(A version of this was published on Baristanet Feb. 18, 2010)

Broad Street in Bloomfield has become a veritable haunt for foodies. With Momoya, Brookside Thai and Pandan, Bohemia and Stamna in close proximity, the slick Mes Reves is in a building all its own – a shiny new star on a block where the other stores and restaurants are stacked shoulder to shoulder.

The restaurant doesn’t let on much from the outside, but I felt my post-work tensions dissipate as I walked into its airy and light interior, where tasteful light fixtures, glass panels, pale yellow upholstery and warm, oak-stained floors come together harmoniously (yet unostentatiously).

Mes Reves (French for my dreams) opened its doors on Feb. 7, and appeared to be off to an encouraging start, enjoying a full house on Valentine’s Day, and a reasonably brisk dining room on subsequent evenings, one of which included familiar faces such as those of Bloomfield’s Mayor Ray McCarthy and several members of the town council.

More obscure faces recently included my husband’s and mine. The typically French menu, leaning heavily meatward, comprised five appetizers (priced between $10 and $16), three salads ($8 to $12) and eight entrees ($20-$28), with options for the carnivor, omnivor and pescetarian.

We started off with the mushroom tart and the seared foie gras. The former burst with the savory-spicy flavor and scent of wild mushrooms, doused in a mushroom demi sauce, all crowning a golden rectangle of puff pastry. My husband was less impressed by my foie gras, which he considered a little rare and rich, but I enjoyed every silky, fatty milligram of it. It was served with the thinnest, sauteed leek strips (impossible to eat gracefully – brush aside if you’re on a first date) in a sauterne sauce, on a bed of tiny, cubed butternut squash.

As we awaited our mains, the chef (I assumed it was him) appeared in the dining room to mingle briefly with each of his patrons, and then returned to the kitchen to work his magic with our entrees.

The rack of lamb arrived as it was intended, medium rare, in a shallot sauce with bordelaise. It was infused with roasted flavor, and accompanied by couscous, and ratatouille in which you could see the component vegetables and taste the subtle smoky-char flavor off the grill pan. Delightful.

Pan-seared duck breast was served with grilled endive, carrots, wild rice and a port-based sauce. This was so tender and tasty it was practically inhaled in two breaths by my husband.

With the food gone, we prolonged our stay with dessert. Alas, only two items were on the menu that night (well, they’d only been open such a little while) – a bread pudding and creme caramel. We picked the latter and weren’t disappointed. A sweet finale to a smashing meal.

I later spoke to Quang Tran, owner and chef de cuisine of Mes Reves.

“This was my dream, there were little nightmares along the way during this journey, but it’s finally come true,” said Quang, a charming and modest 42-year-old who looks half his age.

“I wanted to bring a little piece of Manhattan here, a Soho Village-type restaurant with provincial French, simple dishes; I don’t want to intimidate my patrons.”

Born in Vietnam in Saigon, Quang moved to the U.S. as a young child. He was trained at the International Culinary Center in NYC (the combined French and Italian culinary school).

“It’s a passion,” said Quang, who lives with his wife (co-owner of Mes Reves) and two kids in Nutley. “I take pride in the product that I’m making and hope that what I create from the kitchen will be satisfactory.”

“I’ve jumped into it (the restaurant business) and gotten my feet wet. I can only hope for the best.”

Mes Reves

407 Broad St (corner of Broad & Baldwin),
Bloomfield, NJ

Mon-Thurs 5-9pm; Fri-Sat 5-10pm, Closed Sunday

(As with all my reviews, this one was done in stealth, with no special attention sought. The chef-owner was interviewed and photographed a day later. Apologies for underlit photos, surreptitiously taken sans flash. Although I often take photos in restaurants and NOT ONCE has anyone thought to ask what the heck I was up to! )