By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
100 Steps Supper Club and Raw Bar is located on Centennial Ave in Cranford, New Jersey, just up the block from its sister restaurant, A Toute Heure. Unlike A Toute Heure, which is a modern and mostly farm to table meets old school French restaurant, 100 Steps is a totally new wave small plates/large plates restaurant.
My parents took me to 100 Steps Supper Club and Raw Bar last Saturday for my birthday and let me just say that dining at 100 Steps was a completely humbling experience for me. I’ve toured the Culinary Institute of America and I’ve been food blogging for almost four years, but I’ve not been professionally trained. The chefs at 100 Steps are remarkably well trained—maybe even classically trained—and have the creativity of true artists.
Of course, no night out at a restaurant boasting a raw bar would be complete without a dozen oysters, so my folks and I split the East Coast Dozen: four Watch Hill oysters (from Rhode Island), four Wiley Point oysters (from Maine), and four Cape May Salts (from New Jersey). 100 Steps brought out fresh extra hot horseradish and house made cocktail sauce for the oysters, as most restaurants will do, but 100 Steps isn’t like most restaurants. On each table sits a bottle of house made hot sauce that pairs perfectly with raw oysters.
Following the oysters, we split three small plates: warm castelvetrano olives with tomato, thyme, lemon, and orange confit; beef and chorizo meatballs in sofrito, white wine, olive oil, and parmesan cheese; and finally the fluke crudo with a chile vinaigrette, agrumato oil, and perilla leaf salt topped with nori, micro shiso leaves, and endive.
Everything was delicious, but even for a small plate the fluke crudo was way too small. Instead, it was arguably just an amouse bouche. If only it had been advertised as such.
Following the small plates, we enjoyed the crispy fried crimini mushrooms topped with enoke mushroom salad, a citrus sauce, scallions, and sesame seeds in egg yolk. Then, we had the spicy trenette with calabrian chile, sea urchin, crab claw meat, buttery panko, and sesame seeds followed by the asparagus, ricotta, and pecorino cheese ravioli topped with royal red shrimp, capers, saffron cream, and toasted walnut and parsley gremolata.
These dishes were all fantastic and the flavor pairings were stellar. The royal red shrimp were tiny and delectable, the calabrian chile in the spicy trenette was to die for, but my favorite part above all was the crispy fried mushrooms. The dish is served in a small bowl with the egg yolk still in tact. When patrons are ready to eat it, they break up the yolk with a fork, stir it in to the sauce, and dip the fried mushrooms in it. My exact thoughts were: Who comes up with this? It’s brilliant.
100 Steps is a BYO establishment thanks to the liquor license laws in New Jersey, but the happy hour menu (Thursday-Saturday from 4-5:30) offers mocktails that sound just about good enough to drink any time: the not so dark and stormy (ginger syrup, lime juice, and ginger ale), the no-jito (lime juice, muddled mint, mint simple syrup, and seltzer), and the no-groni (grapefruit syrup, blood orange, dash of bitters, and seltzer), which sounds almost better than a classic negroni. I would bet you can order any of these outside of happy hour.
100 Steps is quite popular (as it should be), so it was fairly busy and even a little bit noisy when I was there. Reservations are your friend at this place—you might not get in otherwise.
Once you’re seated, the service is impeccable. The wait staff is friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and attentive. It’s clear that they take pride in their work and do far more than just bring the food out; they’re part of the experience and they do a wonderful job knowing what dishes to bring out together.
100 Steps is not for those short on cash; it’ll put you out if you truly want the full experience, but it is also well worth the money if you can spare it. I could go again tomorrow and have a completely different meal. Upon first looking at the menu it doesn’t seem vast, but in fact I’ve only grazed the surface. Most importantly, it’s a spot to which I’m already planning to return.