Branching Out

A suburban strip mall is not usually the site of an enticing culinary destination. But ever since longtime residents Catherine and Andrew Farro opened Uproot in November, gastronomic zeal has taken root in the business district of Warren. “Somerset County needed a sophisticated, Manhattan-level restaurant,” says Catherine.

Diners enter through a dramatic red-glass vestibule that opens into a high-ceilinged bar and lounge. Overhead is a massive, modern, white sculpture of stylized tree roots. The lounge, with granite and mahogany bar and leather club chairs, is an ideal space to enjoy an aperitif. The Tree, a concoction of gin, brandy distilled with Douglas fir, and house-infused thyme syrup, is just one of the many signature cocktails created by Uproot’s manager, mixologist, and sommelier, Jonathan Ross. The broad wine list boasts many bottles under $50 and twelve wines by the glass.

Uproot’s mission, says executive chef Anthony Bucco, is “to sustain local agriculture while feeding the community well.” An alum of the New York Restaurant School, he has experience in such notable kitchens as Provence in New York City and Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi, both in New Brunswick. Bucco’s menu offers new and often ambitious interpretations of American fish, fowl, and game along with a nightly vegetarian entrée and some unusual surprises. “I like to shake up diners’ expectations of typical dishes or techniques, while keeping something familiar and relatable on the plate,” he says.

Bucco’s creativity shines in appetizers such as duck-liver foie gras from Quebec with pistachio-studded brioche bread pudding, and house-smoked-and -cured diced salmon, garnished with caviar, frizzled onions, and sliced pears. Among entrées, standouts include oven-roasted free-range chicken (from a Quebec farm that air chills rather than freezes its birds, a flavor-enhancing process similar to dry-aging), paired with savory root vegetables and carrot purée; verjus-glazed cod with grapefruit, salsify, celeriac, and Peruvian purple potatoes; and roasted and confit Long Island duck served with beets.

The dessert menu is a collaboration between Bucco and sous-chef Mark Farro, the owners’ CIA-trained son, and showcases whimsical creations such as a “carrot cake” Twinkie and a sweetened crème fraiche cheesecake with caramelized apples and thyme honey. Ice creams, made in-house daily, include rotating flavors such as Valrhona chocolate, chunky peanut butter, and spearmint chocolate chip.

The bar/lounge seats 30 guests and offers a three-course prix-fixe tasting menu Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 2 pm. Dinner hours are 5:30 to 11 pm, Monday through Friday, and 5 to 10 pm on Saturday. The main dining room seats 84 guests; a communal “chef’s table,” sequestered by a lattice screen, seats ten; and the private dining room, with its tree-top chandelier of branches, pendant lights, and wood disks, accommodates up to 40. The restaurant is available for private parties on Sundays.

9 Mount Bethel Road, Warren
The skinny:
Ambitious Modern American cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients and cutting-edge surroundings that blend rustic touches with vivid pops of color.

If you like this article please share it.