After closing in 2016, the beautiful space where Harvest Bistro once stood in Closter was left empty. But Bergen County native Chef Ben Pollinger soon came to the rescue; his new restaurant, The Hill, had its Grand Opening in June. With an eclectic menu – though there is plenty of seafood to be found – The Hill is an intriguing dining option.
Pollinger is right at home (literally!) as the owner and head chef of the restaurant. A resident of Oradell, he is a Michelin Star recipient for his time as an executive chef at Oceana; a seafood restaurant in New York City, where he spent 10 years. However, it wasn’t long until Pollinger had the urge to strike out on his own. In fact, all that time in NYC made him consider opening his restaurant in the city.
“As a chef, you want to hang your own shingle and be on your own,” says Pollinger. “The next challenge for me was to establish my own business. I originally thought I’d do it in New York because in my mind I was a NYC chef,” he continues. Eventually, after speaking with fellow NJ residents about his plans, he had a change of heart. “I reacted to the demand. It’s great to literally be in my backyard.”
Although The Hill is a new restaurant with a new look, renovations left some of the previous farmhouse feel intact. “The color palette, the back bar, the lighting changed,” explains Michael Greenberg, general manager. The sleek dining room, which seats up to 80, definitely gives off a modern aura. “Simplistic timelessness is what Ben was looking for,” says Greenberg.
Additionally, there is a private dining room upstairs that seats about 54 people. The Hill happily hosts private events in this room, which boasts a fireplace and a 60-inch TV. (When not in use, both can be hidden away behind a custom sliding door.) When the restaurant gets busy, guests can also dine in the upstairs dining room. “The room feels like an extension of the dining room,” says Pollinger.
The restaurant’s design is meant to make patrons feel at ease, comfortable and welcome. For example, when you walk in the front door, you won’t have to get past a large podium. “The concept is that when you walk in, you’re already in the space,” says Pollinger. “It’s a subliminally strong welcoming feature that most people don’t think about.”
Those who know Chef Pollinger are already familiar with his exceptional seafood creations. (He even wrote a cookbook on fish, titled School of Fish.) While he still cooks seafood at The Hill, the menu doesn’t adhere too strictly to any one type of cuisine. Nevertheless, if you had to put a label on it, you could say The Hill features globally-inspired American fare. “Ben has a Rolodex of restaurants from around the world. He cooks from where he wants to,” Greenberg affirms.
Appetizers include asparagus risotto, calamari and a chickpea salad. You’ll also find entrees like roasted chicken, a New York strip or pork rib chop. But if you’d prefer to try the exceptional seafood dishes, menu options include soft shell crabs, scallops and halibut.
Desserts are made in-house by Pollinger. For example, there is a rhubarb panna cotta with pistachio gelato; in addition, you can order Blackberry Cheesecake Semifreddo, with an almond biscotti crumble, poached apricots and lemon gelee. Finally, The Hill also serves ice cream sandwiches made with walnut-chocolate chip cookies and chocolate and vanilla ice cream. (Ice cream isn’t made on the premises yet, but will be in the future.)
The large bar and lounge can seat about 40. The Hill offers 16 wines by the glass and a 90-bottle wine list, with the intent to continue expanding. “We wanted a core list that was approachable and value driven,” says Pollinger. You’ll also see local craft beers, whiskey, tequilas, scotches and more.
Signature cocktails change depending on seasonal fruits. Happy hour specials run daily at the bar from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm; late night happy hour goes from 10:00 pm until closing.
The restaurant doesn’t yet offer a bar menu, but they’ll be rolling it out shortly. “It will be foods that you can eat standing up, with your hands and that you can share,” says Pollinger.
The Hill is located at 252 Schraalenburgh Road in Closter. For hours and other info, visit the restaurant’s website. Though they are exclusively open for dinner currently, the restaurant plans to serve lunch and Sunday brunch in the future. (You can follow them on Instagram for updates!) To make a reservation, call 201-899-4700.