Cafe Panache

Richard Perry/New York Times

Richard Perry/New York Times

I’m way late in posting this review, and as a result, I’m probably giving short shrift to one of the best meals my wife and I have had in New Jersey so far. My apologies to Cafe Panache.

This restaurant is a bit of an odd duckling in that:

  • It’s an undeniably “fancy” French-American restaurant, but boasts no wine list (it’s BYO)
  • It’s in a nice, stand-alone building, but is adjacent to a strip mall parking lot
  • It attracts a strangely diverse crowd of date-night couples, business diners and older out-on-the-towners

But if the place itself is somewhat uncategorizable, the food is much easier to explain: it’s really damn tasty.

Credited with bringing NYC-caliber creations to suburban Jersey, chef and owner Kevin Kohler does exceptionally fine work with his weekly-changing menu. Not unlike some of the best “small” places in Philly, Panache excels in bringing out the best in fresh ingredients, allowing Kohler’s fantastic sense of design and presentation to take center stage.

Our particular meal began with a split order of agnoletti, delicate Italian cheese dumplings that were perfectly moist and buttery. For my entree, I ordered the red snapper which was pan-fried and served with a delicious black couscous surrounded by a red pepper coulis. My wife went for a meatier fish, ordering the grilled swordfish, which sat atop a mountain of various jullianed vegetables and a light lemon-oil dressing.

I wish I could be more descriptive with our experience, but sometimes I’m just not as fastidious a blogger as I should be. Anyway, I think you get the point – Cafe Panache creates some of the best cuisine in North Jersey.

My recommendation: go right now.

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