Sophie’s Bistro seems modest from its exterior, but once inside, it may feel like you’ve been transported to a Parisian cafe. The lively atmosphere, rife with various artifacts of French culture, captures a certain mystique unmatched by any ethnic restaurant in the area.
This restaurant is one of the higher-end establishments I’ve had the pleasure of dining in, and as such, is much too rich for my wallet. My family and I only come here for the most special of occasions. When I was asked last where I wanted to celebrate my college graduation, the answer was instantaneous: Sophie’s Bistro.
My insatiable hunger is well documented; it lasts for 25 hours a day and eight days a week. So, after a long day of graduation ceremonies, I was understandably anxious to get the festivities underway. After enjoying some pre-meal libations (gin & tonic for the win!), the meal was at long last, underway.
With six people at our table for this dinner of distinction, appetizers were going to be a top priority. At my behest, I wanted to try new dishes. While I do love my classic American apps like wings, nachos, etc., French cuisine has opened my eyes to a new world of culinary sophie-stication (sorry, not sorry).
The tarte aux tomatoes, or tomato pie, was absolutely delightful; few things taste better than tomatoes in the summer. We also ordered the tarte a l’oignon, a creamy onion tart with anchovies, black olives and goat cheese. I’ve never been a huge fan of anchovies, but I was curious enough to try them again. Fish notwithstanding, the tart was another great small plate.
We weren’t even close to finished with our first course; in fact, we were just getting started. Recommended by my sister, I ordered the salade frisée aux lardons, a salad with lardons (thick cut bacon) and topped with a poached egg. While I usually eat salad for its nutritional value, the fatty bacon along with the egg yolk were incredibly savory, and meshed perfectly with one another.
However, it was the escargots which took the crown for best appetizer. If you can handle the chewy texture, you are in for a real treat. These marvelous mollusks were cooked in a garlic and shallot butter sauce, further adding to their rich flavor. After our scavenge for snails was over, I made sure that the remaining sauce did not go unutilized – you’d be hard pressed to find a better dip for crusty bread!
As if we weren’t satisfied enough, we still had the main course on the horizon. Apparently, seafood was a popular choice at our table, as both my parents and grandparents enjoyed plates of salmon fillet and rainbow trout. My sister defected and ordered a sliced duck breast, which I of course traded a few bites of my dish for – tender and delicious!
If you’ve ever dined with me, you would know by now that I love to pick at other people’s plates. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As for my main course, it was only one of the finest dishes I’ve ever consumed, the Coquilles Saint-Jacques à La Parisienne. The scallops were sautéed with a creamy wine and shallot sauce, the vegetables were cooked just right, and the mashed potatoes were perfect as well. Words seldom do justice to it – so I’ll let the picture tell the story.
This meal was simply one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying. With that in mind, ask yourself this: is it possible for any great meal finish without a great dessert as well?
The answer to that, in my mind, is an unequivocal yes. While I was perfectly content to throw in the towel after the scallops from heaven, I just couldn’t turn down what was being offered – profiteroles!
These confectionary perfections were the proverbial cherry on top of the meal. Cream puff drenched in chocolate and stuffed with ice cream? Say no more. I’ll take them all.
This first-rate feast of French cuisine provided me with a much-needed respite from the lackluster confines of my fridge. Alas, living on a tight budget has forced me to make certain sacrifices; a diet of mostly microwave dinners, salads, and soups is simply no way for a foodie to live. While New York City is a culinary epicenter in its own right, the eateries of suburban New Jersey have always struck a chord with me.
It’s doubtful that Sophie’s Bistro, located in the outskirts of Somerset, is low-key enough to qualify as a hidden gem – it has been reviewed by the New York Times, after all. Owner Peter Mack and Chef David Fordjour are a winning team, working in concert to ensure that each guest is fully taken care of.
Mack’s hospitality and generosity certainly made my party feel welcome; he mingled and provided us with some complimentary shots of a liqueur. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but the gesture was much appreciated!
Though it may be easy to bypass, don’t be fooled by its inauspicious location; Sophie’s Bistro will undoubtedly provide you with a phenomenal dining experience. Are you ready for one of the best meals of your life?
As the French say, qui vivra verra – time will tell.