Tim Schafer's Cuisine
82 Speedwell Avenue
Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey
By The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com
March 26, 2007
Printable Copy of this Review
I've been hearing raves about Tim Schafer's for years. However,
as most knowledgeable foodies are aware, Mr. Schafer departed the scene in June
(2006) and moved to Denver, South Carolina, where he opened a restaurant on
Lake Norman. Such a change in ownership often spells the death knell for a
restaurant... But, according to the culinary grapevine, and a glowing four-star
review from S.J. Gitzler of the Star-Ledger (October 6, 2006), former
sous-chef now chef de cuisine Fredy Umanzor, general manager Nestor Bedoya, and
members of the original staff have been carrying on the brew chef's tradition
of innovative, globally-inspired cuisine with flying colors.
Hype and hoopla not withstanding, however, two recent visits proved rather
disappointing. I might easily characterize the cuisine as "photo op
food," often beautifully composed and adorned with flowers and a sprig of
this or that. A feast for the eyes... but also, in my opinion, often famine for
the palate. Quality is certainly not the issue, as ingredients are obviously
top-of-the-line, but preparations and culinary combinations are sometimes
problematic... And that is unfortunate, as the setting -- auriferous walls
accented with attractive candle sconces -- and the formal but personable
service both have a great deal to recommend them.
The evening does begin on a high note -- delicious home-made focaccia
sprinkled with shavings of Parmesan cheese accompanied by rosemary-infused
olive oil for dipping -- but appetizers are a mixed bag.
The special "Colorful Chef's Salad" ($10.00) is quite good. Baby
greens, radicchio, grilled pineapple, mangos, hearts of palm, and roasted red
pepper are tossed with an excellent Kriek Ale raspberry dressing and placed
atop leaves of endive arranged like the spokes of a wheel. Honey-roasted pecans
and morsels of creamy goat cheese provide attractive finishing touches.
On the other hand, another chef's special, the "Tomato Mozzarella
Tower," ($10.00) was something of a washout. While pleasing to the eye
(see photo), the slices of red and yellow tomatoes were completely tasteless,
as was the imported-from-off-campus mozzarella, which also sported a rather
rubbery texture. Not even the basil-ale vinaigrette could perform a suitable
rescue mission. I mean, if you're going to serve tomatoes in such a fashion, at
least wait until they're available locally during the Garden State's glorious
The Thai beef satay ($10.00) is another eye-catching presentation. The beef
sticks are artistically arranged atop an enticing Indonesian vegetable salad
and embellished with a first-rate spicy peanut barbeque sauce. Peanut sauces
can be on the thin and watery side, but this one is marvelously rich of both
flavor and consistency. My only quibble is that the beef is rather dry and
At the opposite end of the spectrum we find the flash fried calamari
($10.00). According to the menu note, this has been a house specialty for over
ten years. But in the context of a restaurant that seems to pride itself on its
family of alluring presentations, this is an ugly duckling, indeed. The rings
of calamari are exceedingly tender, and the inclusion of peppers and olives
makes for a zippy treat for the taste buds. Unfortunately, however, there is
also an infusion of dark ale and balsamic vinegar, which bestows a rather drab
and broody demeanor on the entire affair. Other offerings are suitably and
colorfully dressed for the occasion, but this dish arrives conspicuously
unadorned. It looks, in my opinion, completely unattractive and, as a result,
Entrées also have their ups and downs. The salmon ($25.00) is at the peak of
good health, perfectly cooked, and enlivened with a teriyaki glaze. It is set
atop a vegetable medley, companioned by an ample mound of wasabi mashed
potatoes, and adorned with a tiara of mango, papaya, and pineapple chutney. The
salmon is just right, but the potatoes are cool, and the vegetable medley has
it own temperature problems. The julienne carrots and haricots verts are
hot, the asparagus spears are warm, and the broccoli florets are cold. The chutney,
in my opinion, is entirely superfluous.
The special "Taste of the Sea" ($30.00) contained jumbo shrimp,
sea scallops, Prince Edward Island mussels, and steamed littlenecks swimming in
a pale ale clam broth on a seabed of spinach fettuccine. The shrimp, scallops,
and mussels were all excellent. The clams, on the other hand, adamantly refused
to be extricated from their shells. The broth was rich and flavorful, but the
pasta was a good deal beyond al dente.
And speaking of pasta... the "Rustic Style Tomato & Basil
Fettuccine" ($22.00) left something to be desired. The fresh pasta was
tossed with chicken, prosciutto, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes in a pinot
grigio and basil sauce. The fettuccine was properly cooked and the prosciutto,
garlic, and tomatoes added nice splashes of flavor and color. The morsels of
chicken, however, weren't grilled. As a result, their snowy white flesh did
little for the eye and even less for the palate. The sauce, though seemed to be
the real culprit, as it sported a rather odd consistency, perhaps the result of
a tad too much thickener.
But the biggest disappointment proved to be the osso bucco ($40.00).
"Simmered in its own stock for several hours and finished in the
oven" is how our server described it. Just as it should be... But the
problem seemed to be that the stock really hadn't been adequately reduced; it
lacked the rich depth of flavor and texture so characteristic of this dish.
Yes, the veal was tender... but not AS tender or AS
tasty as many other renditions of this classic that I've sampled in other
Garden State restaurants over the years.
As if to add insult to injury, the veal was paired with what was described
as two-cheese risotto, an ill-conceived combo of smoked mozzarella and
Parmesan, which exhibited a decidedly gummy rather than a creamy consistency.
But that was only part of the problem. Flying solo, the Parmesan probably would
have acquitted itself reasonably well; but the smoked mozzarella added an off-puttingly
funky taste and aroma.
Desserts ($8.00) also fell short of the mark. I would consider the peanut
butter crunch -- white and dark chocolate layered with peanut butter and
homemade peanut brittle -- the pick of the litter. And it was, indeed, quite
good. But it arrived at table in a somewhat gelid state and needed a good ten
minutes to soften up and allow the flavors to make their way to the fore. The
white chocolate cake -- layered sponge cake with white chocolate cream -- on
the other hand, was all but tasteless and seemed to be suffering the
deleterious effects of a prolonged bivouac in the fridge. And the mango bread
pudding appeared to be completely devoid of its namesake and exhibited a
decidedly rubbery consistency.
I wanted to dote on Tim Schafer's. I really did. Even after a
disappointing first visit, I still had high hopes for a return engagement. But,
alas... And I realize that I am definitely in the minority here, as crowds of
happy diners seem to attest (on a recent Saturday night, for example, the
restaurant was full and overflowing by 6:00 p.m.). Be that as it may, however,
the cuisine, in my opinion, continues to fall short of its significant
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Fri, 12:00 noon - 2:00 p.m.; Dinner; Tues - Sun,
5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Available for private parties on Monday.
Credit Cards: All major
Parking: Complimentary parking at the Hyatt Hotel just across the
Handicapped Accessible: yes
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