I’m pretty much as casual as a diner can get. I like bread at the table, eggs and pancakes for lunch, and I’ll take seconds and thirds on a cup of coffee if you’ll let me. And no one was as surprised as I was at how much I loved eating at Adara.
I’m the gal who showed up at Sign of the Dove in too-short khakis and a Filene’s Basement sweater back in the 90’s. Because really, I had no idea what kind of place it was.
This time around, I knew Adara was on the more expensive end, and that it employed unusual techniques usually reserved for showy Top Chef competitions. Still, it intrigued me, and since the menu had some vegetarian options and lots of fish options, I knew what I wanted for my birthday (and anniversary, since we hadn’t celebrated that officially). Luckily, my partner in crime was into it, and off we went!
You can read the official review on Baristanet. But there were a few things I left out due to space constraints and silliness quotient.
We decided not to bring wine (it’s BYO), and went for the mocktail menu instead. Yum! At $8 each, the two drinks were about what we would have spent on a bottle of wine – and then we couldn’t have driven home. These mocktails are labor intensive – our server and the maitre d’ really prepared them carefully. Here’s a photo of my Bahamadia:
It was really good! I loved that it was a bendy-straw, too. Adara is definitely not going for stuffy.
We enjoyed our mocktails with the brioche “bread presentation” which consisted of sweet, light bread for which the yeast has been replaced with a 45 second carbon dioxide aeration. The bread was really good. I didn’t use any butter, although my companion did. The bread was airy without being spongy. I’m glad they only gave us two pieces because I could have eaten more. And then I wouldn’t have been able to truly enjoy the next courses. Check out the yeast-free brioche. Cool, right?
We ordered the two vegetarian appetizers. The Natura Mia was at the suggestion of our server because my husband was ordering the Pork Belly for his entrée – a heavy dish. It was light, colorful, and simple. Basically, it was good, but as my companion said, “It’s just something interesting to eat while I wait for the next course.” I ordered the Campania – heirloom tomatoes, a mozzarella ball, and basil seeds. (For much more beautiful photos, see John Lee’s flickr set.) After joking about the mozzarella ball going flying, and wondering what the heck I was going to do with the olive oil gelato, I started in. So good. SO GOOD. There was a peach candy disc, which I found unnecessary, but other than that – perfection. The people at the next table over, a couple from Wyckoff, saw it – and probably heard my appreciative “Mmmmmm” and “I love this!” and decided to order it as well.
So I had two minor (I say minor, I think my husband is still recovering from the embarrassment) incidents while eating at Adara. The first was a mishap with my fish dish. Not the food – the actual dish. The tableware they use at Adara is oblong and smooth and round. The fish was served in a low bowl, and the silverware is also smooth and round. I wanted to take a break from eating my fish, and as I placed my silverware on the edge of the plate (aren’t you supposed to put it there instead of the tablecloth?), it slid right in and almost right out. Kind of like a kid skateboarding on a half-pipe. I had to “go fishing” (haha, get it?) for my silverware, now coated in delicious ginger broth. And no, I didn’t clean it by licking it, thank you very much.
The second mishap came when we received the unpleasant dessert teaser. (Read about it here, almost at the end.) I wish I’d taken a photo of the adorable, tiny cones that came to our table. Created with pistachio cookie wrapped into an itsy-bitsy cone, it held one ball of tahini “ice cream” on top and some lavender cream inside. So cute. Because it was described to us as a “cone,” I ignored the little spoon that we had each been given, and I picked up my cone. The tahini ball broke free and rolled across the table dragging the lovely cream behind it. It made quite a trail of mess. I seriously almost started humming On Top of Spaghetti. Sadly, the mini-dessert was kind of upsetting, but the actual desserts were heavenly. Read the “real” review over on Baristanet.
Adara is located at 77 Walnut Street in Montclair, NJ. phone: 973.783.0462