Chez Catherine westfield

We recently ventured outside of Hudson and Bergen counties to enjoy a meal at Chez Catherine, a French restaurant in Union County in the heart of downtown Westfield. It was recently rated four stars by the Star Ledger.

Chez Catherine {431 North Avenue West, Westfield; 908.654.4011;} is tucked away on the ground level of the Best Western hotel. The interior is cozy, with seating for 30 in the main dining area and a private room downstairs that can accommodate 18.

We had the pleasure of being served by co-owner Stephane Bocket, a native of Dunkirk, France—a shore town in the northern part of the country near the Belgian border.  Bocket’s restaurant experience prior to Chez Catherine includes over 30 years in the industry, working alongside renowned chefs and restaurateurs in both Paris and New York. He brings a wealth of knowledge to Chez Catherine from these experiences and classic French cooking training, including the ability to prepare almost anything tableside, from the Dover sole to steak tartare, and crepe suzette to sabayon with red fruit. Bocket also has a vision for the service at Chez Catherine. “We are here to allow customers to spend some good, quality time with friends and family. We are able to conduct business without the feel of intrusion from the service staff.” Bocket’s goal is to bring seamless service by understanding the needs and wishes of the guest.

Chef Christine Migton started her career at Chez Catherine as a chef tourant before expanding upon her culinary skills at other restaurants in New Jersey like Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick. She trained at The Culinary Institute of America, graduating with honors in 2007 with a bachelor’s of professional studies in culinary arts. Chef Migton says she doesn’t have a specific favorite dish to cook. “My favorite dish to cook depends on who my diner is and how I can make them happy. What I cook at Chez Catherine focuses on seasonal ingredients, local when possible, prepared with care.” When asked what she wants diners to walk away with, she replied, “I want our regulars to walk away knowing that we’re staying true to our long and rich history while still evolving and remaining current. I want our new guests to walk away looking forward to becoming regulars!” It was a lovely surprise when Chef Migton came to our table after the meal, and chatted with us about the different dishes our party of four enjoyed.

We dined in late September off of the summer menu, and the menu changes seasonally. Certain items, like the Dover sole, are permanent fixtures, while others, such as the risotto or cheese, change more frequently. Chef Migton also enjoys creating different specials, which gives her the opportunity to be creative and feature different ingredients. The current menu is fall, with the winter menu beginning the second week in January.

Since being owned by Bocket and co-owner, Mike Cowan, Chez Catherine has undergone several updates. From the walls to the ceiling and the entryway to the kitchen, Bocket and Cowan have put their own personal touch on the restuarant. “We made it simpler. Contemporary yet refined,” says Cowan. “We did leave some nice touches, but essentially renovated the whole place.” When asked his personal menu favorite, he couldn’t choose. “Often I go in and say ‘just cook for me.’ Things come out and I don’t know what they are going to be. It is always delightful. The taste just pops out.” Although his favorite compliment from guests is their repeat business, a time sticks out in his mind where a particular guest could only eat soft foods. The kitchen staff went out of their way to create a meal of soft food, and she said it was the best meal she had had in months.

In addition to being walking distance from the Westfield train station, Chez Catherine has its own parking lot, rare for many restaurants in downtown Westfield. Hours of operation for lunch are Tuesday–Friday, 12–2:30pm. Dinner is served from 5–9pm Tuesday–Thursday, and 5–9:30pm Friday and Saturday. Chez Catherine is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

The Food

Mousse de Foie de Volaille (Chicken Liver Mousse): Our first experience with Chicken Liver Mouse was very pleasing to the palate.
Legumes au Vinaigre (Pickled Vegetables—Carrot, Zucchini, Turnip, Radish): Delectable, and what you would expect from pickled vegetables.
Salade de Roquette et Fraise Vinaigrette au citron et Basilic (Roquette cheese and Strawberry salad with a lemon basil vinaigrette): Simple, fresh, and a perfect way to whet our appetites.
Risotto au Champignons (Mushroom Risotto): This changes daily, and we were happy with the evening’s selection.
Sole de Douvres Meunier (Dover Sole, Lemon and Brown Butter Sauce): Prepared tableside and oh-so-scrumptious.
Tart au Citron et Aux Amandes (Lemon Mousse and Almond Tart, Raspberry Ice Cream): Unique, and a fantastic finish to the meal.

The Drinks

(As selected by Co-Owner Stephan Bocket)
Taittinger Cuvee Speciale, NV: A crisp champagne to begin the meal.
Burgundy Corton Charlemagne Louis Latour 2013: A smooth white from the well known Burgundy region in France.
Cotes du Jura Pinot Noir 2011: A light bodied red from an almost unknown French wine region, Jura.

By Heather Dean Bennington