A new restaurant brings the delectable delights found at this high-end specialty grocer to life. It’s a simple enough name, and it aptly describes where people should place its quality compared to other restaurants in the Tri-State area: Above. The first restaurant of high-end specialty market chain Garden of Eden Gourmet Garden of Eden Gourmet opened its doors to much fanfare in late 2009. According to reviews, the quality at the restaurant is just as high as each of the company’s specialty food and grocery stores.
Located in South Orange, NJ, Above Restaurant and Bar is located above Eden Marketplace, which offers fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese, and other ingredients to the staff. This spring, former Executive Chef Paul Lustbader talked to Short Hills Magazine and told the publication the restaurant is “a great resource” for items that make his menu pop.
According to the article, he worked closely with the gourmet market to source food for the restaurant. Current Executive Chef Fred Mero feels the same way, and he shared his experiences during his July interview with publication South Orange Patch. He said Eden Gourmet makes obtaining that must-have ingredient easy and convenient. “We just run downstairs,” he explained, “when we need something.”
Mero is a native of Ecuador who completed the Culinary Arts program at the Brooklyn Technical College. In 1994, Four Seasons Executive Chef Christian Albin hired him as sous chef, and the pair transformed the menus with innovative cuisine.
Their renown spread when New York Magazine critic Hal Rubenstein described the revamped menu as a “reawakening” with “subtle but surprisingly adventurous new flavors and often marvelous pairings.” In addition, New York Times’ Ruth Reichl used the word “perfect” seven times when describing the results of the collaboration.
It’s this innovative style that gives patrons of the restaurant and Garden of Eden Gourmet’s shoppers more than they might expect. The décor is tasteful, with a European vibe that includes tiles and fountains; seating for than 250 in its dining room, bar, lounge, and two outdoor patios; and a third-floor private dining room that can accommodate another 50.
Above’s seasonal menu follows a contemporary vibe. The dinner menu includes appetizers ranging from seasonal oysters to Peking Duck; soups and salads including Kabocha pumpkin Bbisque, wedge salad, and wilted baby spinach; plenty of pasta and risotto dishes to choose from, including a daily special; and main courses such as roasted Scottish salmon, spicy tuna mignon, and rack of lamb.
It’s no wonder that in March New York Times writer David Corcoran wrote, “This cheerfully retro space—all exposed brick and polished hardwood, with a Gilded Age gleam—seeks to provide an experience a cut or two above the ordinary.”
Corcoran particularly enjoyed the restaurant’s pizzette, or little pizzas, cooked in a gas-fired oven and served on a wood plank. He said, “We tried only one and would hurry back for the rest.”
This kind of a sentiment is music to the ears of Mustafa Coskun, president and CEO of Garden of Eden Gourmet. Since first opening its doors in 1994, the market has maintained its reputation for providing top produce, extensive product selection, and unsurpassed customer service as it’s grown its footprint and its selection. It’s so focused on providing exactly what its customers want that its tagline is “A temptation in every aisle.”
In 2008, Garden of Eden Gourmet was rated “very good to excellent” by Zagat. Its review stated, “Paradise if you ‘want to avoid crowds,’ this gourmet market first ‘everything you need’ in the way of ‘higher-end’ goods into its ‘shops,’ harboring a ‘pretty display’ of ‘above-average’ baked goods, a cheese section with ‘lots of imports,’ ‘reliably high-quality produce,’ ‘exceptional’ meat and poultry, and an ‘amazing selection of hard-to-find’ specialty items (‘if they don’t have it, you don’t need it’). Their status as ‘local favorites’ keeps them ‘hanging in there against the big boys.’”
With two locations in New York City, one in Brooklyn, and one each in Hoboken and South Orange, NJ, it’s no surprise that this specialty grocer was featured in the popular TV show “Sex & The City.” A 2008 review from Suburbuzz.com described what patrons can expect to find when browsing at any of the locations.
“Aisles are filled with over 10,000 products from all over the world. There’s a butcher, a baker, and (no, no candlestick makers), but they do have a charcuterie and cheese shop. The produce is outstanding, and you’re sure to find some exotic looking fruit you’ve never seen but just heard Martha Stewart talk about.”
Shoppers can find breakfast platters, chocolate fountains, children’s menus, and edible centerpieces through Garden of Eden Gourmet’s catering business, which guarantees the same level of quality, consistency, and service as its locations. The grocer prides itself on how it educates it shoppers by staffing its individual specialty food counters with well-educated employees willing to share their expertise.
As the company’s founder, Coskun takes pride in offering the highest quality products at each of his stores, but he’s also aware that price plays an important role in distinguishing value to today’s shopper. On the company’s website, he states, “We work diligently to provide our dedicated customers with the most competitive pricing while we maintain exceptionally high standards of customer service. It is a source of great pride for us that we consistently re-evaluate this delicate balance, on a daily basis, to ensure that our customers are getting the best value for their dollar.”