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SPARTA’S OWN MOHAWK HOUSE NAMED ONE OF 5 NJ’S TOP RESTAURANTS 2010!
Friday, December 24, 2010
By Cody Kendall
“Despite the shifting shadows of economic gloom over the past few years, some bold New Jersey restaurateurs forged ahead with their upscale plans.
Anyone seeking a new fine-dining experience should salute such determination. Not only does that vision provide more jobs, but it also offers additional options at the pinnacle of the state’s offerings.
Among the restaurants I reviewed this year …..
Country/Rustic: Sparta’s Mohawk House offers an escape from suburbia with its impressive Bucks County fieldstone exterior. The large main dining room, reminiscent of an Adirondack resort, can be noisy when full. The food, however, makes up for it. Chef Stefan Sabo, a native of Germany, reaches back to his homeland for short rib sauerbraten and potato gnocchi, but has plenty of creative juices for more fanciful fare. The restaurant presents an amazing beer menu replete with special brews, 34 of which are on draft.”
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STAR LEDGER REVIEW
Friday October 1, 2010
By Cody Kendall
3.5 Out Of 4 Stars
“What better way to ward off the autumn chill than in a restaurant with three fireplaces — especially if hearty short rib sauerbraten is on the menu.
Mohawk House has all the bases covered for an evening geared to keeping patrons warm, inside and out, no matter what the weather. The pleasant staff also adds to the glow at this picturesque restaurant nestled in the hills of Sussex County. It’s an especially attractive destination at this time of year — a good way to wrap up a drive in the country as the leaves turn.
Although the building’s Bucks County fieldstone exterior gives the impression of a long history, it actually was built just five years ago for owners Rachael and Steve Scro, who own a nearby farm. Steve Scro said he and his wife “went with our hearts” in deciding to open a restaurant where they have invested their passion as well as their money.
Chef Stefan Sabo, a native of Germany who worked at the Manor in West Orange and the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, offers a seasonal menu that is impeccably executed. Using short ribs instead of the traditional pot roast for the sauerbraten ($29) gives the dish a richer flavor, enhanced by potato gnocchi standing in for spaetzle, and marinated red cabbage that hits exactly the right note. An Oktoberfest beer jus adds the appropriate touch for a standout dish.
Speaking of beer, the restaurant has an amazing beer menu with all kinds of special brews, 34 of which are on draft. Try the Avery the Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest; the name alone is worth the $8.50 price. As you might expect, it’s extremely compatible with the sauerbraten.
Wines are interesting but the list tends toward higher-end choices; I always like to see a grouping of selections for those who are on a budget. An alternative is to order wines by the glass, which start at a reasonable $7.
Sabo adds unobtrusive but effective touches that make basic dishes his own, as he does with the sauerbraten. On the lighter side, an aromatic button mushroom soup ($9) carries off an Asian theme, with a floating island of a shrimp dumpling. The outline is filled in by fried garlic flakes and a trickle of wasabi oil that gives more of a nip than a bite.
The words “cod” and “vanilla” may be incongruous in the same sentence, but they make sense on the plate when Sabo prepares the fish in a completely unexpected approach. A vanilla emulsion plays well with Moroccan couscous and micro fine herbs to make the most of a meaty piece of Chatham cod ($29).
Like the warm, delicious bread that arrived shortly after we sat down, desserts are prepared in-house. The Jersey blueberry slump ($6.50), a little butter cake surrounded by berries and topped with sweet corn ice cream, made the most of summer’s end.
Nutella-filled whole wheat crepes ($6.50) are a new version of an ice cream sundae. The Nutella, cozily wrapped in the crepes, played the role of hot fudge.
Whipped cream, macerated strawberries (instead of the cherry) and lemon syrup made this a familiar yet foreign experience. It’s filling enough to split with a dining companion.
Live music is featured at 8:30 p.m. in the large bar, which is well separated from the main dining room.
That’s a good thing; the noise level in the high-ceilinged room already is substantial. The light level, however, is low.
The rustic wrought-iron chandelier that is in keeping with the beamed ceiling and wooden floors is as attractive as everything else at Mohawk House, but it doesn’t do much in the way of providing illumination. It’s a little too dim for reading the menu without eyestrain; I’d like to see the wattage turned up a little.
The wattage on the food, however, is at the level of brilliance, with a kind of sparkle that is all too rare. This is a lovely place to spend an evening in any kind of weather.”