NJ Dining: Church Street (Updated 2-17-07)

2-23-07: Chef Barry Bonser has left the building.

“Chef Todd Villani is now wearing the top toque at Church Street, effective Presidents’ Day. Chef Todd joined the team on January 2 of this year as Chef de Cuisine and was instrumental working with Chef Barry in the conception and implementation of our Winter menu. He has been responsible for the day to day operation of the kitchen since February 1.

Most recently, Chef Todd was working for Marcus Samuelsson at the renowned Aquavit restaurant and at Samuelsson’s subsidiary interest, World Yacht. His repertoire & expertise is right in line with the New American regional cuisine featured at Church Street. Additionally, from his days at Aquavit, Chef Todd possesses an extensive array of smoked & cured fish & seafood preparations that will be featured prominently in our upcoming Spring menu (hard to believe spring is just around the corner).

Chef Barry has departed amicably to pursue other interests and we wish him well.”

2-14-07 UPDATED: Winter Menu Dishes added at bottom of post.

Church Street
12 Church St, Montclair, NJ
(973) 233-0216

Last week I attended a friends and family/press Fall Preview dinner at Church Street in Montclair (formerly Church Street Cafe), which recently brought aboard Chef Barry Bonser to head the kitchen only a few weeks ago. If the quality of what we were served at this dinner represents the level of cuisine that the restaurant is going to be serving every single night, then I’d have to say without reservation that Church Street could easily be considered one of Northern New Jersey’s best casual dining restaurants, and a destination restaurant at that.

I had first become familiar with Chef Bonser’s cuisine when he led the kitchen team that launched The Pasta Factory in Teaneck, where he was charged with creating an innovative fish pasta menu under the restrictions of Kosher dietary laws. Bonser has cooked at some of the top restaurants in Manhattan, including Bouley and the 21 Club. And not only is he an accomplished chef with savory dishes, but the guy is skilled at making desserts as well — something that most top restaurant chefs have difficulty doing, as dedicated pastry chefs are usually the norm. So I was absolutely psyched to hear that he had gotten a new gig in Montclair after leaving the Pasta Factory some months ago.

Church Street storefront, in Montclair.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more of Church Street Cafe.

Main Dining Room

Upstairs Private Dining Room / Catering Area

Hangar Steak with Horseradish Sauce

Tuna and Avocado Tartar on Wonton Crisps (With Cilantro Microgreens)

Confit of Eggplant and Goat Cheese Mousse on Puff Pastry

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Lamb Chops with Creole Apple Mustard

Beer Batter Sardines with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Chef Barry Bonser, working behind the open kitchen area in the Main Dining Room.

First Course: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup Demitasse.

Second Course: Applewood Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops with Lobster, Fava Beans, Corn and Yukon Gold Succotash

Third Course: Trilogy of Jansal Vally Microgreen Salads

Fourth Course: Wasabi Pea-Encrusted Yellowfin Tuna with Baby Bok Choy, Baby Corn, Cardamom Rice, Ginger Vinegar

Fifth Course: Chai Rubbed Winona Duck Breast, with Wheat Berries, Swiss Chard and Grand Marnier Vanilla Reduction

Dessert: Chocolate Caramel Tart

Updated Below: Winter Menu Dishes

Shaved Truffle Mushroom Risotto

Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Roasted Vegetable Couscous, Goat Cheese Crostini with Mango Chutney

Mixed Seafood Cioppino in Saffron Fume’

Pan Roasted Barramundi, Roasted Vegetables in Grapefruit Beurre Blanc

Venison Medallions with Parsnip/Apple Puree, Sauteed Greens, Cherry Lambic Veal Glace Reduction

Chocolate Ice Box Cake

Chef Barry Bonser and Chocolate Ice Box Cake

7 Responses to NJ Dining: Church Street (Updated 2-17-07)

  1. Looks like a delightful, charming place. I would so eat every one of those battered sardines and order another round.

  2. Jacqueline says:

    Barry if you read this CONGRATULATIONS on your recognition!!!! The food looks amazing. Looking forward to cooking with you (or just seeing you and G) sometime in the near future. The duck with the vanilla/grande marnier reduction has my mouth watering.


  3. Susan says:

    I heard about the new chef at Church Street and decided to give it a try tonight. I have to say “WOW.” My husband and I both loved our meals. We started with the pumpkin pierogies with carmelized onions – excellent. I had a wasabi pea encrusted tuna that was out of this world. My husband did not stop talking about his shortribs all the way. I only wish we were not so full and could have had dessert. I took a peek at the new lunch menu and will have to go back to try that as well. Looking forward to our next meal at Church Street. Welcome to the new chef, Barry.

  4. nick says:

    Just back from a very mixed experience. The food was a mixed bag: Fried/stuffed artichkes had the briny taste of canned artichokes, but the goat cheese was lovely. The squash soup was very nice. The scallops were outstanding (though 2nd choice, because the kitchen ran out of short ribs), and the tuna was ok…the rice was crunchy (in an undercooked way) and the tuna was VERY cold, even for rare, and the bok choi had a bit of grit. The food was also extraordinarily slow in coming out – the staff was apologetic as many orders hit the kitchen at once, but it was not worth enduring the wait. The space could also use some updating to match its haute aspirations.

  5. Tiffany Leonard says:

    Barry, WOW I hope you see this cause Its been toooo many years, I ran across this by accident and had to say Congrats on come so far!! So happy to see this.


  6. Marisa says:

    Congrats Barry – I can’t believe how far you’ve come since I last saw you. Good luck to you and many more successes in all that you do!! I’m really proud of you. Hope all is well.

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