Food & Drink in Somerset

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Upon first glance, the kitchen at iSpice could belong to any upscale restaurant in America—it's filled with skilled chefs slicing up tender cuts of meat, pans of aromatic sauces simmering on the stove-top, and plenty of fresh produce packing the shelves. The kitchen's fiery tandoori oven is the first hint that this eatery specializes in dishes that are slightly more exotic than your standard meatloaf or steak sandwich. Peek inside, and you'll find fluffy naan, plump tiger prawns, and juicy cuts of lamb.

The next clues to the eatery's unique cuisine come with further inspection of the bubbling pots and sizzling pans, which simmer with exotic ingredients like ginger and coconut and softly hiss the words to popular Bollywood songs. The kitchen's chefs use the fresh ingredients and spices to craft a sweeping variety of Indian specialties, from tangy fish curry to spicy lamb vindaloo. Their guests sip on sweet mango lassi and split orders of samosas out in the sunlit dining room, where elegant abstract paintings speckle the golden walls.

1000 Aaron Rd, Ste 5
North Brunswick,
NJ
US

Meaning “Spicy Chinese food” in a loose translation, Chinese Mirch blends the flavors of China with the fiery spices of Indian cuisine to create an MSG-free menu of devilishly spicy chicken, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Third generation restaurateur Vik Lulla has been working in the kitchen since he was 16 years old and living in Bangalore, and brought his traditional fusion cuisine to New York City in 2003. Deep-fried with large chunks of chilis in the batter, the chicken lollipops drew praise from the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and Ear Steamers Weekly, and the smooth, soothing mango lassi offers a sweet way to douse molar fires.

2800 State Route 27
North Brunswick,
NJ
US

A flaky danish enfolds prunes and almond paste. A banana-cream pie sports tufts of fresh-whipped cream. There’s a certain nostalgic quality to the baked goods at La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppe, which is fitting for a place whose origins date back to 1952, the year nostalgia was discovered. Each morning, seasoned bakers whip up cupcakes, batches of real buttercream frosting, and sugar-laced pastries. They also knead dough for nearly a dozen varieties of bread including french, rye, and pumpernickel.

Though sweets are the shop’s focus, they have a full-catering menu with soups, sandwiches, and hot meals. In addition, they offer a wide variety of canned jams and salsa, plus organic dog treats.

456 Elizabeth Ave
Somerset,
NJ
US

Just as Rilke wondered to the young poet if the answer to "why do you write?" is resoundingly "I must," chef Jasbir Singh has built his life around his passion to cook because "those with passion do not know another way to live." In other words, he must. As owner of Guru Palace, Singh spends most of his time in the kitchen, where he puts his many years of experience to use. But that experience is also a jumping-off point for experimentation. The result is a vast menu of aromatic Indian and Thai cuisines, many of which are prepared in the traditional methods (such as tandoori), while others serve as evidence of Singh's open-minded interpretation of well-executed dishes.

2215 US Highway 1
North Brunswick,
NJ
US

Owner Iva Thompson cultivated her love of traditional island and jerk cooking starting in Jamaica at age 6, when she would snack on meat slow cooked over pimento wood at roadside jerk stands. After she moved to the United States, she developed more cooking savvy by learning contemporary techniques and blending them with her traditional Jamaican cooking style. Iva would meet up with a small group of friends to socialize and try her new concoctions. These gatherings turned into a small catering company, which in turn grew into her full-service Real Jamaican Jerk An' Ting Restaurant. A yellow-and-green storefront conceals chicken, goat, and seafood dishes that earned attention in a New York Times article about international grilling techniques. The meats marinate for days and sport a dry rub of peppers, thyme, scallions, onions, and shredded Oscar Wilde essays. She grills her jerk chicken, pork, and seafood over charcoal briquettes and dishes them up with a secret sauce that she will never reveal the recipe for but will gladly sell by the bottle.

500 Hamilton St
Somerset,
NJ
US

Tucked inside Desi Food Galaxy, Punjabi Food & Chaat entices taste buds with flecks of cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and garlic inside curries and stews. The kitchen?s centerpiece?a traditional clay oven?cooks marinated chicken and shrimp and stacks of naan. The menu splits itself between meat and vegetarian dishes, with lamb, goat, chicken, and fish starring in the former,and spinach, potatoes, mushrooms, and chickpeas filling the latter. During the week, the chefs supersize each dish for the lunch buffet, welcoming guests to take as much food as will fit into their stomachs or wheelbarrows.

2121 Rte. 27 S
Somerset,
NJ
US

Somerset Scene