Ariane Duarte closed her beloved Montclair restaurant CulinAriane because she no longer wanted to run a special occasion place, she said, but “wanted to have fun.” She appears to have gotten her wish with her new restaurant in Verona, Ariane Kitchen & Bar. When we left the restaurant last Friday night, we had to shove past the crowds that had gathered at the bar — a robust and lively bunch that were clearly happy to be at Duarte’s hot new venture. While I have to say I preferred the quiet intimacy of her last place — which probably has something to do with the fact that I’m middle aged, and my tastes now veer more toward the tranquil and less toward the raucous — I’m happy to say Duarte’s food is still top notch.
Seated in the back, in one of the restaurant’s funky and plush oversized seats, I had to the chase the waiter away when he approached the table with our third helping of croissants, the bread that is served before the meal. As good as it was, I heeded every mother’s exhortation to not “spoil my dinner” by filling up beforehand.
Which is not to say anyone, even those mindful of their waistline, should miss dessert. Granted, we tried only one — too stuffed to fit much more into our expanding stomachs — but having sampled many of CulinAriane’s desserts, I can only assume they’re sophisticated, not overly sweet, and a great way to end the meal without exploding. Such was the case with the trifle (a special that night), a fairly basic dish, but one that had just the right amount of shortbread, blueberries and blackberries, and whipped cream.
I will miss CulinAriane and its special place in the (sometimes overrated) Montclair dining scene, but Ariane Kitchen & Bar is a nice alternative. If only it were a little more quiet.
Ariane Kitchen & Bar, 706 Bloomfield Ave. Verona, 973-744-0533