I’ll have my chef medium smoldering, thank you.

ChurchstreetchefChefs are the new rock stars — let’s face it, what could be sexier than a man who will cook for you? Manhattan’s chef’s are all bold-faced names, some with faces telegenic enough to make them regulars on Food Channel and the morning news shows. Montclair’s no slouch in this department. We’re always catching Ryan DePersio from Fascino on TV, and we got to think it’s about more than just his way with a whisk.

In this new culinary tradition, enter Chef Barry (McSizzling) Bonser, to take Church Street Cafe to a new level. The first thing to go is the “cafe” part of the name, a good idea since it never really fit. The next is bringing in a chef who is willing to radically shake up the menu. Bonser, Baristanet dropped by for a taste of what’s already started showing up on tables at Church Street and Bonser, who apprenticed at Bouley and worked at name-drop worthy Aja, Osteria del Circo and the “21” Club, wowed diners with a velvety butternut squash and apple soup, with a hint of caramel, and smoky Scallopbacon_1applewood bacon wrapped sea scallops. What we like on Bonser’s fall menu: pumpkin pierogies with sage and caramelized onions, a pulled duck and homemade pappardelle with chestnuts, porcini mushrooms and white truffle cognac sauce, and a super-rich, sinful chocolate caramel tart. Church Street is open for lunch and dinner; for reservations, call 973-233-0216. Baristanet readers will recall that the Baristas hold a special place in our hearts for Church Street, as the first and only restaurant to throw our readers a party. For more food porn, click here.

Photos: Andy Cohen

23 replies on “New (Hot) Chef In Town”

  1. And you can watch Chef Barry prepare a great culinary delight on my cable show – Inside Montclair on Tv – 34.
    Mon. Wed. Fri., at 8:00pm
    It’s All great…Wayne Robbins

  2. Ate there last week. His food is absolutely terrific! Couldn’t get past the greasy, unwashed bread plates and tableware, though. When I asked for a second bread plate, the waiter brought me another greasy plate. Maybe it was an off night for the dishwasher. Service is painfully less than professional, but solicitous. Overall ambiance needs work. The chef needs a higher calibre stage to work on.

  3. As I said on another site, I hope that the service is brought up to par to match the cooking…hopefully the chef will insist on it.

  4. Hopefully, the owners will finally realize that the service, cleanliness, and atmosphere is very important as well. I have been eaten here three times and each time was worse than the other.

  5. We’ve eaten there three or four times since the new chef has been there and are amazed at the greatly improved quality of the food. We never noticed the unsanitary conditions of the plates or cutlery. We’ll have to be more attentive. The service has run the gamut from an obviously untrained apprentice who asked “what would you guys like?” to an attentive and pleasant redheaded man who was specially good with the kids.

  6. Great to see that Andy Cohen is using his photo’s on Barista. He is an extremely talanted photographer. HI ANDY!!!!!

  7. Hmmmm…mixed experience for us….the space definitely needs an update to match its ambitions. As for the food – scallops get top billing. Squash soup was also good. Fried artichokes had lovely goat cheese to compensate for the briny taste of canned artichokes. Tuna was so-so: the fish was tasty but very cold, even for rare tuna; the rice was undercooked, cold, and crunchy; and the vegetables were warm but undermined by some grittiness in the bok choi.
    The servers were nice, but unpolished. Timing of courses was horrid. The appetizers took a while, and the wait for our entrees was at least 45 minutes after our entrees were cleared (keep in mind that rare tuna and scallops require about 5 minutes of cooktime). The staff was gracious in their explanation that the delay owed to a lot of people sitting down/ ordering at once.
    There are signs of promise, but it will take us a while to test the waters again.

  8. Sounds good except for the “pulled duck.” How mean can you get? (Excuse me, my vegetarian bias is showing up again.) However, I won’t go unless absolutely dragged.
    I ate there three times and got mildly sick the first two times and rather badly ill the final time. Could it have been the unwashed utensils?
    I will skip it. Chow down, brave foodies!

  9. Ate there again last night and I’m glad some of you are staying away. I don’t want to have to wait for reservations. Im not sure when ikanwrite last went to Church Street. There’s a definite improvement since last month and things keep getting better. Now the desserts are much improved.This chef is making good changes to the restaurant.

  10. I think it was summer or late spring of this year. I cannot tell you the puking horror that ensued. And most telling, when I asked about a particularly lackluster looking cheesecake, the honest waiter remarked that it was “kind of fresh; it was only there a few days.”
    I am sure there is a big improvement; yet, I will not go. And that leaves room for others.

  11. I have eaten at Church Street at least 2 dozen times since it opened. Never had a bad experience with food or wait staff. I would go more often if my schedule would allow it. I have even booked a party there for my very closest friends. I suggest the sick guy stays at McDonalds were the food is always the same and doesnt upset his delicate stomach.

  12. Ah, Bill; such logical fallacies! How dare you assume that I am a guy! Pshaw! And as a vegetarian I would never eat at McDonald’s.
    Don’t name call or assume; a basic lesson that I teach college writing students.
    Eat up!

  13. I went here last night, on a not so busy friday night. We had 8:30 reservations for 7 and were sat promptly. We all ordered appetizers that were delicious and came out at a reasonable time. Our entrees were ordered around 9:25-9:30. Around 10:05 2 of the 7 entrees came out, I believe it was the mussel dishes. Then 5 or so minutes later 2 more dishes came out: A very well done duck that was ordered medium, A very luke warm hanger steak dish that was ordered medium rare. The next item that came out was the short ribs, that were very cold. Next dish was the pasta dish – piping hot and the final dish – that came out oh at least 5-10 minutes later was a fish entree. I forgot to add that we were also celebrating a friends birthday (our friend ordering the fish!!). We were offered no explanation, we had to ask for one. We were told that the chef wasn’t sure of timing, or something of that nature. I think that the chef should of been behind the line instead of chatting with customers. The other thing is there were three 2 tops and 2 four tops; not extremely busy. A complimentary dessert was offered to the birthday boy but then the waiter said that he was going to be bringing out an assortment of desserts, followed by him tossing forks in front of us and then asking if we wanted dessert. Two of our friends spoke to the manager and she offered to take off our cappucinno/coffees and brought out 2 pieces of cake. We left at 11:20ish very disappointed. Maybe if we went here in pairs of 2, the service/food would of been better? This place needs better communication amongst their staff and the chef needs to have better execution of his dishes. I won’t be going there anytime soon nor would I recommend it. I use baristanet and the users comments as a reference to what places might be good. I hope that future customers have a better experience than we did.

  14. Yes, disappointed, you’re right… the entree delivery to your table was a bit of a nightmare. You have my apology. We are always flattered when the staff from a neighboring restaurant chooses us for their celebratory occassions, hence, I am doubly dissapointed that we failed you.

  15. yeah Greg..that dose say alot…having the staff from another restaurant not go to their Own place for a diner party.
    Good response.
    Happy Holiday to you and Cheryl

  16. ikanwrite,
    Are you sure that you didn’t have a virus or something? We have eaten there several times since it opened and have always found the food great and the staff friendly and accomodating.
    I especially enjoy the outdoor tables.

  17. I’ve only eaten there once, on a Saturday for lunch, but I’m afraid I have to echo others’ opinions about the service at this place. Our table for 4 was served by a very young man who was frustratingly disorganized and unprofessional.
    The food was lackluster that day and the decor was uninspiring in the extreme.
    The menu created by the new chef sounds interesting, but there are so many places in the area with reliable service and lovelier environments that it’ll be a long time before I venture back into Church Street.

  18. OK I have the simplest suggestion for Greg. The one thing about this place that drives me crazy…. turn off the horrid flourescent lights that run down the center of the place! I know, I know, it sounds rediculous, but it destroys the atmosphere. Spend a few bucks on some more decent lighting and only turn those puppies on to clean the floor at the end of the night!
    On a more meaningful note, I do think they try but fall short often. The wait staff is eager and friendly but often so obviously green. And the little things… walked in about 2 minutes after the 11am breakfast deal ended — next time let ’em have the deal! Those are the people who will come back. You’ll make the $$ up the next time. Food is good though and the effort made with things like live music and general attempt to be a bigger part of community here is worth rewarding.

  19. simple food, average service, with all the other choices in Montclair, we’ll visit one of the more extra-ordinary restaurants next time.
    no one should settle for mediorcraty.

  20. Is it true that the new chef has already left? We were really enjoying the menu there lately. New and inventive items had us going back, but only when the chef was there. Otherwise, we always found the restaurant mediocre at best.

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