Pollinger took over a barnlike building
that had once been a restaurant called
Harvest, and redid it inside and out. The
windowed dining room, with about 100
seats under a peaked roof, and the bar,
with 15 stools facing flat-screens and 20
seats at high-top tables, are odes to what
he calls “Scandinavian minimalism”—
soothing pale grays and off-whites, with
a stone fireplace, vintage barnwood on
the walls and rustic oak tabletops and
floors, all warmed and offset by the blue
upholstery of blessedly comfortable
chairs. There are also a private dining
room with a hideaway flat-screen and a
refurbished rear patio with fire pit.
Bergen, the state’s most populous
county and the fourth highest in per
capita income, is crisscrossed by congested highways and shopping malls
that fade away as you reach the wealthy
northern enclaves. If you live in the far
northeast corner, restaurant-rich towns
like Ridgewood and Englewood can feel
like a bit of a haul.
That might be one reason the Hill,
which opened in May, is doing brisk business. Restaurants of its caliber are scarce
in and around Closter, a leafy northeastern borough whose name derives from the
Dutch word for cloister. But recent visits
suggest the Hill would shine even on one
of the state’s several restaurant rows.
The beverage program is overseen by
GM Mike Greenberg, a former Tabla colleague who worked at Blue Hill at Stone
Barns in Westchester. One of his original
cocktails, the Crooked Smile, brought that
ineffable expression to our lips with its
piquant blend of Tapatia tequila, blood-orange juice, ginger and lime.
Pollinger says he “learned a heck of a
lot about genuine Italian cooking” from
Romano at Union Square Café. Evidence
includes a perfect asparagus risotto made
with Acquerello carnaroli (which he
considers the best Italian rice), enriched
with mint, mascarpone and pecorino.
And don’t spurn the side of gnocchi,
insanely luscious not just because they
bask in a butter-Parmesan emulsion.
The carrot is not the only stellar salad.
Last summer’s chickpea salad reset one’s
impression from the familiar dried bean
(hello, hummus) to the seldom-seen,
fresh, little globe, blanched and served,
tender and green, in a like-minded
mound of crisp sugar snap and snow
Airy, soothing and
Small, interesting cocktail list; 6 draft beers, 7
in bottle or can; 7 white,
8 red wines, each by
glass or bottle
pastas, risottos, $16-
$32; entrées, $24-$44;
sides, $8-$12; desserts,
Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday X
peas, cucumber slices and Thai basil over
a base of yogurt enlivened with lime juice.
Fanned lengths of endive, suggesting
an open hand, held chilled slices of seared
duck breast topped with roasted almonds.
Textural contrasts and a rapturous rhubarb compote under the duck slices made
it even better as victual than visual.
The glow of Pollinger’s Michelin star
will draw people craving memorable
seafood off the Parkway and into Bergen’s
sylvan northeast. They won’t be disap-
pointed. During a business trip to Tahiti,
Pollinger became enamored of the
national dish: poisson cru, cubes of raw
tuna marinated in lime and coconut milk.
Ever the texture geek, he caps his terrific
version with a layer of shredded, toasted
ON THE LINE Chef/owner Ben Pollinger prepares to plate his halibut entrée, arranging the bed of wilted
spinach with cherry tomatoes in chili vinaigrette. Before opening the Hill, Pollinger had the existing
kitchen entirely redesigned and built to his specifications.
IF YOU’RE A SUCKER FOR OC TOPUS
And who isn’t, to judge by the ubiquity of the sea creature on all sorts of
menus these days? But the Hill’s straightforward version, with crushed potatoes, grilled scallions and thick slices of chorizo, is particularly good. In the
background, the bewitching Crooked Smile cocktail.