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NJ Food Guide - September, 2009

Inside This Edition: New Jersey Food Reviews By The Jersey Shadow:  Cafet Monet in Millburn, NJ and Tinga Taqueria in Millburn, NJ

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Cafe Monet - Wanting something different and taking a break from budget meals, I recently decided to try out Cafe Monet with a guest.  This very eclectic establishment is ultra unique and interesting with original pieces of art for sale on the walls.  This evening we had our choice of any table as it was empty... not a good sign, but understandable in this economy and it not being the weekend.
 
Upon sitting down we were offered bottled water or tap and of course tap was chosen.  Tap water gets a bad rap in the US, and if I'm in an area where it's safe to drink then it's for me.  I've been plenty of places where drinking local water could kill you, and I take comfort in the simple pleasure of safe drinking water.  I don't need to make a statement with my water selection, but then again I guess perhaps I have by selecting tap water when offered an alternative.
 

The eclectic surroundings complimented the very intellectualized menu selections which we perused on a sheet of plain white paper.  I went with the "Goat Cheese Napolean, Basil-Greens Salad, Balsamic Vinaigrette 13" to start followed by the smaller portion of the "Rack of Lamb, Figs-Crumb Crust, Ratatouille, Israeli Cous-Cous 19/31."  My guest selected the "Grilled Hanger Steak, Frites, Cabernet Sauvignon Reduction 17/27."
 
As you can see, the prices are far from cheap, but diners can bring their own wine to add to the experience and possibly save a couple of dollars in the process.  The bread with olive oil to start the meal was very good and more was offered which is always nice.  My salad arrived with a plate to share and it was a very generous portion, perfectly dressed and the Goat Cheese Napolean was exceptional.
 
My Rack of Lamb (smaller portion) turned out to be two lamb chops perfectly cooked with the ratatouille over Israeli Cous-Cous.  The lamb was a little bland for my taste but the rest was very tasty.  The whole meal left me full but not overloaded and the meal was pricey but definitely worth it.  I drink Coke and they serve it at Cafe Monet in little bottles which are probably pricey.  The little bottles were bottled in America and I would have preferred the Mexican Coke since they are going to the trouble of buying the bottles.  Mexican Coke is made how American Coke used to be with pure cane sugar and the taste difference is distinctive and superior.   My guest enjoyed the Hanger Steak and remarked that the Cabernet Sauvignon Reduction added much to the dish.  All in all the experience at Cafe Monet was a very pleasant one. - Jersey Shadow -
 
Cafe Monet
309 Millburn Avenue
Millburn, NJ 07041
Phone: 973-376-8555 

 

Tinga Taqueria - Dinner at Tinga Taqueria is an experience to say the least, but it may be one that is not right for you and could be downright unpleasant.  I've dined in well over 150 eating establishments in New Jersey and shared a lot of that experience with you on Jersey Spin and now NJ Food Guide and dinner at Tinga was a bizarre confluence of kid mania and awful food.  I really hate to use the word awful, but it's the best word to describe my flavorless chicken burrito with a very odd taste and my guest's tacos which were described as similarly poor in every respect.
 
I don't appreciate walking into a restaurant, being seated, handed a menu and then instructed to get up and walk over to a counter to order and pay, but that's the way things work at Tinga's.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone... is this a Mexican restaurant or Taco Bell?  But wait... it's balloon night and suddenly the place was swamped with kids ordering hot dogs?  Maybe the hot dogs taste better than the Mexican food... maybe it's not about the food at all here, but just an option to get Mom and kids out the house?
 
The bottom line here is that I can keep an open mind if the food is at least mediocre, but sadly this experience left me dreaming of at least passable food at the local fast food joint.  Is it wrong to order a Mexican dish and expect it to be edible at a place called Tinga Taqueria?  And yet more customers flooded in with kids in tow... were they dreaming of balloon night?  Were they dreaming of the food?  My dream of finding a good experience here didn't happen, but hey I don't have kids.  If I did have kids and they begged me for balloon night at Tinga's, I would take them and feed them but I would be dining elsewhere later for sure. - Jersey Shadow -
 
Tinga Taqueria
321 Millburn Avenue
Millburn, NJ 07041
Phone: 973-218-9500

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