Braving New Food At Montclair’s Adara

amuse-bouche tilapia noodle ceviche
I’ve wanted to go to the six-week old Adara in Montclair since I first read about it on Baristanet. The menu looked friendly enough to a pseudo-vegetarian with fish eating tendencies, and despite the teasing given to its molecular gastronomy techniques early on (“spray-on shrimp cocktail?”), or perhaps because of it, I decided that I had to make a visit.

I had two fears about eating at Adara: that it would be snooty and that the food would come in thimbleful portions. Neither fear materialized. Our server was friendly and informative, and Adara’s atmosphere is inviting and warm. Both my husband and I left Adara satisfied and happy – in fact we barely touched the coconut-crusted chocolate truffles that came with our bill.

I think we were the only table without a wine bottle. We decided to try a mocktail before our meal. I had the Bahamadia, a refreshing, not-too-sweet drink of hibiscus tea and raspberry ginger beer. My husband had the surprisingly light Lady Grey – which we agreed was our favorite. While it was a little sweet, the lavender and vanilla flavors were a wonderful start to the meal. Apparently, the carbonated grapes were also a big hit, but they were eaten before I could snag one.

One of my favorite items of the night was the amuse-bouche. A Peruvian style ceviche, it included a tilapia noodle around an ahi bulb perched atop a sweet potato “tater tot.” The citrus and cilantro were perfect with the sweet potato and tilapia. Delicious.

natura mia with avocado marshmallow
For the first course, we ordered the Natura Mia and Campania. I expected to love the Natura Mia with its savory avocado marshmallows and hearts of palm, but the marshmallows (unsurprisingly) were more sweet than savory and lacking in avocado. The Campania, on the other hand, was amazing. It looks odd: a large white balloon sitting at the end of a row of lovely tomatoes. There is also a scoop of olive oil gelato to add to the landscape. The flavors combined beautifully. The gelato actually tasted like olive oil, in the best way possible. And, after deflation, the mozzarella was just barely smoky and not salty. The stars of this plate are clearly the tomato slices together with the fried basil seeds, which brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes. Highly recommended.

pork belly with five flavors
For a second course, my husband ordered the Pork Belly with Five Flavors – one of which was root beer. From his hoarding of the mustard mousse and root beer jelly-cubes, I could tell he had fallen a little in love with the dish. It was a generous portion of pork belly, and, according to my carnivorous spouse, the root beer accented barbecue sauce was an ideal balance to the richness of the pork. His reaction to the dish convinced our table neighbors to order it, and their response was just as enthusiastic.

Black Cod Kanji
I ordered the Black Cod Kanji at my server’s suggestion. I loved the tapioca pilaf, and the fish was very tasty in its ginger broth. The spiced brussel sprouts were disappointing because there were only two or three leaves (see photo), and they didn’t taste spiced. Still, the kanji was hearty, and the ginger added a spicy sweetness to the dish.

Our dessert teaser was the only flop of the night. It looked so promising: a tablespoon-sized ball of tahini “ice cream” in a tiny pistachio cone. It was adorable. Sadly, the tahini ball tasted bitter –in fact we thought it was bad pistachio, not tahini. After a tiny bite each, we both decided to leave it alone. Thankfully, the desserts we ordered were stellar.

sesame cookie and cranberry sorbet
My better half ordered the Bittersweet Chocolate Orb. With chevre and black cherry hidden inside, it was a rich indulgence. The violet mousse served as a fragrant counterweight to the intense chocolate. I ordered the Sesame and Cranberry dessert. The black sesame cookie together with the tahini ice cream was magnificent. And the cranberry sorbet, which would have been “fine” on its own, was perfect layered with the tahini.

I would definitely return to Adara. For many of us, its price puts it in the “special occasion” category – much like similarly priced Fascino and Culinariane, but it’s definitely a special experience. For diners thinking about the five or seven course tours at Adara, make sure to give 24 hours notice as it is required for preparation.

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  1. I just licked the picture on my screen. My screen tastes like Windex and not the essence of Windex just plain old Windex.

  2. I made reservations through Open Table about two weeks ahead. The restaurant was half full (about two dozen people) when we left a little past eight on a Saturday night. I don’t think you’d need too much notice. I’m curious about their vegetarian entree, which I didn’t try. So if anyone orders that – let me know!

  3. I tried this place last night and can honestly say it is unlike any other restaurant. Everything is an absolute masterpiece in terms of presentation, and although the courses were small, I left feeling satisfied. I chose the 3 course meal, but the chef threw in at least 5 different surprise dishes– most of them were unrecognizable. This restaurant has a unique style of how they prepare and present their food, and the waiter knows just as much as the chef. They use liquid nitrogen to change the appearance of their food. Overall, an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience that I would totally recommend.

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