NJ Dining: Picnic, The Restaurant (Soft Opening)

Picnic, the Restaurant
14-25 Plaza Road (Radburn Plaza Building) Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
(201) 796-2700

Web Site: http://www.picnictherestaurant.com/

Anyone who has read Off The Broiler for any length of time probably knows that Chef Christine Nunn is a very close friend of Rachel and I. I first met Christine in early 2006 when writing Quick Bites for the NJ section of the New York Times, shortly after she had opened her tiny little catering business in Emerson.

Since then, Christine has become a Bergen County superstar, and it’s all because of her cooking talent. She is a classically trained chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and won the Ultimate Chef Bergen County competition in 2009, which got her a great deal of local attention.

Christine’s catering business has indeed blossomed and become very successful, but I knew that she always wanted her own restaurant. So I was thrilled to hear that she would be opening a small, 40-seat destination restaurant in her home town of Radburn, which is a community within Fair Lawn.

Christine and her business partners have transformed what was once a space that used to be a fast food establishment and have turned it into what I think will become one of the premier fine dining destinations in Bergen County.

Recently opened by CIA graduate Chef Christine Nunn, Picnic is the latest destination restaurant to open in Bergen County.

I was very lucky to be part of a select group of people who attended Picnic’s “soft opening” on July 1st. Its official opening date is Thursday, July 8, 2010, and I strongly recommend that you call for reservations weeks in advance because it is likely to become one of the most difficult restaurants to get into.

Keep in mind as you look at these photos that the plated dishes are not all full portions — these are what we might call in the computer software business “Beta” or “Release Candidate” versions of the dishes, which are still being tweaked and may not represent what ends up being served to customers. But you’ll get a very good idea of what this new restaurant is going to be like.

Obviously, as Christine is a close friend, I am clearly biased and it is difficult for me to be terribly critical of her, particularly for someone who I know is so talented. So take whatever huge praise I laud on Christine with a bit of skepticism — and go and eat her cuisine yourself and tell me what you think.

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

Picnic is a both casual and elegant restaurant which is in a bright and very approachable space.

A view of the main dining room.

Christine’s partners Annabel (left) and Doron (right) are the business and front-of-the-house team behind Picnic.

Much of the elegant decor of the restaurant was selected by Annabel and Doron, both of who come from the film and entertainment business and have a very keen eye for aesthetics.

The restaurant has also retained the whimsy and playfulness of Christine Nunn’s personality.

Christine was manning the fort in the restaurant’s brand new kitchen.

Christine’s roast chicken is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant.

The restaurant’s brand new 8-burner range is getting its shakedown.

Osso Bucco, braising.

Even though it is summer, Christine isn’t afraid to bring out the heavy artillery. I have to say, it’s a gutsy and bold opening menu.

The restaurant has retained Christine’s love of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. This is an heirloom tomato that is destined for one of the salad courses.

Time for the birds to hit the oven.

Berkshire Pork Chops on the grill.

Prime New York Strip Steaks.

Chef John, Christine’s right-hand man, is new to the Picnic team but not to the New Jersey dining scene. His last big gig was sous chef at the late Arthur’s Landing which was one of my local favorites before it closed in 2009.

Bread service. Every evening the spreads and accompaniments will change at Chef Christine’s discretion — this evening were French salt-cured olives, a white bean spread and a herbed compound sweet butter.

Like many New Jersey restaurants, Picnic is BYOB, but the wine steward is provided for you gratis.

This is a butter lettuce salad with blackberries, shaved parmigiano and pralines in a simple vinaigrette.

New Jersey Day Boat Scallop Appetizer with Vanilla Beurre Blanc and Citrus.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crumbled Bacon.

Another diner eating the same salad but with different heirloom tomatoes. One thing that you should expect from Picnic is that the ingredients are sourced locally and Chef Christine may use different things from night to night, so don’t expect exacting consistency with her cuisine. But it will always be fresh and delicious.

Deviled Egg Appetizer.

Iceberg Wedge Salad.

Cheese Plate. This too is going to vary from night to night.

Tomato Soup.

Medallion of seared D’Artagnan Hudson Valley Foie Gras with blackberry glaze.

Rachel ordered the Osso Bucco.

And I ordered the stuffed Berkshire Pork Chop “Cubano” with Manchego Cheese sauce stuffed with Serrano Ham.

Steak Frites with Wild Mushrooms.

A new take on Fish and Chips.

Arctic Char with Sauteed Summer Squash and Wax Beans.

As Annabel is British, the restaurant naturally has an assortment of fine loose leaf teas to choose from.

With individual serving teapots.

Rachel and I ended our first — and certainly not the last — meal with cute miniature cupcakes from Zoe’s Cupcake Cafe with butter cream frosting.

8 Responses to NJ Dining: Picnic, The Restaurant (Soft Opening)

  1. doron schlair says:

    really great pictures!
    We appreciate the very
    nice intro to Picnic. Glad you joined us.
    Looking forward to seeing you again before too long.


  2. John says:

    wow! i work in bergen county. i might just have to make reservations to eat there soon. the presentations look gorgeous!

  3. Lindy says:

    I dined there tonight and it was perfect. This will be a great neighborhood restaurant, as well as a destination for diners from throughout Bergen County and beyond. The chilled mint-pea soup was refreshing and something I’d never tasted before. Hangar steak with herbed potatoes was excellent. And I love the tea service. Four stars!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Wow. I haven’t REALLY been tempted to travel for a restaurant meal in ages, but these photos and the description titles of the food-now I am planning a road trip for September! I’ve always wanted to eat a meal that Christine has made- now is the time!

  5. BobTomDon says:

    It appears that the heavy cream being poured (see picture) is not from the very excellent and local dairy Welsh Farms (Farmland Dairies).

    Hopefully they will mak good use of Welsh Farms dairy products in the future.

    Otherwise, this place looks delicious !

  6. […] The Restaurant has gotten through its soft opening (see earlier post), but the restaurant is still very much a work in progress, as Chef Christine Nunn and the back of […]

  7. Ginny Rees says:

    My Son and Daughter In Law took me to Picnic last week and I was delighted. There are so few fine dining places left and this was a particular treat. Menu selections were mouth watering and presentation was beautiful! I live in Tuxedo, NY and there is only one good dining experience within a few miles. I long to move back to Bergen County so I can enjoy Picnic much more often. Thank you Christine and Annabel.
    P.S. The wine steward also gave me a great book/author redommendation!

  8. […] not often that I get to really document a restaurant in great detail. Since its opening on July 4th weekend of 2010, I have had pretty much free access to the restaurant’s kitchen, in order to help them […]

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