Few people will ever know just what an honor it is to be invited to a restaurant’s Soft Opening. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, it can be either an enchanted evening filled with stimulating tastes, smells and service offering guests a glimpse into the full flavored future or a first row seat to watch catastrophe unfold! It is truly a vulnerable thing for a restaurant owner to subject a hand full of guests to the first attempts of flight before their staff earns their wings and work out any of the kinks that may arise. (Yes I totally said flight and I can’t wait to tell you about the flight of beer we had in just a few more sentences! STAY TUNED!) To no surprise Project P.U.B. (Pop Up Brewpub), the second restaurant under the ownership and command of Mike Proske, is in my eyes designed for greatness! With his very motivated beer connoisseur tendencies, Proske has designed that each month or so they will showcase ONE brewery at a time. Currently the well known FOUNDERS BREWERY hails reign over all of the taps and will be swapped out for another brewery in the month to follow. For those of you in the know, Somerville’s prized Tapastre is the older sibling who lives downstairs of Project P.U.B. and has definitely paved the way for the success of its progeny, although the ambiance and vibe of the new born Project P.U.B. presents like an older soul. The decor is almost a classy steam punk style. Varied hanging bulbs with the filament a glow and the dimmers set to “just right”, the rustic wood tables, hard wood floor and exposed brick make for an atmosphere that can be adored by both the most bohemian millennial or the classically trained architectural historian. I honestly feel that the designers held the intention to make it feel new and chic while upholding and honoring the integrity of the historic building. Success!
Truth be told a week before the soft opening we were invited into the kitchen by Chef Carlton to discuss the sourcing of locally grown ingredients which is already quite present in the demo menu they offered. He feels it is very important to stay in tune with the seasons as best as he can as well as forge relationships with many of the local farms ensuring he gets the freshest, most sustainable and highest quality ingredients available to him when he can. While discussing what radishes, cabbages and beets Martenette Farms of Hillsborough will grow for his pickling and kimchi projects he let us sample some of the most unique and pleasant fermented food I have ever experienced. First was the pickled mushroom medley with mushrooms from Shibumi, our absolute favorite mushroom purveyor. Followed by his kimchi which had smoky elements that made me feel like I had been missing the use of some of my tastebuds until he re awoke them with splendor. As for the night of the soft opening, lets just say my pallet was so satisfied I didn’t want to leave! To start we had a Mac and Beer Cheese, which sounds kind of like what a frat kid eats for breakfast but I assure you it had just as much class and flavor as the ahi crudo that blew my mind! It was delicately encrusted with some heavenly green crunch that I regret not asking what it was. As for the ahi crudo, each piece was a perfect representation of what a quality fresh sliver of tuna should be. Sprinkled with fresh microgreens, capers and a few extra flairs from Chef Carlton’s kitchen this fish dish seems to slow time down for a few seconds before each swallow. The Miso soup was, miso soup. It had grand chunks of mushroom and bean curd making it more substantial and filling than others I have had but come the end of the evening it was the least magical of my 5 star rated experience. The apex of the evening was watching the face of my very talented pickle making mistress as she cringed realising that the blissful facial reaction I made after eating one of Carlton’s spiced beets was indeed a sign of me losing control of my pickle poker face accidentally disclosing that her still very high Queen of hearts just got over ranked by the new King of beets! Such a perfectly textured and flavored beet accompanied by a house made olive tapenade, fresh ricotta and a warm garlic buttered toast. All though she still holds all of the wild cards in my deck and is assured the winning hand, these beets are royal flush material.
Beer & Bubbles
As promised I will now talk about the Founders flight we ordered. Mind you we are no newbies to Founders and have no problem ranking them as a good go to beer with acceptable options up the spectrum from a low % session to the dank and high abv Imperial Stout. On tonight’s flight list we started with the Mango Magnificent 10%. Yeah I know sounds fruity and likely to be just another out of season summer beer, WRONG! With the higher % it truly was a satisfying beer. I couldn’t drink pints of it but perhaps as a dessert beverage or a base in a beer cocktail it should definitely be a keeper for Founders. Next the Curmudgen 9.8%, an “Old Ale” a classic like goldilocks not too hoppy, not to malty just right, a good beer. The 8.3% Breakfast Stout is a common stout to find these days, good but nothing extraordinary. Same goes for the 6.5% Porter all though I rank the Porter higher on the taste profile spectrum. And lastly the 10.5% Imperial Stout which I as a seasonally sensitive fellow truly love stouts in the winter and this high % stout is as good as winter gets! The final piece to complete our visit was one of their beer cocktails that alone will have us back to Project P.U.B. time and time again. There are a few beer cocktails to choose from and since we were sharing the delicate ahi crudo we paired up with a Gin/IPA that was so refreshing and tasty that I may have found my new favorite beverage. In fact I may have found my new favorite restaurant all together! I insist you check them out official Grand Opening February 1st…
more info at:
http://www.ProjectpubNJ.com or on Facebook