We had dinner last night at Next Door in Montclair for the 1st time. Next Door is the sister restaurant to Blu which we have enjoyed on many occasions. They share the same kitchen.
Next Door has a more casual atmosphere and service style than Blu. The food style is more homestyle (mashed potatos, meatloaf, burgers) while at the same time has a great mix with specialty and exotic dishes. Their prices are about 20%-25% less than Blue which can make a week night meal out more reasonable. They are also offering a great 3 course pric-fix for $20.
Scott started with an octopus, white bean and roasted red pepper salad that was out of this world. The octopus was carmalized perfectly and cooked just right. The slight hint of rosemary with the beans was just perfect and not overpowering as rosemary can sometimes be. The broth that was left was perfect for dipping some good peasant bread in (and their bread is good, worth dipping and eating.) I had a an arugula salad with goat cheese, roasted beets and walnuts. I thought the menu had said pecans but I must have misread. I am not a big walnut fan, they make my mouth itch. Even with the walnuts the salad was excellent. Just the right amount of dressing - nothing was swimming - and the goat cheese was fresh, creamy and delcious.
For our entrees Scott had penne with duck, white beans and hot peppers. Wow, were those peppers hot. I had linguine with wild mushrooms, garlic and oil which was faboulous. The portions were enormous, as so many restaurants are. By the time we were both finished we each had 1/2 a bowl of pasta left in the bowl. We had eaten all of the "stuff" with some pasta and then left the balance of pasta.
I know many people like the large portions. I personally prefer "right size" portions. I don't need (or want) a heaping bowl of pasta. I would prefer to have a small amount of pasta and heaping amounts of vegetables, beans, etc... I like to be able to eat 2 -3 courses and not feel like I need to be rolled out of a place. I know, I know, I can always stop eating so I can have the next course. The problem is I have very little willpower. If I have a dish in front of me that is delicious I will continue to eat and eat and eat. It takes all my effort to stop - even though I know I should, and know I will regret it if I dont. I have started resorting to other means to prevent myself from eating to much. I will put my fork in Scott's meat dish that way I no longer have utensils to eat with. Other times I have been known to dump tons of salt on top so it no longer is tasty. I would much prefer if restaurants served more "correct" size portions - do we really need 1/2 lb of pasta in one course.
We had a wonderful bottle of Rosenblum Aparicio Zinfandel with the meal. We love zins, and Rosenblum is one of our favorite vinters. This was the 1st time we had this particular Rosenblum zin. It was a nice combination of pepper, blackberry with a bit of chocolate.
All in all a wonderful Thursday evening in Monclair.
What a wonderful meal we had.