By Dane Feldman
Photos by Dane Feldman.
Just under a year ago, I visited Restaurant Serenade in Chatham, New Jersey for the first time. I hadn’t been back until last weekend simply because my family has decided to reserve the place for special occasions only—this time for my father’s birthday. After returning for a second meal, I only wish special occasions came around more frequently.
Serenade offers several menus: lunch, dinner, bar, tasting, Saturday night, cheese, and dessert, but their dinner menu is just one of the great aspects to so rarely dining at a place like Serenade. It’s seasonal, which likely means that no two meals are the same. When it comes to seasonal menus, fall is my favorite. I love the sweet and salty pairings, the heartier meat-based entrees, and the drinks especially (but we’ll get to those later).
For an appetizer, we ordered the tartare (yellowfin tuna, cucumber, sesame seeds, and crispy phyllo in an Asian marmalade), which was absolutely delicious. The tuna was about as fresh as it comes. We also tried the crab cake appetizer (jumbo lump crab, Meyer lemon remoulade, and shaved fennel). They weren’t quite as good as the ones we enjoyed at Tisha’s, but they came pretty close.
For dinner, my parents both ordered the sea trout special with escarole, mushrooms, and polenta sticks. Meanwhile, I was switching back and forth between ordering the grilled tuna (coconut sticky rice, avocado, shiitake mushrooms, and a ginger vinaigrette) and the grilled Berkshire pork chop (with local apples, butternut squash, cipollini onions, and potato puree), which sounded so perfectly seasonal.
In the end, I ditched both and went with the steak frites special: lightly charred cowboy steak, cooked medium rare and served with frites and a separate plate of roasted vegetables. I don’t think I’ve had a steak this delicious or this big since I was in Wyoming ten years ago. I guess that’s why they called it a cowboy steak.
Serenade offers several cocktail specials, beer by the bottle as well as on draft, and a fairly lengthy wine menu. Originally, I’d been determined to try something new because the cocktail menu had almost completely changed since my visit in January. In fact, the only drink on this menu that was also on January’s was the Stone Fence. Can you guess where this is going?
Yep, I ordered a Stone Fence (Maker’s Mark, apple cider, and fresh lemon juice). I had forgotten about it before setting foot inside the restaurant for the second time, but I won’t forget it ever again. There’s a good reason why this cocktail is a mainstay.
Nothing about the service or ambience seems to waver here. We were offered the same gorgeous tasting plate of desserts at the end of the meal and managed to sit at the exact table as last time. Our waiter was friendly, attentive, and certainly knowledgeable. He even spoke with us for a long while about our taste in wine as well as his own, but certainly didn’t overstay his welcome.
Honestly, Serenade is a pricey endeavor, but the experience here is just as important as the food itself. The Stone Fence may be a mainstay at Serenade, but Serenade is a mainstay in New Jersey.