Last I’d heard Zod Arifai had left N.J. for the bright lights and big city. Didn’t work out. He’s at The Martinsville Taverna. In Martinsville, New Jersey. He’s there. In the kitchen. Cooking his ass off. This is a gift that I hope lasts for awhile. From the best short ribs I’ve ever had all the way to avocado toast with jalapeño and sea urchin and a grilled octopus you could eat with a spoon (once past the crunch), this is a must see. If you can’t get tix to Springsteen on Broadway, this is a close second. Get there early and eat at the bar. If you can get over the Driscoll Bridge, that is.
Holy crap but YAY for NJ!! Zod remains my favorite chef ever, and I know a whole lot of them at this point… Thanks for the heads up @coldbeer70 !!
@CurlzNJ, I heard about this but your link provides many more details. Thanks. Especially glad that they will be open for lunch too.
BTW, it not working out had nothing to do with the chef.
In the city, you mean? Never thought so
@NotJrvedivici Think you can change the name of this thread to Chef Zod Arifai/The Duke and Elephant and list it in Martinsville, NJ?
I have word from THE source–he expects to be open this week! I’d confirm if you’re going to run there, but the website is up: http://thedukeandelephant.com
HOs, I can tell you now that there WILL be a HODown there (once he settles in). This is one of my favorite chefs, and his food is wonderfully creative!
You’re the bestest. THANKS!
Looking like it will be fully open within a few weeks… defo before turducken day… off to matrix.itasoftware.com with me!
They’re actually open already! Friends went on Thursday night. Sounds like they’ve been easing in to the ‘official’ opening, but Zod said there really isn’t one. Hoping to get there in the next week or two!
For starters, full disclosure…I’ve been a huge fan of Zod’s for years and have had MANY delicious dinners at his previous restaurants (Blu and Next Door in Montclair, both closed). So something would have to be really wrong for me to dislike his new venture–but there wasn’t.
For those who don’t know where Martinsville is, it’s <3 miles in off of Rt 287, east of Bridgewater, north of Rt 22. It’s just on the edge of Warren (the town, not the county), and I have a few friends who live there and are thrilled to hear there’s a new place that isn’t Italian (or owned by Harvest Restaurant Group).
The space is very cozy; I could see planting myself at the bar or in the dining room on a cold day and tuning out the world! ,We were seated in the ‘patio’ room, which is a screened appendage downstairs from the main dining room. There is heat out there and solid plastic ‘windows’ so it’s not 100% sealed–leading to the only real objection I had- the road noise. The restaurant sits ON the road, so the only way to remedy this would be to install real windows, but I don’t know if it’s worth doing.
The lead staff members were gracious and obviously more experienced than the others, but it’s not horrible–just a bit oblivious, which is something I know can be remedied! Thankfully the kitchen is already cranking out Zod’s wonderful food.
Unlike the Montclair restaurants, The Duke and Elephant has a full bar, a short cocktail list, and a decent list of wines. I had a glass of Tempranillo that was delicious and served at an appropriately cool temperature.
From a food perspective, my friends and I sure did try a lot…
I don’t eat much fried food in general, but the Fried Cauliflower (from the ‘snacks’ list) was perfectly fried and LIGHT. I could have eaten multiple bowls on my own.
For apps, we had:
Shrimp with garlic, chiles, and lemon. That shrimp is AMAZING. I was joking about swimming in the broth. I’d order it as an double portion/entree any day of the week. Shrimp can be boring, and those were anything BUT.
Because of my allergy to hard shellfish, I couldn’t try the mussels, but that version is a Zod classic, and my friend literally ate the broth with a soup spoon and mopped up the last of it with the extremely good crusty bread.
The octopus (above). SWOON. I love octopus in general, but this is an excellent, light rendition! Think Porta but 400 calories less, as it’s not full of butter. Fennel and chickpeas–these are 3 of my favorite things!
The chicken tacos are a perfect example of what I love about Zod’s dishes! Texture, a bit of heat, everything perfectly balanced.
Finally, even the Sicilian pan pizza was DELICIOUS! In a million years, I wouldn’t have expected to see it on one of his menus, but my friends had read a review by someone who lives in the area and the guy was raving, so we gave it a try. #noregrets
Truth be told, I could have been done after all of those apps, but when my entree of cod with miso, snow peas, and shitakes arrived, I managed to eat half of it anyway. His fish dishes aren’t THE BEST. Seriously–I never cook fish at home, and almost always ordered fish in his previous restaurants because it’s not only always cooked perfectly, the flavors are insanely good. This was no exception and I had a spectacular lunch today thanks to the leftovers.
Overall, I have to say that for a very new team, things were far better than I might have hoped. A bit more attention from the staff will go a very long way–esp as the place gets busier, which I suspect will be sooner vs. later, as the word gets out. This is definitely a place that straddles the line of go-to local (he makes the best cheeseburger EVER) or for a Saturday dinner. They’re also starting brunch (this weekend, I think).
Needless to say, I made a reservation for a bunch of friends who had already picked a date to get together after work in November–and can’t wait to get back! If I lived a bit closer (it’s about 45 mins for me) I bet I’d be there once a week. My friends (who live just a couple of miles away) have been there 3x in the last 10 days.
If you’re in the area, GO. Or get the to the area.
ETA: With the exception of the stellar octopus pic, the other photos were taken by my friend Eric.