My high school friend Tina has moved to South Orange in New Jersey, so last week I went to visit her in her new hometown. When you’re in Manhatttan, South Orange sounds like a faraway place, but it is only around 30 minutes by train from Penn Station.
Thursday evening, we went out for drinks at The Cassidy in Maplewood, which is a cute town close to South Orange. It was a weeknight, so the bar was rather quiet, but the drinks were nice and strong, and I liked the feel of the bar which was more big city than suburb.
Later on, we had dinner at Common Lot in Millburn, which is another cute town in the area. Tina and Joel had dined at Common Lot many times before, so when we walked by the restaurant, they noticed that it was the owner himself, who was in the kitchen that night.
We started with tuna carpaccio and a plate of braised pork belly to share, and it was delicious, with a sticky, Asian-style chili-soy glaze and plenty of umami-packed fat. For our main courses, I had a pumpkin and tofu stir fry, while Tina had an elegant pan-fried Branzino fillet, and Joel had an amazing dish with braised short ribs and xo sauce. My pumpkin dish had a nice hint of sweetness and a lot of interesting stuff going on (yes, shitake and Thai green curry sauce, you’re great together). For dessert I had a coffee parfait, dressed up as an ice cream sandwich with the parfait stuck between two deliciously chewy chocolate cookies.
Common Lot isn’t licensed, so it is BYOB (bring your own bottle/booze) at Common Lot. I really like the concept, which you won’t find in Denmark or Dubai. You just bring a bottle of your favorite wine or whatever you would like to drink with your dinner. I was really impressed by the food, which was fully on par with what you get at nicer restaurants in New York City
After we got back from Common Lot, the plan was to continue the evening in the bar (yes, there’s a bar in Tina’s house!) but it had been a busy week for all of us, so we ended up going to bed at 10pm:)