Thursday, March 23, 2023

Last month I suggested to a friend that we go out for a drink to celebrate her birthday. Only afterwards did I realize there were no places nearby. Now, I’m happy to report, there is.

Mocha Bleu in Teaneck, already known as a bistro and patisserie, has a well-stocked new wine room and a mixology bar that was custom-made in Italy.
You can sit at the bar or order wine and drinks with your meal.

Naftali Abenaim, owner of Mocha Bleu and the Mocha Hospitality Group, was inspired to add the wine room and mixology bar after opening Mocha Red in Manhattan last year. “I have a new understanding of fine dining and service,” he said. “At Mocha Red, we created an exciting concept that brings together great food and amazing drinks with a vibe that makes people feel like they’re on vacation. We call it ‘Tulum meets Wynwood,’ and I wanted to bring that experience to Mocha Bleu.” The décor has been refreshed, adding a tropical touch with lush flowers and greenery, new furniture and coming soon, the addition of art inspired by Alec Monopoly.

Abenaim said the time was right to add wine and spirits. “People have been cooped up in the lockdown for over two years; they’re ready to go out again. Getting together with friends or family in a relaxed atmosphere, where you can have delicious food and a nice glass of wine or a cocktail, is the best way to have a good time.”

The wine room holds over 100 competitively priced reds, whites, sparkling wines and champagnes. The house wine, Luscious, is a private label cabernet sauvignon, made mevushal especially for Mocha Bleu by high-end winery Shirah from California, owned by brothers Shimon and Gabriel Weiss. The Champagne selection includes a kosher version of a very well-known Drappier from France.

Mocha Red’s signature cocktails have come over the bridge to Mocha Bleu in Teaneck. Abenaim said the Ghost Rider has been an immediate hit. It’s made with tequila, bourbon, orange, jalapeño and tajin, and flambéed at the bar. Another cocktail people love is From Tel Aviv to Casablanca, a mix of arak, lemon, basil, cucumber, pear and elderflower. The Mocha Bleu Picante is a spicy margarita with a special tequila made in-house, infused with red Thai chili peppers. Mixologists are also making well-known favorites like Passion Fruit Mojito, Campari Negroni, Cosmopolitan, Mimosa, Bellini and three kinds of Sangria. Mocha Bleu has a variety of single malt scotches from non-sherry casks and high-end tequilas. Baccarat-style crystal glasses complete the effect.

Mocha Bleu is introducing new menu items by chef Aian Gayadeen, along with its classic dairy, pizza and pareve selections. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Greece and Turkey. Ask your server for the Yamazaki. a three-tier stand with lox, white fish and toppings for do-it-yourself bagels, inspired by the Japanese way of presenting sushi. Chef Milan Lipstein, executive chef at Mocha Red and a veteran of renowned restaurant Cipriani in New York, is consulting on the Mocha Bleu menu and planning future dinner and wine pairing events.

There’s a new late-night menu to go along with expanded hours. From 9:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., there is a special selection of salads, soups, appetizers, burgers (pareve and dairy), fish and pasta, plus outstanding desserts by executive pastry chef Hector Ayala. The full menu is available all day. (The 3:30-5 p.m. time-out has been discontinued.) Mocha Bleu opens one hour after the end of Shabbat and serves the full menu until closing at 1 a.m.

With such a varied menu, everyone feels comfortable at Mocha Bleu. I stopped by at lunchtime recently, where an extended family get-together was in progress, complete with bubbies and babies. My husband and I went for dinner and sat between a just-engaged young couple, who told us they had their first date at Mocha Bleu, and a group of yeshiva bochurs celebrating a birthday.

For dinner, we asked our very friendly, efficient and knowledgeable server to suggest a dry white wine, and he brought us an excellent pinot grigio that went wonderfully with our meals. My Caesar salad was a perfect rendition, just garlicky enough with crunchy croutons softened in the dressing. The accompanying grilled salmon filet had a flavorful, smoky exterior with just the right amount of char, and an almost-creamy, medium-rare texture. My husband enjoyed fish and chips, tender tilapia in a crispy, light tempura coating, and a generous portion of shoestring fries. For dessert we shared an order of crème brûlé, perfectly executed with a flambéed sugar crust and custard filling that reminded us of our travels to France. It was served with a heavenly scoop of vanilla gelato.

The wine room and mixology bar are not the only new additions to Mocha Bleu. A pergola with a louvered roof that can be opened or closed brings weatherproof outdoor seating for people still sensitive about eating indoors. The space can also be rented as a party room for up to 60 people. When combined with indoor seating, Mocha Bleu can host events for 170.

Mocha Bleu, 1399 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (10 p.m. for the bakery). Friday hours are 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mocha Bleu opens one hour after Shabbat ends until 1 a.m. The café serves fresh pastry, gelato and coffee all day from 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Stop by on Fridays to bring home brioche challah with a sugar- coated crumb topping.

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