Updates on Baristaville Restaurant Scene

Here’s a roundup of some news (or not) on the local restaurant scene.

Brick Lane

It’s been a while since our story on Brick Lane setting up shop in Montclair, and the intervening months have left residents, who have been keen on a curry house, starved for details.  The restaurant, an offshoot of a successful duo of the same name in NYC, had been expected to have opened by the end of February.

Curiosity and impatience for an Indian restaurant on Valley Road (between A&P and CVS) turned to disappointment recently, when the smart red letters spelling out Brick Lane vanished. Phone calls and email inquiries to managers of the two affiliated Brick Lane restaurants in New York City met a brick wall and weren’t returned.

But Baristanet lucked out with a couple of positive signs.

Montclair Town Council’s Janice Talley, director of planning and community development, said, “The Township has on file a valid permit for the restaurant fit-out and the last inspection was on January 10, 2011. As far as we know they are still actively working on the project.”

Certainly, lots of work has been done in the 1,000-square-foot space with walnut stained wooden floors and stainless steel tavas (like woks) already adorning some of the walls. A notice on the glass door said the restaurant was due to be open by mid April.

The second sign was the sign itself. On Wednesday, May 4, the words spelling Brick Lane were spotted back on the building.

Hoorah! We hope.

The restaurant promises to replicate the experience in curry houses of Brick Lane in London, UK, with a menu that’s “lighter on tandooris and khurmas and heavier on kebabs and robust curries,” according to Brick Lane’s website.

Sweet Basil Moving to Montclair?

Baristanet also looked into talk that Sweet Basil’s Cafe in West Orange might be moving to take up the space vacated by Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse in Upper Montclair Plaza.

Here’s what Sweet Basil’s owner Alan Platt had to say.

“Yes, we’re pursuing an active bid at the Charlie Brown site. We’ve met with landlords, architects and town people, but we’re still only at the talking stage, with no lease in hand yet.”

Sweet Basil, which has built a loyal following over its past 16 years in West Orange with its impressive brunches and lunches, gets a “lot of Montclair and Maplewood customers,” said Platt, who was confident the cafe and grill would “do very well up there.”

“Upper Montclair is a very interesting location for us. Hopefully, we should know something in a week or two.”

Who’s Cookin’ at Raymond’s?

Regulars had expressed concern that the chef of the Raymond’s diner might have moved to Tosca, also on Church St.

But co-owner Joanne Ricci of Raymond’s pooh-poohed the speculation, saying, “Our chef is still here. One of our line cooks moved, but line cooks move around all the time. It’s not news.”

It may not be news, but with a popular place like Raymond’s, a bit of reassurance can go a long way.


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  1. Am I the only one who thinks Raymond’s is highly overrated? I’ve been there a few times (I figured they deserved more than one chance) and I have never been that impressed with the food or the service. I consider it mediocre at best, yet people are always raving about it. What am I missing?

  2. Am a fan of Sweet Basil’s brunches although am mixed on the potential move. The location of the establishments in a parking lot in Upr Montclair always seemed a bit odd to me and certainly has contributed to several of them closing over the past few years.

    Re Raymonds: I’ve consistently had good meals here (both brunch and dinner items). Is it fancy or 5 star dining? Of course not. But it’s consistent, affordable, and family friendly. I think the family friendly element along with the price tag is a big part of the appeal.

  3. With regards to Raymonds, it might not be the finest food, but they have a well designed menu, the service is always accommodating, the vibe is cheerful, it’s consistent, and it’s a great value.

    I’m thrilled about Brick Lane; I earned a Phall Curry Monster Certificate in the East Village restaurant (a somewhat painful experience), but looking forward to experiencing their diverse menu here.

  4. Phew! You got me worried about Brick Lane, so glad they are coming. Eagerly awaiting good curry. Where do people go for good curry around here? I have driven to Paramus – Mantra and Hoboken – Karma Kafe, but is there anywhere a bit closer?

  5. When did Baristanet get so lazy? Missed a few: True North Osteria is opening on Bloomfield Avenue where the former Chef’s Lab was. http://www.truenorthosteria.com. Also, Cilantro opened where The Nook was, V-Bar (South Park) is now Park SB (presumably for sports bar), & Park St. Gourmet is opened where “Carve” used to be across from Mexicali Rose (had a great sandwich here the other day). Come on barista!

  6. And Kei Kebab House is still under construction in the space that used to house Habaneros.

  7. I agree Raymond’s is overrated. Every time I’ve been, I’ve been disappointed. A current review is needed. I find the food bland.

  8. I’ve been going to Raymond’s since it was 28 (never got much out of the original Raymond’s, but it wasn’t a real restaurant at that point, in that location) and have never been disappointed. Consistently tasty food. Sure, it’s loud and busy–but you know that (or should) going in. It’s not trying to be really innovative (that’s what 28 did, but that was a long time ago…), but very competent in its niche. And no, I’m totally not shilling for them, just a satisfied customer.

  9. I have loved Raymond’s since I moved to Montclair almost nine years ago. I went there recently and tried the calamari salad with chipotle dressing. It was delicious, amazing actually.

    And I have yet to find another place that makes French Toast as perfect as Raymond’s.

  10. I miss the real Brick Lane, in London’s east end, early on a Sunday morning for the open-air markets, a little shopping and then bagels and coffee in the pub.

    Raymond’s is good, but it’s just always so hard to get in. Drives me nuts. But in the warm weather when they set up on the sidewalk, the restaurant next door (32 Church) takes the spillover, and you’re still outside and can almost see the beautiful people sitting at the tables at Raymonds and the food is nearly as good. (Though both places too much salt for my taste.)

  11. Wonder if Brick Lane Montclair will offer the Phaal challenge–the curry is so spicy that the chef actually has to wear a gas mask to prepare it.

  12. Off sadie07’s comment, the parking lot location is double edged. You gain immediate parking (how many times have posts complained about the poor parking options for shoppers in town) but also live with a somewhat hidden location.

    For a big restaurant like Charlie Brown’s (which lasted for many years), the immediate parking is a draw. There is no space like it on the avenue, plus if new tenants manage to keep the liquor license, no reason why it can’t be a hit. A larger establishment can afford to advertise and do other things to draw people in. An on-the-avenue presence seems less important. Down a few doors, the other largish establishment, Magnolia’s liquor store seems very stable.

    The smaller spots, esp those at the end of the row, have turned over frequently, but perhaps not more frequently than other smaller establishments elsewhere. Given the location and size of the spaces I’d guess the rents are among the most affordable in town and this attracts undercapitalized, maybe less well-conceived businesses.

  13. I agree about Raymond’s being overrated. The very first time I was there I thought the food was pretty good, but every time afterwards I was disappointed. That, coupled with the large crowds and long waits, has turned us off probably for good. It’s not that the food is bad, it just doesn’t seem to warrant the hustle and bustle that’s always there.

    We went to Toast afterwards, but that seemed to follow the same trend. Our first visit was awesome, then as the crowds increased the quality went down, so we eventually stopped going there too.

  14. Johnny5, you reminded me of the Yogi-ism ” Nobody goes there any more because it’s too crowded.”

  15. Townie: They already lost the liquor license in a public auction. The owners of Lackawanna Plaza purchased it and are marketing it with the former hollywood video space.

  16. Brick Lane to finally open?? I.Can’t.Wait.
    I haven’t found a decent mulligatawny soup or even a basic chicken tikka masala except for Brick Lane in the city.
    Also-Raymond’s is way over rated. Sometimes the food is great, other times not, and the feeling of being ushered in and out so they can do a better turnover is kind of annoying. Great place for families but I avoid it like the plague on Sundays. I also have a friend who worked there (only for a few weeks) and she told me that the way they treat their staff is shameful…

  17. I find the food at Raymond’s to be quite good, but the service is not always all that friendly, and, as with any restaurant, it’s a turn-off that they don’t allow substitutions. Also the noise level is simply unpleasant. Unless I can get an outdoor table, I don’t bother.

    As for Toast, the food is again quite good, and the service is very friendly and accomodating, but I would like to see them give that place could use a good scrub-down.

  18. Over the years I’ve always found Raymond’s to be a reliable great restaurant. It’s relaxed, friendly, reasonably priced with very good food. Parking is easy in the nearby Crescent deck and I find the service prompt.

  19. Prompt?

    After the wait, of course. I’m still surprised by how few restaurants in the Church St. area try to compete with Raymonds. Judging by the lines, another easy eating/simple menu place would be great (remember Raymonds 2? Or the Mid-Town Diner?).

    Oh, well. I only go a few times a year because I find the wait maddening. And unnecessary. Though I should hit it during the week…

    … Like I do Toast, which is always fun (remember the family dinner nights it used to have?)

    Red Mango is the WORST.

    The Cupcake place the best.

  20. What’s the latest with 32 Church? I thought the initial reviews were not so great. They’ve done a good job with the decor. It’s such a great space and location, it should be thriving, but I never see anyone in there.

    Raymond’s is consistently great – we just try to go during the ‘off’ times – not that there are many!

  21. Raymond’s has the most consistency of any restaurant in town. If you enjoyed your soup or burger or salad or omelet or pancakes, etc., and you’re craving exactly that again, that’s what you’ll get. I’ve never been disappointed there. Joanne is a real pro. Sure some of the waiters are better than others, but there’s always a manager on the floor. Of course it can get noisy at prime times, so go at non-prime times.

    Sweet Basil’s reminds me of (and approaches the quality of) Raymond’s.

    32 Church is closed.

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