Our party of four was greeted warmly upon arriving at this cozy, upscale restaurant and was seated at a table with great chairs. Yes, I’m mentioning chairs as I believe restaurants often omit splurging on this important décor item. The smallish space boasts a hip and wealthy crowd (can you say “Real Housewives of New Jersey”?). Since Café Panache is a BYOB, we’d brought four wines to enjoy.
The first wine we opened was a terrific Prosceco – La Marca Di Conegliano Valdobbiadene.
The second wine we uncorked was a 2003 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. We drank it with our starters, which were outstanding: Tuna tartare with wilted seaweed on an avocado and wasabi puree, a wild mushroom and arugula salad with shaved parmesan and a pan-fried pulled pork cake. The tuna was served in a very generous portion and was a great contrast to the wilted seaweed. The intriguing pulled pork dish was simply great. Pulled pork was formed into a patty then breaded and pan-fried to create a crispy exterior. The huge parmesan shavings on the wild mushroom salad were delectable.
The third bottle we enjoyed was a 2004 The Dead Arm Shiraz and it was served with our entrees: A perfectly-seared loin of venison, braised short ribs with dark beer and black molasses, a stellar mustard seed-crusted and sautéed calves liver, and a special of the evening, a crispy John Dory on a bed of wonderfully al dente farro. Braising the short ribs in beer and molasses is a great way to prepare this popular dish – nice twist by Chef Kevin Kohler. The star of the evening was the sautéed calves liver. This dish was
simply divine. Perfectly cooked to ensure its tenderness, and full of peppery flavor.
Our final wine was a 2003 La Chapelle de Calon and we drank it with our desserts: a cheese plate with solid options, a white chocolate mousse and a crème brulée. The mousse and the crème brulée were standard and okay.
I made a reservation well in advance for this popular restaurant and had very limited options, so plan ahead if you want to dine at Café Panache on a weekend night. The restaurant occupies what was formerly a Long John Silver’s, but you’d never guess it by the beautiful décor and warm atmosphere. If you haven’t dined at this restaurant, definitely put it on your radar for special occasions.
130 East Main Street
Ramsey, New Jersey