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Enter Stage Left for American Fare

Chef Eric Martin, above, has brought high style to the innovative American Cuisine at New Brunswick's Stage Left.

I still remember the hamburger at New Brunswick's Stage Left, an American Cafe, Thick and juicy, made of superior quality beef ground in the restaurant's kitchen, perfectly grilled over oak, it is topped with 3-year-old aged Vermont Cheddar and served with chipotle mayonnaise on a substantial, tasty bun.

Certainly, one of the best burgers I have ever had (and quite frankly, I'd rather eat a great burger than anything else).

The burger, which can only be enjoyed at the bar and at Friday lunch, is the creation of Eric Martin, the restaurant's new chef.

However, Martin, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, is at Stage Left to do more than burgers. With a resume which includes a year of cooking in France and at restaurants Celebrites and American Renaissance in Manhattan, Martin is putting his own stamp on the already successful American menu. His appetizer, Chinese-style lobster dumplings filled with sweet morsels of crustacean, served with sprouts and a sauce heady with ginger and sesame takes that menu a step further.

"Eric's a rare find. It's easy to talk to one another; we found a great match, great chemistry," says Francis Schott, who owns the restaurant with Mark Pascal and Luis Riverro. "With each change of chefs, we try to take steps forward, keeping best of what we've done in the past, and building upon that."

Martin's doing what Stage Left has gained accolades for doing--redefining American classics.

Taste his contemporary version of the all-time American classic chocolate cake and ice cream--a cylinder of almost flourless chocolate cake, with molten chocolate oozing from its center, complemented perfectly with the cool sweetness of his vanilla ice cream--the chocolate truffle on the plate a decadent redundancy.

For Martin, whose father is a chef for Air France, his French training "offers a good base to expand on." He's used the elements of classic training to create new American dishes like black bass with a blood orange vinaigrette; tagliatelle pasta with scallops and roasted beets; double-cut pork chops with browned Brussels sprouts, crispy potatoes and apple vinegar; and squab with scallion mashed potatoes.

"With Eric, we're better than we've ever been." says Schott.

The critics seem to agree. Martin has already earned four stars from one reviewer since taking over the Stage Left kitchen in December.

Lunch at Stage Left on Fridays, dinner daily. Call (908) 828-4444.

Stage Left | 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 | T: 732.828.4444
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