Above's Black Truffle Dinner

by Elizabeth Palmer Starnes

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. 

The amuse to start the meal was grilled hickory smoked bacon, served alongside jicama cantaloupe slaw and topped with a citrus truffle foam. The crispy bacon paired well with the tangy flavors in the slaw, and the truffle foam added an interesting depth of flavor to the whole dish. The bright and sparkling Freixenet Blanc served to go with the dish balanced the flavors nicely. The snapper consume which followed the amuse was a favorite, and included a vegetable chick pea fritter served with red snapper mousseline and garnished with fresh micro greens and a shaving of truffles. The clean flavors of the consume were enriched by the hearty fritter, and the rich mousseline and truffles brought the whole dish together. The SeaGlass Chardonnay accompaniment also had very clean flavors, complimenting the consume.

After two lighter courses, my dinner guest and I were ready for something substantial, and the main course, aptly titled Heaven and Earth did not disappoint. The dish consisted of a petit filet mignon topped with a mushroom duxelles filled scallop, over a celery root scruma.  A celery leaf salad tossed in truffle Moscato dressing garnished the plate, and foie gras sauce and a shaving of fresh truffles done at the table completed this decadent plate. Though each ingredient on the plate had a strong and distinct flavor, they all married well with one another, combining to form a really spectacular dish full of amazing flavors.  The Argentinean cabernet sauvignon served with this course had really mellow flavors that smartly did not upstage the main event, just serving as a mellow accompaniment to all the flavors of the dish.

After such a decadent entre, dessert seemed completely unnecessary. But I was pleasantly surprised with the trio presented to round out the tasting. Vanilla and truffle infused crème brulee, coriander chocolate dirt, almond tuile, sugar glazed strawberries, and caramelized white chocolate and truffle ice cream with a maple Grand Marnier drizzle were plated beautifully and all had bright, delicious flavors that married well together.

Overall the entire tasting was delicious. The attention to detail in every course was clearly apparent, and each dish was presented with clearly though out accompaniments and parings. Truffles were worked thoughtfully into each plate, in creative capacities that reached beyond just a shaving of fresh truffles on top, which can often feel like an afterthought rather than an actual element of the dish.  The chefs at Above treated the truffles as a real ingredient, not just a luxury item added to increase the price of the meal. I would definitely like to go back to Above, either for dinner or one of the many events they have planned in the coming months, including other tasting dinners, a vodka launch party, special steak tasting dinners, a special Valentine’s day menu, as well as live music and entertainment nights.  The neo-Roman interior, friendly staff, attention to detail, and well though out menu should win Above accolades in the coming months, and set it a cut above the rest.