Red Hen Bistro – Game for the Food Serious


It sounds like a quaint place; doesn’t it? Well it is. Social media brought me to this restaurant through a grammar school friend. It was a post from her ‘kid’ brother, who is now a chef. He’s opening a restaurant? It doesn’t make any sense to me. How could little Rob Russo be a chef? Oh yeah, he’s only two years younger than me, and we’re all grown up now.

I felt almost obligated to give it a try; after all, we grew up in a small town. That obligatory support for a new restaurateur turned into a suprising reward. Not only does this guy know how to cook, he honed his skills in the presence of David Burke! But alot of people can cook, you say. Yes, but not alot of people spill passion all over the plate. It’s evident that there’s been an ongoing love affair between Chef Russo and food (sorry to spill the beans). I don’t know when it began, but I’m certainly thrilled that I now have a chance to be the recipient of his skill and artful presentations.

IMG_4041There was discussion somewhere about the braised beef short ribs being a staple on the menu from the previous owner. So naturally I had to try them and immediately understand the hype. The thyme-infused  jus ran over the meat like warm lavaIMG_4036 down the side of a volcano’s soft core. It naturally blended with the ribs and the potato celery root gratin. But before all that succulence, we were presented with an amuse bouche – an eggshell filled with shredded beef (I forget), mushrooms and a ratatouille with a custard at the bottom. The tiny spoon forces one not to shove a heaping spoonful into the mouth as one would easily be inclined to do, breaking all rules of fine-dining manners.

We each tried one appetizer because they all sounded good: the French Onion Dumplings, the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake – which WAS jumbo and crab-intense with minimal binder – and wanted to order more, but the food is not inexpensive. It is well-priced, however, considering nothing is ever frozen here, and he is able to buy super fresh product for the only two days open for dinner.IMG_4037IMG_4038

 The entree choices do not read like a diner – there are about eight , carefully selected to cover every avenue: poultry, seafood, pasta/vegetarian, pork, lamb. And it has varied slightly with each of my visits, so I can’t get bored.

IMG_4039

DAY BOAT SEA SCALLOPS
“Barley Style Risotto” / Shitake / Butternut Squash / Sweet Pea Emulsion /
Truffle Drizzle

Young Rob Russo has grown into a big food sensation on a small side street, not far from the small town we grew up in. It was impossible to leave without trying the dessert that rang sweet-nothings in my ear when it came off the waiter’s lips: croissant bread pudding with tempura bananas!  While bread pudding would never be my first choice for dessert, this one will always be my first choice here – of course until I hear one of his amazing new creations (yes, he makes his own desserts too).IMG_4043

How can you not want to continue this symbiotic relationship when the last thing you see before walking out the door is the chef’s ear-to-ear smile reading “Yeah, my food made them happy.”

www.redhenbistro.com

 

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One response to this post.

  1. […] in Hasbrouck Heights, we immediately made reservations. It was 4-star food and ambience. While the Red Hen Bistro had too short a life, it was even too much for Russo to handle on top of his flourishing catering […]

    Reply

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