Montclair Eats: soup for the soul, in cold weather
By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local
A tasty hot soup is one of my favorite methods of dealing with cold weather. In fact, I like soup so much that for the short period of time in which I am eating it, I have no qualms about the weather. I might even forget about it for a while. I have searched Montclair for three soups that make me feel both happy and satiated.
And I am pleased to report to you how three completely different soups achieved just that.
This speaks of the versatility of soup:
1. Tomkha Kung
The tomkha kung at SLA Thai in Upper Montclair is a broth-based soup with coconut milk and poached shrimp. They also offer tomkha gai, which is the same soup with chicken rather than shrimp. The broth has such an intense depth of flavor that I was tasting new things with every spoonful. The floral characteristics provided by the lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger, kaffir lime leaf and cilantro blended so beautifully with the earthiness of the button mushrooms and subtle shellfish flavor given off by the shrimp. This soup like all of the others could make a meal in and of itself. This is the most surprising thing, given how light it is.
2. Mushroom and Barley
Marcel Bakery and Kitchen is a relatively recent addition to the food options in Upper Montclair, however, it has already made a huge impression. Their mushroom and barley soup is the true definition of meal in a bowl. The mushrooms are sliced thinly, yet maintain an excellent consistency and the barley adds glorious flavor and starchiness. It is meaty without having a trace of meat in it. There are tiny pieces of carrots interspersed that give such a great bit of sweetness whenever they make their way into a bite. The broth base is rich in flavor and is accentuated by fresh herbs and spices.
3. New England Clam Chowder
Jack’s Seafood Shack on Bloomfield Avenue is another relatively new addition to the Montclair food scene. Their New England clam chowder is an excellent example of the famous regional specialty. The flavors are quite pronounced and discernible. There is a hint of spice at the end that brings the entire soup together perfectly. The ratio of clams to everything else is perfect, with a piece of clam in every bite! All of the textures of the different vegetables used are inviting: the potatoes have a nice firmness to them, the onions and celery maintain some of their bite. Everything blends together with the clams and the cream providing a very well balanced, rich, soup.
In this column:
• SLA Thai, 38 Upper Montclair Plaza, 973-509-0111, slathai.com
• Marcel Bakery and Kitchen, 631 ½ Valley Road, 973-842-4088, marcelbakeryandkitchen.com
• Jack’s Seafood Shack, 718 Bloomfield Ave, 973-892-5283, jacksseafood
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