Seared Steakhouse & Status Lounge, 250 Mill St., Belleville, is nestled on the upper-level of a non-descript shopping center in Branch Brook Plaza.
The location may be non-descript, but the food and atmosphere at the steakhouse and lounge is anything but that.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host and brought to our table in the dining room. The dining room, with its brick interior and a huge gold-colored industrial air vent, featured many tables, but was sparsely decorated. The brick motif was a predominantly featured throughout the restaurant and lounge.
When our waitress came over to greet us and give us our menus, we asked about specials. We were told the restaurant does not offer specials. The menu does, however, offer a wide variety of choices from different sizes and cuts of steak to fresh fish, chicken and pork.
We started with four appetizers. A table favorite was the blue calamari ($11). It featured an abundant portion in a spicy, delicious sauce; This dish could easily have been an entrée for anyone at the table.
Another hit appetizer was two Blue Point oysters and two Malpeque oysters ($8) from the raw bar. They were served atop a bucket of ice with both cocktail and horseradish sauces.
The other appetizers were salads – a ginger salad ($9) with apple, mango and cashews and a heart of romaine salad ($9) with chipotle and cilantro dressing.
Next, it was on to the main courses. We decided to share and it was a wise decision. The restaurant may feature steak, but everyone got something different and it made the Seared experience that much more fun.
One guest stayed on course and ordered the 12 oz. ribeye ($28) cooked medium. The thick steak, which was prime cut and aged, arrived perfectly. It was juicy, beautifully seared and came as advertised. There were several oohs and ahhs around the table as the plate was set down. The portion included a side of garlic mashed potatoes.
Next up was the pork chop ($23) in a blackberry reduction, with garlic mashed potatoes as a side. This chop was beautifully prepared and both juicy and delicious. We were all intrigued when we saw the blackberry reduction sauce since we’d never seen this meal prepared this way, but the chef at Seared pulled it off with wonderful style and grace. The dish made our taste buds tingle and wish there was more.
One guest treated herself to the Chilean Sea Bass ($29). The large portion arrived atop roasted scallions and tomatoes.
Our last entrée was the Black Tiger shrimp ($22), served in a deceivingly spicy hot orange chipotle sauce with squash dressing and zucchini slices. The dish featured 10 large shrimp and the portion was more than enough and delicious.
The restaurant currently has only three desserts and no dessert menu. The three – plain cheesecake, “turtle” cheesecake – cheesecake covered with caramel sauce and pecans and a chocolate lava cake with ice cream.
Throughout the evening, we told our waitress we’d seen beautiful Banana Foster dishes being prepared around the restaurant. Our waitress had forgotten about the dish and we were excited about trying it.
We were slightly disappointed when our waitress came back a few minutes later and informed us the restaurant was out of bananas. She had an alternative – Apple Foster – and, after expressing our disappointment, we agreed to try that. She described the dish as eating a baked apple, but prepared like the banana dish.
Imagine how disappointed we were when our waitress came back yet again a few minutes later and told us the Apple Foster was a dish that could only be prepared as a dessert for two people.
While we enjoyed our meal overall, we did find several issues with the restaurant, including:
• The restaurant offers three types of parking – valet, parking lot and street parking. If you choose to park yourself, getting to the front door is troublesome. Patrons are asked to climb a steep hill, then follow a long winding walkway to the front of the restaurant. There were several fits and starts as doors that appeared to be the entrance were later found to fire exits and not open. Getting to the restaurant would prove difficult for a person who has physical disabilities.
• Finding the restaurant from the parking lot is troublesome. While the restaurant features an awning, there are no standalone signs to suggest it’s there. The restaurant is working with the township for approval of outdoor signage, according to the general manager, but the lack of signage outside beyond the awning makes it hard to find.
• The piped-in music in the restaurant appeared to get softer and louder based on the noise in the restaurant itself. As Seared started to fill up with diners, the music appeared to get progressively softer and louder based on crowd noise. Music is nice, but so is being able to hold conversations without feeling like they had to yell. However, one note on the music: Management provides a piano and singer alternate Saturday nights, according to the maître’d’.
• The general manager told us the restaurant has not had its grand opening celebration yet. That event will happen in the future. The doors to Seared opened Valentine’s Day weekend.
• Finding Seared online is troublesome. According to management, there’s an initial website online, but it will be about a month before the full site will be available. After trying to see a menu online, I called and was told to check the restaurant’s Facebook page (Seared SteakHouse & StatusLounge). The site lists several, but not all, of the menu’s items. The restaurant should publicize the Facebook page.
Also featured is a lounge with high-back chairs, couches, a fireplace and a bed for intimate conversations. The general manager was quick to assure us the bed is used only for socializing. The area is called a Status Lounge and features bottle service, a DJ (after 10 p.m.) and nice-sized dance floor.
On the night we visited, there were not yet any guests in the Status Lounge although the DJ was hard at work, as were the bartenders and staff.
Seared Steakhouse & Status Lounge owner Jack Sherwood has a real find in Belleville and despite the easily fixable opening week jitters we experienced, it should not be missed.
Seared Steakhouse & Status Lounge
250 Mill St.
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
Facebook: Seared SteakHouse & StatusLounge