Blue Morel’s cuisine is full of surprises. Just off the lobby, inside the Westin Governor Morris in Morristown, the restaurant’s dining room is somewhat formal: dimly lit, white table cloths and muted colors. The 120-seat, bi-level space is attractive, upscale and comfortable, a tad traditional even. The menu, however, stands in contrast to the decor with unexpected pairings and unconventional combinations.
Westin Governor Morris Hotel
2 Whippany Road, Morristown
The skinny: New American cuisine and sushi in an upscale, comfortable setting
Opened in August—replacing Copeland—Blue Morel emphasizes farm-to-table cuisine and seafood, including a broad array of sushi. The menu’s diverse offerings are overseen by Thomas Cizsak (the former executive chef of Copeland, who is now executive chef and partner at Chakra in Paramus), but are conceived by executive chef Kevin Takafuji. A native of Hawaii, Takafuji attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. His prestigious dining credits include working under Eric Ripert at New York City’s Le Bernardin and at the well-regarded Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster.
For his menu, Takafuji taps local sources, including a hydroponic greenhouse in Orange, Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown, Uncle Bill’s Farm in Far Hills, Madison Seafood in Newark, and Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley. Takafuji updates classic dishes by infusing them with seasonal ingredients and a touch of international flavor. For example, the steak tartare starter is complemented by hazelnut, truffle, egg yolk and chives and served with herb-toasted ciabatta. A butter lettuce salad is enhanced by wontons, pear, blue cheese, spicy cashews and black-sesame dressing. Takafuji’s grilled octopus may not count as a revamped traditional dish, but it’s definitely a must-try. Served with roasted red pepper, dried chorizo, blistered shishito pepper, rosemary and a bed of arugla, this tasty dish illustrates the chef’s talent in blending diverse ingredients. There is also a selection of sushi and sashimi, including a sampler and several platters that allow you to assemble a few favorites.
Main courses are similarly eclectic. The truffles-and-sprouts entrée incorporates fungi—the restaurant’s namesake ingredient—with roasted Brussels sprouts, frisse, and truffled chick-pea panisse. Tea-smoked duck breast is a winner with the addition of house-made Tasso ham (a favorite Cajun preparation of pork shoulder) glazed with an Asian spice, cranberry beans and broccoli rabe.
Desserts, by pastry chef Ernie Rich, often include Jersey-fresh cranberries and blueberries whipped up in crisps or trifles. If you have room, try the caramel and roasted banana pot de crème that is accompanied by a malted-milk shooter.
Enjoy a nightcap in the comfortable bar area (there’s a good selection of specialty drinks, and more than 70 wines by the glass). The restaurant is open for breakfast daily, 6:30 am to 10:30 am, and serves lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30 am until 2:30 pm. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 10 pm. A buffet brunch is available on Sundays from noon until 2:30. A separate wine room is available for private parties. —Deborah Carter