Here’s what they have to say:
The 1920 Vail mansion, with its long reflecting pool and august marble facade, had been vacant for many years when veteran New York restaurateur (and Mountain Lakes resident) Chris Cannon audaciously set out to transform it into four distinct restaurant spaces with three different menus. It took more than four years of work, from securing a crucial concessionaire’s license from the town (to serve alcohol) to finding ways to install state-of-the-art HVAC, lighting and kitchen equipment without violating the integrity of the historically protected structure. (An empty elevator shaft and a dumbwaiter shaft proved godsends.) The two ground floor spaces—the brightly lit Oyster and Wine Bar, and the clubby Vail Bar—opened in October, joined before Christmas by the German-themed Rathskeller in the basement and the high-end, prix fixe Dining Room on the second floor. Chef Kevin Sippel, who trained extensively in Italy and France before helping Cannon and Michael White earn rave reviews in Manhattan, rejoined Cannon as JHBK’s executive chef. An unabashed Italophile, he also draws from other ethnic traditions to craft a menu that’s at once upscale and down home. Take, for example, what may be the world’s most marvelous meatball, made with veal, ricotta, parmesan and eggs over rapini in an amatriciana sauce. The raw bar features ravishing crudos and, at happy hour, $1 Barnegat Bay oysters from 40 North. Upstairs, Sippel opened with delicacies like grilled cuttlefish with a potato-and-sea urchin zabaglione. Desserts are simple, yet often smashing, like the fall’s pumpkin cheesecake and apple pie with crème anglaise. 110 South Street; 973-644-3180.
See where your favorite restaurant ranks at NJMonthly.com