We've enjoyed Village Green through its various incarnations over the years. If I'm not mistaken, the restaurant has gone through no fewer than 3 owners and at least as many chefs in the 12 years since I've know about it. Surprisingly, the food has always been enjoyable. Our most recent visit was a reminder of this.
Village Green, now under Chef Kevin Portscher, still offers a multi-course tasting in addition to à la carte. While we tend to stay away from multi-course tastings (they can be exhausting), the 5 course tasting ($60) seemed manageable, and a good value, so we went for it. I should note that not everyone at the table has to do the tasting, which is a very accommodating policy.
The menu had some Asian influences (and it should be noted that they just launched a new Fall menu today). When restaurants throw in Asian influences, it's too often clunky, doesn't fit into the spirit of the rest of the menu, or, it's just poorly executed. That's not the case, here. In fact, I didn't even realize that we had some Asian inspired dishes until I started writing this. The inclusion of the Asian dishes was seamless and not forced in the least.
I can't help but really appreciate when a restaurant serves an amuse bouche. I just really like those little bites. They help me get all amped up for the meal to come. Village Green kicked it off with a little cheese puff pastry of some sort (I didn't take notes, and you'll have to deal with fuzzy details).
We both really enjoyed their take on green papaya salad, which included crab. This is a southeast Asian dish, popular in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. With bright flavors and lots of crunch, this is a great dish in general, and it was executed faithfully at Village Green. The crab was a nice touch.
Jersey corn arancini was, well, very pretty, and very good. Creamy, cheesy, corny, crunchy. And a little cucumber salad on the side, which I couldn't help think was a nod to Asian cuisine.
The Vietnamese inspired Shrimp and Crab meat crepe was definitely a knife-and-fork job, as it was a thin rice crepe, overstuffed with shrimp and crab. That's a good thing.
I enjoyed the tomato gazpacho more than the missus. I liked the smooth tomato base, with the chunks of vegetables. Apparently that was the incorrect opinion.
I love seared tuna, and that is still the case after eating this version. I have no idea what was on top of that rice, but it was friggin' good.
The final savory course included a culotte steak, which is top sirloin. I've spent much energy dismissing sirloin steak, wondering why any restaurant would serve it. But if they are serving steak this tender, then I take all of those harsh words back. Village Green made me a believer in sirloin.
The roasted potatoes were excellent as well.
The only misstep of the meal was the pork belly. While I was hoping for some square, thick pieces of luscious pork belly, I received sliced pork belly, which was a bit dry. The sauce was not as sweet as I had feared, and worked quite well to help the pork along. The slaw was bright and zippy and the roasted potatoes were no throw-away. A bit more care with the pork would have made this dish a winner.
Desserts were packed and brought home and eaten over the next two days. I can't comment on them because I don't know much about dessert. Although I can say I ate the hell out of them.
It's hard to comment on service when you're the only table in the joint on a weekday night, but the server certainly seemed to understand the menu, was helpful, and kept water glasses filled. Nice stemware, as well.
Overall, Village Green offers a great value and food quite a bit above the vast majority of the restaurants in Ridgewood. There's an attention to detail here that you simply do not find at most restaurants. I'm a big fan of the short tasting format. Just look at the variety of food we had for 60 bucks each. However, with so many new restaurants opening in Ridgewood at that price range and style, I can't help but think the Village Green needs to rejigger to set themselves apart.
No one asked me, but I'd lose the fuddy-duddy music and those white table clothes, and make the place feel a little younger and more energetic. I'm also very surprised the name hasn't changed over the past 15(?) years, especially given all of the changes in ownership and chefs. The only reason I know that it's a completely different restaurant than it was 13 years ago is because I know these things. But you can imagine that many people have no idea that anything has changed.
Even if they don't listen to me, I'll be back.
Village Green : 36 Prospect Street : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.445.2914