Restaurant Serenade


By Dane Feldman

Photo by Dane Feldman.

Restaurant Serenade, the place New York Times-lauded Chef James Laird calls home base, is located on Roosevelt Avenue in Chatham Boro, New Jersey. The restaurant itself garners quite a bit of acclaim in the state and Nancy Laird, James Laird’s wife and co-owner of Serenade, has just this week been named Chairwoman of the New Jersey Restaurant Association’s board. Whether or not the ratings mean anything to you, Restaurant Serenade serves up wickedly delicious French food, which made it the perfect spot to celebrate my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary.

The food
My folks and I ordered two salads to start: the Greek salad with romaine, heirloom tomatoes, red quinoa, nicoise olives, and ricotta salata with a lemon vinaigrette as well as the Nancy salad with romaine, endive, arugula, tomatoes, croutons, and a sherry vinaigrette. The salads were distinctly different and quite good.

I truthfully could have ordered any of the entrees on the menu, but alas I settled for just one. I had the grilled pork chop served with a potato pancake, country bacon, and broccoli rabe. My father had the sea bass, which was seared and served over a lobster-tomato risotto with melted leeks and a lobster emulsion. My mother ordered the lobster tails, which were served with caramelized cauliflower, shaved fennel, pomegranates, and a blood orange sauce.

Everything was truly fantastic. I would have been equally happy eating any of the three dishes. When we were too full to order dessert, we were served a complimentary tasting plate of various candies and chocolate truffles.

The drinks
I felt similarly about the cocktail menu in that I could have enjoyed anything they curate at Serenade. Originally, I ordered the Moonraker: gin, vodka, Lillet blanc, Canton Ginger, and orange bitters, but unfortunately they had just run out of the Lillet (and I’ve been on quite the Lillet kick).

Instead, I ordered an Orange You Glad?: Rebellion Bourbon, Pritchard’s Lincoln County Lightning, orange bitters, maple bitters, and maple syrup. This cocktail was a perfect match for the pork chop. The flavor pairings were ideal and, while it sounds quite sweet, it wasn’t. The notes were there, but it was far from overpowering.

To cap off the night, I had a Stone Fence: Maker’s Mark, apple cider, and fresh lemon juice. This drink was so good that even a bourbon-hater like my mother found it refreshing. I’ll certainly have to look into recreating this one on my own.

The service/ambience
Both the wait staff and the general ambience of Restaurant Serenade are so impeccable I find it hard to put it into words. There aren’t too many restaurants where I dine where suit-clad staff offers complimentary coat checking, which is truly a testament to how classic this place is. The service was both systematic and personal in that the wait staff was knowledgeable, friendly, and extremely reliable.

The chairs are comfortable and modern and the restaurant is divided into rooms rather than as one big open space. The rooms aren’t closed off so it doesn’t feel overly intimate. Rather, it feels just intimate enough. The patrons are well dressed in that you’d be hard pressed to find a man without a sport coat or jacket on, so it’s probably encouraged that diners sport their Sunday best. I even spotted a few black cars and limos sitting outside.

Restaurant Serenade knows its good, but won’t throw it in your face. It’s a classic and timeless spot that nods at modern times making it the perfect getaway if just for a few short hours.