For the next few weeks or so, I’m going to be publishing meals that unfortunately I didn’t get to from the months of September to December. I’ll also be updating with new meals that I’m enjoying currently, please just check the dates on the articles and you’ll see when they were enjoyed.
Back during the first week in September, a great friend of ours took my wife and I out to celebrate my birthday. We chose Roost (the upstairs restaurant of Revel + Roost). It’s absolutely the more formal, more professional older brother to the “bar/restaurant” concept of Revel. Coincidentally, my wife and I ended up visiting Revel a couple weeks after this visit (on 9/13) and the results were less than inspiring. Rather than write that up, I’ve decided to focus on the more positive of the two experiences. Roost provides a quality, formal dining experience unique to the Downtown and Market Square area.
The starting bread course was very unique, with a crusty loaf of french bread as well as some beautiful savory cheese puffs (aka gougere). The sweet tomato marmalade was less of a success than the herbed whipped butter, but the gougere were an absolute knockout. I could have eaten 15 more of those. Thankfully, we’d ordered quite the spread and were in for quite an adventure.
A magnificent accomplishment, the cheese board at Roost was a very generous portion of some classic combinations with a few very unique twists. The most accessible (top left) was easily the fontina with fresh berries. Sweet and more sweet, with just the right semi-soft cheese for the job.
My favorite on the board (bottom left), was the Firefly goat’s milk bleu with candied walnuts. The soft, melty, creamy bleu enveloped the cloyingly sweet walnuts, combining together to mellow each other out. Nutty flavors from both the cheese and the literal walnuts, with a so-funky-it’s-good taste-bud-destroyer with the sweetness of the coating of the walnuts. For the sweet/aged combination (bottom right), they paired the 2 year old cheddar with some fantastic raw clover honey. The creaminess of the cheddar absorbed the strong sweetness of the honey and they both enhanced each other’s wonderful “grassy” flavor. Instead of a mustard for dipping (top right), the aged gouda was paired with an apricot/cherry mostarda. Like a sour, vinegary preserves, it was the right amount of sweetness paired with the perfect sour kick of the apricots and cherries.
For shared appetizers, we went with the Scallops and the Beef Tartare. The scallops were a stand-out, lightly seared and feathery soft, served over butterscotch pork belly. The toasted chestnuts worked beautifully with the pork and the sweet scallops to reign in the powerful fennel salad and celeriac puree beneath. A very nicely composed dish both through the balance of flavors and textures. Less successful was the Beef Tartare, served with raw tomato slices, a “deviled” egg and a parmesan cracker tuile. The beef could have benefitted from the quail egg being served raw over it, with the tomatoes removed and replaced with some acidity from a sauce or additional herb. Overall, it just fell flat, especially when put up against the delicious scallops.
My wife, ever the consistent omnivore, went with the chicken breast. In lieu of the suggested sides of sage bread pudding, glazed haricot vert, radish, and butternut squash batonnet, my wife opted for a side of mashed potatoes, corn, and roasted asparagus. With little rope, you can do little damage, and this dish was as expected. Unfortunately, this cannot be judged against the standard offering, so please don’t consider the chicken an afterthought. The Shrimp and Grits, on the other side of the exact same hand, were the picture of what you do with a standard recipe. The shrimp were colossal and fresh, perfectly grilled and bursting with flavor. The aged cheddar grits, wonderfully creamy and smooth, were studded with beautiful chunks of crispy pork belly. The classic addition of a sprinkling of diced green onions added a lovely vegetal bite to cut through the richness of the shrimp and grits.
Upon recommendation of the waitress, I went with the duo of pork for my entree and I am so glad that I did. The magnificent double-cut pork chop was the star of the dish, cooked to a beautiful medium rare, with a crispy sear of fat around the outside. The cotechino was a fascinating pork sausage, rolled like a porchetta, but fried like you’d cook salami/pepperoni. Strong flavors of fennel throughout the sausage, the topping of a balsamic-fig compote was a beautiful sweetness that worked with the (real) baby carrots. Served atop braised and pickled cabbage, with a nice mix of fall vegetables (whole baby carrots and radishes), all of the lighter sides provided a nice break from the heavy pork and the cotechino. The return of the deviled quail egg (from the tartare earlier) and the mustards were unnecessary, but still appreciated overall.
Desserts were overall disappointing and forgettable. The blueberry cobbler was far too heavy on the dough, the filling was overcooked and dry, and it all was severely lacking in sweetness or a forward fruit flavor. The ice cream served on the side was delicious, but far too heavy of a hand was used in the crumble on the side, which started to take over the ice cream texture and create faux-ice crystals in its sandy texture. The other dessert we ordered, a fudge brownie, was hot and chocolatey, but the fruit elements were far too pronounced and inescapable in the bowl with the chantilly and whipped creams. The complimentary chocolate chip cookies were a sweet note to end the night on. Firm, with crisp edges and a still warm center, they were a lovely ending to a delicious meal.
Exemplary service was had throughout, elevating the meal to even greater heights. It can be especially difficult downtown, with diners usually more focused on appearance than quality of food, to cultivate a restaurant such as Roost. My greatest solace is that those far less concerned with enjoying a formal meal have only to look downstairs at Revel, saving the upstairs at Roost for those who truly want to have a delicious dining experience. I look forward to returning and seeing how they evolve seasonally and with the area. When we initially visited, they were the only major restaurant on the block, but now with Pirata (Caribbean), Pizzuvio (pizza), Delicious Raw (juice smoothies), and Hello Bistro (fast casual salad bar) all crowding the area, it’s hopefully going to grow to be another part of the ever-expanding downtown cultural district.