CLICK HERE to read on The Journal NJ online.
This is a story of love and hope. This June, the traditional month of blushing brides and watermark celebrations, New Jersey is coming back, and so are weddings and parties. So we celebrated with a visit to Orchard Park by David Burke, the new restaurant located in the elegant Château Grande hotel in East Brunswick. During a time of postponed catered affairs, construction on this newly built, New York chic hotel was completed, and it is now a popular destination for weddings, executive retreats and corporate events. In the center of this sophisticated, French-American inspired hotel is David Burke’s new restaurant, Orchard Park. Like the hotel, Burke worked through the lockdown, opening several new restaurants including the American steakhouse, Red Horse in Rumson and Belmar Kitchen in Belmar.
Orchard Park is another jewel. Its stunning decor and wistful lighting fixtures, wine room, exceptional furniture and open kitchen are a visual feast; and then there’s what’s on the plate. It’s another home run from one of the country’s most innovative chefs. Together, the hotel and restaurant are a marriage made to last.
We settled back with some extraordinary cocktails while looking over the extensive wine list, with some impressive selections not found in most locations.
We started off with the not-to-be-missed Popovers before our appetizers arrived. We selected the Lobster Dumplings; purses filled with lobster and dressed with chili oil, tomato miso, and preserved lemon.
Our second choice was the Pretzel Crab Cake. This dish showcases Burke’s food design skills. The rich crab is served in a raft-like fashion, with pretzel logs tied with a scallion string and swimming in puffed rice bubbles. It was every bit as good as it looks, and both appetizers are wonderful ways to start your meal.
Now for the entrées. We split the Wild Mushroom Cavatelli which comes with short rib, broccolini, spring peas and roasted garlic. The tender chunks of short ribs with the earthy mushrooms and not heavy-handed sauce made each bite delicious. It was a pure delight.
Diner one picked the Salmon Steak. The masterful sear on the salmon made for a crispy and still moist steak, and its bed of asparagus, sundried tomatoes and artichokes with a Meyer lemon butter sauce left our diner exclaiming that this was the best salmon she has ever had! It was high praise from this world traveler. I went with the chef’s playful version of surf and turf, the BBQ Spareribs and Prawns, served over creamy polenta, corn succotash and topped with crispy onion rings. These super tender ribs fall off the bone with the slightest whisper. They are guarded by two upright prawn sentries, complete with their long antenna which extends the height of the dish like the trails of fireworks. It is fabulous, and I loved every succulent bite.
We chose two desserts. Our first was the Sugared Donuts and Macaroons. The donuts and macaroons are served on upright kabobs with three pots of whipped cream, passionfruit caramel and raspberry sauce for dipping. It reminded me of the maestro’s music stand –a perfect finale for this well-orchestrated evening.
We also chose the Tin Can Cake. I won’t reveal this dessert’s surprise, but it is very much worth the try. Even those who are neutral on chocolate will enjoy this as it’s not gooey-sweet, and its tableside presentation is so much fun. The warm chocolate cake is served in a waffle cup, adorned with chocolate sauce, caramel Anglaise, Heath bar crunch, vanilla ice cream and a touch of whipped cream.
Even though this is a large restaurant, the acoustics are perfect, and it is so busy already that they have just opened an additional outdoor terrace cocktail lounge. Orchard Park offers a special burger night on Tuesdays. Wednesday is Date Night with a special three-course menu for $35. The surprises continue in the evening when the tree-lined drive becomes a romantic aisle of twinkling white lights. There is plenty of parking, and valet is available too.
Cost –Moderate to high
What we liked–The sleek, sophisticated but inviting metropolitan energy with its exquisitely chosen furniture and light fixtures. The always surprising tastes and plating of this signature style menu. The huge wine list and the well-made cocktails. The well-trained, pleasant staff and the great acoustics; even when it’s crowded you can hear every word.
We give it 5 Js.
Orchard Park by David Burke is located at 670 Cranbury Rd. in East Brunswick (in the Château GrandeHotel). 732-554-5714. OrchardParkByDB.com.
The Dining Room is open Sunday through Thursday from 4 pm and Friday and Saturday from 4 pm to midnight. The Bar and Lounge is open Monday through Thursday at 4 pm and Friday through Sunday at noon. The outdoor Orchard Terrace is open Monday through Saturday from 4 to10 pm. Sunday a la carte brunch from 11 am to 3 pm. The dress code is smart casual.