Restaurant Review: Ariane Kitchen & Bar

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arianeAriane 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.

ariane-beet-saladHoping to balance out the huge amounts of butter I’d consumed in those croissants, I started with the much more harmless beet salad, a lovely combination of red and yellow (or were they orange?) beets sprinkled with a light dusting of pistachios and a subtle vinaigrette. My husband had the cornmeal crusted oysters and declared them fabulous (I would have tried them, but I’m not a fan of oysters). For dinner, I’d heard the pork chop was a winner, so I opted for that, though it was a tough choice given that some of the other items on the menu — the branzino, the chicken pot pie, the burger — looked equally tempting. Cured with juniper berries and topped with a bacon onion jam, the chop was flavorful and juicy, even though I ordered it more well done than recommended. The “cheesy grits” underneath had a nice silky texture but were a bit overpowered by the cheese — and I’m someone who loves cheesy things. My husband’s salmon was perfectly cooked and paired with a combination of cauliflower, kale and lentils. It was like eating a plate of “superfoods” and perfect for anyone who might find the pork or pot pie a little too heavy.

ariane-salmonWhich 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

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Pot pie a little too heavy? Hardly. In fact, that is what I ordered when I tried Ariane K & B back in December. Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite comfort foods and I was famished that day, having worked in the yard for four hours. When the waiter brought my dish, I thought he had made a mistake. There on my plate was a smallish piece of chicken surrounded by a meager serving of veggies in a broth. Didn’t look like any pot pie I had ever seen. I called the waiter over and he said, “Oh, I forgot your crust!” He ran back into the kitchen and returned with what can best be described as a flat bread stick. I asked him if this was indeed, a pot pie and he answered, “Oh yes, it’s a deconstructed pot pie.” Nowhere on the menu did it say this and, in fact, I had never heard of the term outside of poetry and literature class! I have since learned what it is and I don’t like it, especially if it’s not made clear beforehand that is what you’ll be getting. So, needless to say, I was disappointed and I left hungry. At these prices, I want my food constructed, thank you very much.

  2. Must concur that the pot pie was a disappointment, way too dainty, and I will not order it again. All off a sudden I was wishing I was in a diner. However the apps and dessert were fantastic, and a really cool spot. I will give it another shot and steer well clear of the CPP.

  3. Food photography done poorly is so much worse than no picture at all. Let your words tell the story. These pictures are ghastly.

  4. MM, I understand your angst and sympathize with you. Seems the ghost of Jacques Derrida is in their kitchen. I also like my chicken pot pie sans post modern literary lesson thank you very much. I think I’ll stick with Swanson’s.

  5. Silverleaf, make your own! It’s a lot of fun, especially on a day like today. You can always substitute mashed potatoes for the crust if you want. Agreed, comfort foods should NOT be messed with!

  6. floyd, you hit the nail on the head. These photos are heinous. If you are going to review a restaurant, at least take the time to take a decent photo. Or don’t take one at all.
    Also,I have talked to so many people that were unhappy with the chicken pot pie. The menu should have a better description. I avoided the pot pie when dining there for this reason.

  7. Ok, take your iPhone photos if you must but at least drop it into Google’s Snapseed app and goose it up a bit. Any web designer worth their salt would never let those pics go to press without tweaking! Please, no more photos deep in shadow, underexposed, one hand wonders….Zapp it in an app!

  8. Sorry, but anyone who thinks a Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie is a culinary masterpiece must have lost their taste buds decades ago.

  9. I’m coming to this a bit late but I’ve been away. We tried Ariane’s K&B about four weeks ago and we’ll definitely be back. The crusted oysters are just as good as they’ve always been. I tried the mushroom ragout and it was terrific over grits — YUM. I thought the burger was ok, nothing outstanding. But the martini was great and the wine list a pleasure — nice choices at reasonable prices.

    My only complaint is the high level of noise. Please, Ariane, try to acquire some kind of damper for the ceiling to reduce the noise level and make dinner here ideal!

Comments are closed.