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Blue Morel: Great Flavors, Too Much Fussy Frou-Frou

Blue Morel's bright light is hidden under bushel of trendy distractions.

Delving into the latest food trends can be exhiliarating, but there's a point at which trendiness becomes a burden. Sometimes, a restaurant needs to pay less attention to pushing the culinary envelope and more attention to getting the drink orders right and delivering the food to the table before the diners fall asleep.

This is the challenge facing the new restaurant that replaced Copeland at the Westin Governor Morris Hotel in Morris Township. I recently dined there and somehow, left feeling both happy and frustrated. 

The flavors were wonderful, no doubt about it. But in too many cases, a beautiful tasting moment was diluted by what seemed like an obsessive need to be trendy. 

First up was an amuse-bouche, or "mouth amuser" from the chef; a pickle made from watermelon rind. We were told that this was a pet project of the chef; one to which he had dedicated substantial effort. It was an interesting taste experience, but unfortunately, it coincided with two of the ten drink orders being filled incorrectly.

The extremely long wait between courses had me cursing the overwrought cutting-edginess. Did the shishito pepper really need to be carefully "blistered," the salsify laboriously "shaved?" Was it necessary to delve into molecular gastronomy with a foamed sauce? If I passed out from hunger, would I awaken with a grilled scallion tied in a bow around my wrist?

Take the salad. I would have loved to have more of a spectacular heirloom tomato in the Oak Grove Heirloom Tomato Salad, but there was just a single, thin slice of it in one of those pretty but fussy architectural formations of multiple stacked ingredients. Given Blue Morel's supposed farm-to-table philosophy, perhaps the food should occasionally make the trip from the garden plot to plate with minimal intervention. Why not slap a generous slab of that juicy tomato on the plate and let us truly enjoy nature's bounty, fresh from the earth?

I had a similar problem with a mouth-watering parsnip puree, which came as an accompaniment to a wonderful twice-cooked beef short rib. The puree was placed on the plate in a millimeters-thin disc and topped by a coddled egg so perfectly prepared that it was translucent and quivering. A technical achievement, to be sure, but since I wasn't in the mood for egg with my short rib, I was reduced to sliding my knife beneath the fragile egg to dig out tiny bits of that wonderful parsnip. A small scoop of puree next to the short rib would have been far more satisfying. 

Desserts tasted wonderful but were similarly belabored. When you create a marvelous blueberry truffle, you do not need to top it with popcorn in order to display your culinary playfulness. The one dessert that was simple and perfect was Oma's Jersey Peach Torte. I like to imagine it was because Oma (Grandma) didn't give a hoot what the other chefs were doing when she created it.

Despite my griping, I do not suggest that diners skip the trip to Blue Morel. There's too much promise here to ignore. By all means, go and give it a try. It's only your patience and not your palate that will be tested. 

For reservations, please call 973-451-2619.

Hours of Operation

Breakfast: Daily 6:30AM - 10:30AM

Lunch: Monday - Saturday 11:30AM - 2:30PM

Brunch Buffet: Sunday 12:00PM - 2:30PM

Dinner: Daily 5:30PM - 9:30PM

Martha October 25, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Tried it once, and had a different experience with service. Entrees arrived within minutes of the appetizers, and the server offered to take them back to the kitchen and place them under heat lamps! And the servers were demonstrably hostile toward one another, and the obvious tension was a distraction.

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