"A Toute Heure" in Cranford - Nothing Short of Spectacular

A Toute Heure is a small French bistro in Cranford's "Centennial Village". Centennial Village is a two block main street type business district south of downtown Cranford. I drove through there so many times and never thought much about it. But just recently I noticed this small restaurant and tonight I finally had a chance to check it out.

A Toute Heure actually opened in May of this year already. I'm truly annoyed about the fact that it took me more than 3 months before I realized that the place even existed. The amount of sensual food pleasure that I missed out on is incredible. ;-))

The place is fairly small. They have 10 tables and they can probably seat between 30 and 35 people. The interior is a very good interpretation of a French bistro, comfortable and stylish. Although it is only one open room it did not get too noisy.

Service is friendly, very attentive and efficient, but not overly polished. I actually like that. Sometimes overly polished and refined service crosses over into arrogance and attitude. No danger of that at A Toute Heure.

The menu changes daily and you can check it on their website. On Tuesdays they have mussels, small plates and a large selection of "bites". The bites alone are worth it. Bites are small sub-appetizer dishes at $4 each. But they are still enough to share for a couple. We could have had all 8 bites of the evening, equivalent to a good meal for two and would have experienced a sensual joy ride that would be very difficult to match.

One really interesting bite was the "Grilled NJ sweet peaches, creamy ricotta & garden herbs". A perfect combination of different flavors and textures that in your mouth combine to something incredibly special. The grilled "royal" eggplant toasts and the summer vegetable frites are equally impressive. The garlic-saffron aioli had just the right amount of saffron to complement the garlic without overpowering it.

The small plates are smaller portions of regular entrees at a somewhat reduced price. They are sizable portions for a normal appetite and if you had a few appetizers (a.k.a bites) that is all you need. I'm not a fan of overeating and of wastefully large portions. I had the hangar steak. It was nicely cooked medium and came with a full-bodied, flavorful onion jam. The onion jam was a great match to the very pronounced flavor of the meat and the mustard marinade. The dish came with little potatoes that actually did have a taste of their own (not just chunks of starch). My friend's flank steak (that she let me taste) was just as refined. It came with two different types of corn pudding. One more like grits and the other one done almost like a souffle. Both managed to uniquely express the essence of corn.

In addition to the creative design of the dishes and the expert preparation by Chef Andrea Carbine, A Toute Heure benefits from their local sourcing approach where meat and vegetables come from local farms. This approach also leads to a certain seasonality in what type of dishes can be prepared, which in turn forces the chef to be more creative. And I very much look forward to see more of Andrea's creativity.

For dessert we had the home made ice cream. My friend went for the more conventional chocolate (smooth, refined, pointed expression of a less sweet type of chocolate) whereas I dared to go for the goat cheese ice cream and it was worth it. It clearly has that goat cheese nuance but it is not at all offensive but rather nicely mellowed into a comfortable mouth filling sensation.
Coffee and tea are freshly brewed Coffee comes in an individually sized french press coffee pot. Tea is made in a small glass pot from loose leaves.

At the end of the evening we left very satisfied, having enjoyed a variety of interesting, innovative flavors and textures (some of the them for the first time in our lifes) and we were excited to come back soon to get more (much more) of this.

Overall, A Toute Heure is a great addition to the local restaurant scene. They are not cheap, but for the quality the price-level is more than reasonable. They don't take reservations but you can call ahead when you leave from home to be added to the list. And contrary to the reviewer from the Star Ledger I don't see that policy as a problem. Most of the restaurants in Westfield's restaurant row have a similar policy. Finally, they are BYOB but know how to treat your wine, have decent wine glasses and coolers for your bottle of white.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger

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