See below for all the details.
Our First Review
There’s much to love about this passionate and perfectionistic restaurant, whose mission, says executive chef Anthony Bucco, is “to sustain local agriculture while feeding the community well.” At Uproot, which took root in Warren in November, culinary zeal and customer service come together in exemplary fashion. The owners, Catherine and Andrew Farro, are longtime Warren residents who are in the construction business. “Somerset County needed a sophisticated, Manhattan-level restaurant,” says Catherine. “Uproot aims for great cooking with informality and affordability, too.”
The vibe is young. The Farros’ CIA-trained 26-year-old son, Mark, is sous-chef to Bucco, a New York Restaurant School alum who, at 34, is the old salt on the premises. Uproot is managed by sommelier and mixologist Jonathan Ross, 26, whose toothsome retro cocktails—often based on rye or bourbon—are mixed with finesse by bartender Danny McGill, 29. The chefs and manager are Jersey boys who met at Stage Left in New Brunswick, where Bucco ran the kitchen from 2000 through 2006 and also opened Stage Left’s sister restaurant, Catherine Lombardi.
“We shared a vision about serving fresh, natural, delicious cuisine in a feel-good, unstuffy environment,” says Ross. “The vision we had in mind became Uproot to a T.”
Located in the Corner Village at Warren, a new single-story retail plaza with subtle signage, stone walkways, and elegant brickwork, Uproot was designed by Riscala Agnese of Manhattan, whose Jersey dossier includes Nicholas in Red Bank and Daryl in New Brunswick. Diners enter through a dramatic red-glass vestibule that opens into a high-ceilinged bar and lounge space. Overhead, a handsome white sculpture of abstract tree branches—an uprooted tree—commands the lounge, with its fifteen-seat granite and mahogany bar, leather club chairs, sofa banquette, and small round tables. This warm and welcoming nook is ideal for savoring a pre-prandial cocktail: perhaps a deftly spiced verjus sour, or the Tree, a Ross cocktail of Plymouth gin, brandy distilled with Douglas fir bark and needles, and house-infused thyme syrup.
The seductive bar menu includes Moroccan-style beef meatballs with whole pine nuts, cinnamon, currants, and a mint pesto. Bucco’s generous goat cheese tart (“a nod to the French chefs I’ve worked with, including at Provence in Soho”) should not be missed. It’s a kind of crispy white pizza whose flatbread crust is enriched with Guinness (“I’m half Irish,” he notes) and anointed with French chèvre, caramelized onions, and bits of Niman Ranch smoked pork. (The tart is not served in the dining room except at lunch, along with other lunch-only items like a Vietnamese banh mi-influenced pulled-pork sandwich on baguette and a pasta du jour.)
“We’re cooking the kind of full-flavored, honest, earthy food that people love to eat,” Bucco says. “We cook from the heart and don’t overthink or overhandle our food.”
Bucco revives the thrill in dishes that have become clichéd. He serves duck-liver foie gras from Quebec with pistachio-studded brioche bread pudding. Or consider his house-smoked-and -cured salmon, which is diced, pressed into cylinder shape, and delectably garnished with caviar, frizzled onions, and sliced pears.
Other captivating appetizers include succulent dayboat scallops from Barnegat Bay, scrumptiously paired with earthy, puréed sunchoke root (also known as Jerusalem artichoke) and lush, smoky Canadian wild boar belly. Quail is stuffed with chicken, duck, mushrooms, rosemary, and bits of the quail’s skin. Even better, it’s bedded on a luscious mushroom risotto. Another starter, potato gnocchi, is rendered irresistible with slices of Virginia ham air-cured for over a year.
Among entrées, butter-poached lobster is as rich and comforting as it sounds. A kiss of vanilla infuses the Maine crustacean, whose ocean-sweet meat stuffs a quartet of house-made agnolotti that share the plate. Long Island duck is confited to crisp the skin and make the meat creamy. Uproot’s impeccable steak, a 10-ounce New York strip dry-aged 21 days by DeBragga & Spitler, one of the East Coast’s choicest meat purveyors, is juicily cooked in the Wood Stone oven and served with confit potatoes slow-baked with rosemary and duck fat.
The venison hails from New Zealand, beyond the 200-mile food-sourcing circle that Bucco tries to maintain. (“It’s simply the best venison I’ve tasted,” he explains.) Its lean, pleasantly gamy meat is set off by tiny huckleberries cooked to an intense sweetness with verjus (tart grape juice) from Ontario. A vegetable cake au gratin with rutabaga and apple adds even more wattage to the plate. Sumptuous almond-crusted pork loin from Niman Ranch is slow-roasted with almond oil and acacia honey.
Bucco’s oven-roasted free-range Giannone chicken is from a Quebec farm that air-chills rather than freezes its birds, a flavor-enhancing process similar to dry-aging. This deeply chickeny chicken is companionably paired with savory root vegetables and carrot purée. Bucco finds rewarding ways to add excitement to fish while still showcasing the meat’s delicate flavors. He dusts arctic char with black trumpet mushroom powder for an earthy note; steams snapper in green tea and serves it with beet-hazelnut tapenade; and does cod with a grapefruit beurre blanc and slices of Venezuelan Cara Cara orange, celeriac, salsify, and Peruvian purple potatoes.
Uproot’s desserts, from Bucco and Farro, range from a superlative brownie concocted with Valrhona chocolate to arty, slightly spare sweets like a Twinkie-homage carrot-parsnip cake that could use more frosting. There’s a nice, light pineapple semifreddo; and a cheesecake caressed with thyme honey. Ice creams, made daily in-house, are spellbinding. Rotating flavors include Valrhona chocolate with airy, crackly chocolate chips; chunky peanut butter; spearmint chocolate chip; and caramelly dulce de leche. Au courant sorbets cover lavender, basil, and fruit essences like kaffir lime and Cara Cara orange.
I’m not completely sold on Uproot’s name (“Everything we use comes straight from the earth,” Ross explains) but I’m interpreting it this way: You will not want to uproot yourself from the table.
Uproot Cocktail Classes/The Define your Drink Series
A new series of cocktail classes for the Uproot barflies! We’ll be featuring special ingredients, fun spirits and a lot of technique. Shake, muddle and stir along side the barmen of Uproot as we Define Your Drink!
Inaugural Class: Thursday, April 8th @ 6:30pm
How to stock the home bar, fresh juices and recipes that will make your house the new hot-spot!
We’ll be starting with the basics. Manhattans, Martinis, Sours and Margaritas
Class #2: Thursday, May 6th @ 6:30
Cocktails from the Garden
Incorporate all of those fresh herbs and flowers in your garden. Sip in the Spirit of Spring.
We’ll be doing a lot of muddling here! Mojitos, make herbed sodas for mixing and incorporate many of the gardens fine herbs into great cocktails.
Class # 3: Thursday, June 3rd @ 6:30 pm (outside?!)
Give me a triple shot of that stuff
Celebrate the upcoming final race of the Triple crown. Each Race has its own cocktail. The Mint Julep, The Belmont Breeze, and the Black-Eyed Susan. We’ll revive the original Belmont cocktail, the White Carnation, and make up some of our own racy libations!
Class # 4 Thursday, July first @ 6:30
Cocktails for the beach, backyard, and the kids.
The forth of July cocktail you really want to serve, a cocktail to sneak onto the beach, some non-alcoholic cocktails for kids and the expecting!
Here will focus on refreshing crushed ice cocktails, making our own adult juice boxes for the beach and create non-alcoholic cocktails using fresh juices, made from scratch grenadine and real ginger ale!
Cocktail Classes will last for approximately 1 ½ hours. Each participant will be provided all of the necessary ingredients and equipment to make each cocktail. Light fare will be provided in addition to parting gifts. $40.00 per person/$125 for the series.
Classes are by reservation only and can be made via phone 908.834.8194, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Uproot in raising Awareness for Autism
To commemorate the third World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) on April 2 and Autism Awareness Month, Autism Speaks has asked businesses everywhere to do something “blue” on April 1 and 2. Here at Uproot restaurant, we will be printing on blue paper and featuring a "Blue" cocktail at our bar, because we want to shine a bright light on autism. Uproot restaurant supports Autism Speaks in its efforts to raise worldwide awareness of autism spectrum disorders which now affect 1 in 110 children. Learn more at www.AutismSpeaks.org.