Let me say at the start that I am an unabashed fan of Chef Jai, having been to his first restaurant in Hacketstown many times. His own take on Asian Fusion is unique; the way he blends Malay with Thai, adds a little Texas, makes his own fiery sriracha condiments-- his whole package as a chef is thjrilling. I get to eat in New York's top Fusion spots-- David Chang's, Nobu, etc.. I am a chef myself. What Chef Jai does is, to me, unique. He could move down to NYC's lower East side-- and make it there just fine, where Fusion and Asian chefs run wild & loose in the streets. We are very lucky to have him here in NJ.
His new spot in Long Valley adds some items to a menu that was established in Hacketstwon, specifically some vegetarian offerings that, should you give up the Cow and the Pig-- will really satisfy an active palate. He does unspeakable things with Kale, grains, noodles and vegetable salads and sautes, all bathed in his excellent sauces. His great Menu Standards-- pepper pork ribs, seafood combinations in either soup or drier mediums-- remain excellent. His beverage list alone would tickle anyone looking for a real light snack, or at tea-time. Essentially, I will limit my opinions to this particular chef's STYLE.
Before the last part of this screed, let me discuss the really elegant, comfortable space he and his partners provide: a simple & lovely space-- alive with the buzz of people who really enjoy food. Spacious, very well put together...
He makes highly unusual combinations of ingredients WORK, by being extremely daring-- and by being hugely competent in the Standard (Thai, Malay, Indonesian) cuisines. He understands Fire, the coolness of veg, the pliant lovely base of noodles and rice--and he mixes the 5 rivers of human flavor with great confidence and panache. Southeast Asian, Thai/Vietnamese/ Chinese-- Fusion-- In my own and humble opinion, one of the very best chefs we have is working in an absolutely stunning new room, a great location in Long Valley.
You need to call ahead for reservations, as this chef's rooms are almost always busy. Location: 9 west Mill Road (the main drag) in Long Valley; phone : 908-876-0099. pandanlounge.com
116 Quimby St, Westfield, NJ 07090