different type of wine.  Given all the recent hype about truffles in the news, I was eager to try truffles incorporated in fresh and inventive flavor combinations. 
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A Taste of Acappello

If you dined at Sesame, the Chinese restaurant formerly located near the Wellmont Theater on Bloomfield Avenue, you would recall the space as dark, dimly lit, and sparsely occupied. But over a laborious and intensive ten-month renovation, the old Sesame space has been transformed into a bright, beautiful, multi-level space, that now houses Acappello.
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Leone's: Hearty, Italian-American

People in Montclair are particular about their Italian food. Everyone has their favorite place, absolutely convinced of its superiority up against countless competitors. Personally, I'm partial to Mr. Dino's, since that's what I grew up eating, always hesitant to veer away from my old favorite. Though Giotto and Fascino certainly occupy the upper echelon of Italian restaurants in the area, sometimes a little less pretension is in order for dinner.
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Lalezar Turkish Restaurant

The second stop on my survey of Montclair’s Turkish and Mediterranean restaurants was Lalezar.   Located at 720 Bloomfield Avenue, Lalezar occupies a large corner space at Bloomfield Avenue and St. Lukes Place.  

There are two dining rooms at Lalezar.  Both are decorated in bold Turkish fashion.  After having dined in both dining rooms, I would recommend the lower, sunk-in dining room with softer lighting and warmer color tones.

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Restaurant Review: Aozora

Zen SaladIf you haven’t noticed, Montclair is absolutely fit to burst with sushi restaurants. Diners have their pick of ten or twelve places at any given time, making it difficult for restaurants to distinguish themselves from the pack.

Aozora manages to accomplish just that, and sets itself apart with high quality, elegant food served with a European bent. You could describe Aozora as a sort of Asian-European fusion, though they execute traditional Japanese classics with equal flair and precision.

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