Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Stepping into The Porter House restaurant, I’m greeted by a hostess and the faint aroma of lit cigars permeating from somewhere within. A sign above a nearby set of closed oak doors proudly reads “Porter House Cigar Bar and Lounge”—the source of all the fun.
While the muffled sounds of music, conversation and televised sports beckon me from behind those doors, I remind myself that patience is a virtue and follow the hostess as she escorts my date and I down a hallway to the main dining room. Natural wood and earth tones dominate the interior, the warm light of pendant lamp fixtures softening the atmosphere.
The Porter House, located in the borough of Montvale in Bergen County (just minutes from the New York border), is billed as an Irish pub and steak house, but its menu offers much more. In addition to great cuts of beef, Chef Jay Lippin offers a selection of seafood dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients.
The seasonal raw bar appetizers caught my eye, in particular, with Top Neck Clams, Boutique Oysters, Crab Martini and a Jumbo Shrimp cocktail. According to our server, the oyster lineup changes depending on what’s fresh. When I visited, the choice was bivalves from Blue Point, New York and Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island. Other appetizers of note include carpaccio of beef prepared with a house sauce (all sauces and dressings are made in-house), mussels from Prince Edward Island, steak crostini and tuna tartar.
Other starters include a choice of fresh salads and soups, including a lobster bisque that was just perfect (or so my date said—she wouldn’t let me try it). That was OK, though, as I was thoroughly enjoying my fresh mozzarella and tomato salad topped with roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil and fresh basil.
The restaurant’s wine list includes good values (a Bonterra Chardonnay for $30), to Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon and higher priced bottles such as Dominus 2006 and Château Margaux.
The impressive rotating beer list stood out to me. A smattering of standard international beers (Späten, Hoegaarden, Guinness) rounded out a great selection of American craft brews such as Troegs Dead Reckoning Porter, including the entire portfolio from the Defiant Brewery, located nearby in Pearl River, New York.
For entrees, I tackled the 24-ounce “T” bone with braised onions and mushrooms (which paired very well with the Troegs porter) while my date opted for the 12-ounce filet mignon. Both steaks were cooked beautifully and came with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli on the side, along with a homemade Bernaise cabernet sauce.
After we were sufficiently stuffed, our server brought out the drinks and desserts menu. As she walked us through the items, I couldn’t help but remember that cigar bar sign I saw when I first walked in. We chose the red velvet cake and I asked for a peaty Arbeg 17-year-old Scotch. As I handed our server the menu, she asked if we would like to take our dessert and dinner in “the other room.”
Walking back to the entrance of the restaurant, I saw that sign again and opened those doors, revealing a beautiful, all-wood Irish pub. Walking past the packed bar on my way to the “Members Only” lounge, I saw customers smoking cigars, while eating the same fare I enjoyed in the dining room.
In addition to being a fine-dining steak house, The Porter House is also one of the last places where you can smoke and eat at the same table, if you desire. The Porter House enjoys this privilege because it was grandfathered in when New Jersey passed its restaurant and bar smoking ban in 2006.
The cigar bar is also an officially licensed Montecristo Lounge, meaning it has an in-house humidor and sells all the brands Altadis U.S.A. Inc. manufactures, such as Warlock, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta and Siglo. The owner has also procured some boxes of Padróns, including the 1926 80th Anniversary Perfecto Maduros.
I sat down to my Arbeg and lit up an Aging Room Presto (rated 94 points in the most recent Cigar Insider). Inside the members-only section of the pub are humidified lockers that are overseen by staff. I saw former cover subject and actor James Gandolfini had his name on a box, and some members said he did smoke there “pretty regularly.” I sat back in one of the fine leather chairs, puffed on my cigar and watched the flat-screen TV tuned onto college football.
When the red velvet cake was placed before me, and I laid my cigar to rest in the table ashtray, I said to my date, “Next time, we’re eating in this room.”
The Porter House
125 Kinderkamack Road
Montvale, NJ 07645
www.porterhouseusa.com (under construction)
Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday – Wednesday, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Pub Menu available until 11 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and until midnight Thursday to Saturday
Sunday Brunch: seatings at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Source: Andrew Nagy, cigaraficionado.com