Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cafe Montclair

While I’m not one for doing restaurant reviews, the lovely Mrs. C insisted that I should blog about this one as it’s been consistently one of our favorites and we believe in supporting good, local establishments whenever possible. This one certainly deserves to be on everyone’s list of dining treats.

With our daughter home for the holidays from NYU, we decided to have a nice dinner out before starting on the rounds of visits from family and friends. With the demise of Brasserie Astuce, our new favorite place to go for French food is Café Montclair. Located on Central near Kingsley in Montclair (while outside our Pomona boundaries, still close enough to be “home”) this restaurant is in a building that was previously the Plum Tree restaurant and was once, I believe, a Millies. According to the ads which run in the Daily Bulletin, the chef was previously with the Mission Inn in Riverside.

For this occasion, we decided to forgo our usual Calamari (never a disappointment) and start with their homemade potato chips with blu cheese sauce. All I can say is “fabulous.” The chips were what one would expect from made-on-the premises chips (I’m thinking Buffalo Inn), but the sauce was superlative. It was a light white sauce that wasn’t overpowering as one might expect with blu cheese.

For our entrée, the kid and I had the Osso Bucco special, a lamb shank served over mashed potatoes. Deb had the New York steak with a gorgonzola sauce. We all had the white bean soup. Again, the food was everything one might expect. And the wine list is admirable. We can also recommend their meat loaf (yes, but it’s worth it), the beef tips stroganoff, as well as their pasta dishes.

But the main reason to go to Café Montclair is more than the food. The owner is always there to greet you and to make sure everything is going well. And the hostess is someone who we’ve known for some time and has always been a delight. Pia is one of the family that owned and operated DiCenso’s on Foothill in Upland for many years. When the kid was very young (too young to have any memories of it) we used to go there and Pia, her mother, and sister one time took her into the kitchen to show her how pasta was made. While she doesn’t remember it, it must have made an impression on her because she loves to work in the kitchen to this day. DiCenso’s moved and the new location never quite had the wonderful ambiance that the Foothill location had, but at least it had Pia. Pia is now at Montclair and is as effervescent as ever. Like the owner, she checks on you from time to time and makes sure that everything is just right. The waitress is a lovely woman with a lilting French accent, who is likewise delightful. And we can’t ignore the young, again French accented, young man who is the busboy. He is also very attentive to your every need. I’m guessing that, with the exception of Pia, that this is all a family run operation and it has that really good kind of “family” vibe.

All-in-all, this is a place where you shouldn’t be disappointed.


meg said...

Oh, hurrah! We love French food, and since the Brass Ass closed, we have had to go into the city to get any (at Mimosa on Beverly -- highly, highly recommended).

I'll write up the don't-know-Pia-from-Adam review when we get a chance to try it -- after we get back from our travel travails in Cleveland, Chicago, Nashville, Phoenix, and San Francisco.

pomona's art colonists said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pomona's art colonists said...

Sounds delightful! Thanks for the recommendation
We love exploring our area and finding places like this.
Looking forward to going, and I'll be sure to tell them where we heard about them.

Shhh said...

Ooooh! I can't wait to try it! Thanks so much for the post. I, like meg, have been looking for a brass-ass substitute.

Jim said...

If I'm not mistaken, this place back in the early 70s was originally The Tin Lizzy. Then it became Ginger's followed by The Plum Tree and now Cafe Montclair. I don't remember it ever being Millies but I could be mistaken. I thought Millies was on the east side of the road. Anyway, I appreciate the recommendation and will definitely give the Cafe Montclair a try.

David Allen said...

Jim is correct, mostly: The restaurant opened in 1974 as Lizzy's, although it seems to have been popularly known as Tin Lizzy's. It became the Majestic and then Ginger's Place before its latter-day life as the Plum Tree and now Cafe Montclair.

I haven't been there for dinner but have had a few enjoyable lunches. Cafe Montclair is certainly worth the drive, but just so you aren't disappointed, I ought to point out that it's not really a French restaurant. The chef described the menu to me a year ago as American "with a European flair."

John Clifford said...

Thanks David, very good history lesson. Once again my laziness in the research department has been pointed out (I take no offense, honestly THANK YOU).

I also should have made it clear that it's not really French, it's a lot closer than anything else we currently have. I'd gladly go to both if we could get "brass ass" back.

However, with the French accents everywhere I couldn't resist asking if they had "Bûche de Noël" on the dessert menu for the holidays. That was greeted with a sigh and an "oh, I only wish" from the waitress.

Mostly, we really enjoy the place and thought that blogging it up might help.

Anonymous said...

This is also my hubbies and mine favorite restaurants. We enjoy inviting friends/family to join us. The prime rib on Friday/Saturday is excellent too. The service is fantastic and very "proper" but it definitely not snooty.

K said...

Meg and I dropped by Cafe Montclair earlier in the week, and had a great time. It felt relaxed and comfortable, and the food rocked.

It all started out with some especially tasty baguette served with nice butter -- this was so good that it was almost the highlight of the meal. I had the chicken piccata special, which was particularly juicy and delicious, while Meg hoovered down the beef stroganoff. We didn't have room for any desert, but they sounded both delicious and relatively inexpensive.

All in all, it was a fun, laid-back experience -- thanks for the pointer, John!

TY said...

We went to CM on New Year's Eve. The Shiitake mushroom soup was dangerously delicious. Seared sea scallops in white wine and butter with mashed, very good. The chocolate cake (of which I generally have no liking) was an epiphanal experience - covered in fresh whipped cream and raspberry coulis. We thoroughly enjoyed every morsel. They even served our favorite everyday champagne (as opposed to our favorite occasion champagne) - Chandon.