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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Here is a great Bergen County dining deal: $29 for three courses with a glass of wine

MEYER LEMON: My entree of Seared Mahi-Mahi with bok choy and oyster mushrooms was moist and tender, and the wild-caught fish was swimming in a bright Meyer Lemon vinaigrette.
ORGANIC GREENS: I started with a salad of Organic Greens with cherry tomatoes, feta and cucumber in a sherry vinaigrette.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

CLOSTER, N.J. -- This seafood lover has traveled to Iceland and Alaska to enjoy their bounties of wild fish, but now I've found their match much closer to home.

The Hill is a fine-dining restaurant in the upscale borough of Closter with a celebrated chef and cookbook author, and a focus on seafood.

Better yet, its "First on The Scene" menu offers a terrific fixed-price menu of three courses, plus a glass of wine, for only $29, plus tax and tip.

The dinner menu, which is available four days a week, offers a choice of two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts and two wines (see days and hours below). 

(The Hill should get extra points for calling the menu "First on The Scene," a clever take on the early bird menus beloved of older Americans like me.

(Did you know the Early Bird is the state bird of Florida?) 

'Elevated dining'

The Hill says it offers "elevated dining," and "seasonal American cooking with the lightness and bright global flavors" the chef is known for.

That's not an idle boast.

The beautiful hunk of Mahi-Mahi I was served on Thursday evening was moist and tender, the equal in preparation of the incredible North Atlantic fish I enjoyed at premier seafood restaurants in Reykjavic, Iceland's capital.

As someone who tries to avoid butter, I was delighted with the Meyer Lemon vinaigrette the fish was swimming in.

Chef Ben Pollinger of The Hill received a Michelin star and three stars from The New York Times when he was at the helm of Oceana, an upscale seafood restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

His cookbook, "School of Fish," has chapters on how you can eat fish raw or bake, roast, braise, broil, steam, poach, grill, fry, sear or saute your catch from the market.

Although The Hill's fixed-price dinner with a glass of wine is only $29, we didn't feel cheated: 

The service was more than attentive, and the ingredients and preparation were at the same level you'd find in a fine-dining restaurant in Manhattan.

A la carte menu

Entrees on The Hill's a la carte dinner menu on Thursday ran from $27 to $38. 

One of the specials was a 40-ounce Porterhouse Steak for 2 at $85 with a suggested glass of Syrah for $15.

Another special, Wild Maine Belon Oysters in a sherry mignonette, were $3.25 each (I was tempted).


FLATIRON STEAK: For her entree, my wife ordered the Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. The presentation could have been improved by fanning the slices over the parsnip puree, but she loved the dish, especially the caramelized Brussels sprouts, which I kept stealing.
WINE AND FOCACCIA: My glass of Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon and the restaurant's focaccia, served with extra-virgin olive oil. The focaccia proved addictive.
SECONDS? Our server offered us a second serving of focaccia, but we declined. She also offered to make my wife a new serving of her appetizer, Carnaroli Risotto with Hon Shimeji and Maitake mushrooms, when she saw her picking out the mushrooms, which she doesn't eat. I had them instead.
DESSERT: I was happy with pomegranate sorbet for dessert, and declined the ice cream that came with it. My wife chose the Maple Panna Cotta, a softly set Italian pudding made with sweetened cream and gelatin, below.

DETAILS: The fixed-price "First on The Scene" menu is offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. The Hill is at 252 Schraalenburgh Road, Closter; 201-899-4700. Website: Bright Global Flavors
FULL BAR: In addition to the main dining room, there is seating in a bar room and in a private dining room.

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