Leaf Restaurant Cigar Bar & Lounge

By Cathy Kiley

Located off the beaten path in Forks Industrial Park is Leaf Restaurant Cigar Bar & Lounge. This very unique eatery is the new offshoot of The Famous Smoke Shop, a mail order cigar business and retail store/lounge operating in this location since 2000. I was aware that the Famous Smoke Shop Lounge has catered for years to the cigar aficionado and allows cigar lovers to sit and enjoy a fine smoke in the way it should be enjoyed. When I accepted the assignment to dine at Leaf, I did so reluctantly since neither my husband Tom nor I smoke and I have an issue with smoke-filled atmospheres anywhere. However, we were in for a pleasant surprise.

Leaf Restaurant presents an ambience like no other in the Lehigh Valley. We were both amazed that although the bar presented the aroma of cigars, it was not overly smoky. The adjacent dining area is lovely with warm sconce and chandelier lighted wood walls, dining tables and high tops near the windows. Leaf has a masculine touch as would be expected, giving this area as well as the adjoining smoking lounge (complete with widescreen TV) an “insiders” club feeling. The exposed ceiling beams house a state-of-the-art ventilation system which completely recycles the air every six to seven minutes, constantly replenishing fresh air in the entire facility.

We sat at the bar where friendly bartenders Hanna and Paulina were on duty and happy to mix up very good, icy cold martinis for us. We enjoyed chatting and listening to the first set of live music on tap beginning around 7:30 that night. The bar area began filling up so since it was a gorgeous fall evening, we took our leave to dine al fresco on the patio outside but not before having the opportunity to meet General Manager and Certified Master Tobacconist Jeff Brown  who stopped by to greet us and answer questions.

Our waitress Robin has enjoyed working at Leaf since June and told us that they have many regulars who make working there very easy and fun. She brought wonderful fresh rolls and honey butter to enjoy while we decided what to order.

Leaf’s eclectic menu includes appetizers of Anchor Steamers – sustainable PEI mussels steamed in San Francisco Anchor Steam ale with fresh parsley and butter; French Bucheron cheese en croute served with black currants and apricot preserves; Southern Fried Calamari with bayou-style remoulade; and Miso scallops wrapped in bacon served with cucumber-wakame slaw.  These are in addition to soup and salad selections. Dinner entrees include Kobe Top Sirloin with veal demi glace accompanied by horseradish mashed potatoes and savoy choucroute garnish; Steak Frites – grilled tender Black Angus sirloin sliced and served with Belgian frites, aioli and creamed spinach; Scallops Chimay – pan seared scallops paired with caramelized gnocchi simmered in a Chimay-mornay sauce with sweet peas, shallots and garlic garnished with crispy prosciutto. Also on the entrée menu were Chesapeake-style Lobster Casino Cakes, Salmon Veronique and pan-seared Chicken Acadia, all uniquely prepared and served with interesting sides.

There is a Casual Fare menu and a listing of tapas from which Tom and I decided to order to accompany a bottle of Hogue Syrah. We began by sharing a Thai Toss salad of fresh greens tossed in a savory orange-ginger dressing with edamame (soybean pods), julienned carrots, sliced seedless cucumber, sautéed shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts and crispy fried udon noodles. It was a light, tasty starter for the plates that followed and we enjoyed it very much. My house made pumpkin and mascarpone cheese stuffed raviolini were delicious. The thinly rolled mini raviolis were served al dente, simmered in a decadent brown butter cream sauce and garnished with crispy pan-fried sage leaves. Tom doesn’t eat cream so this dish was mine alone to enjoy and I did – every bite. It is definitely the best dish of this kind that I’ve eaten in the Valley in a very long time. I loved it.

We followed with Tuna Calero. The very fresh, sushi grade Yellow Fin was seared rare, sliced and presented with avocado and Jersey tomato garnish, green radish oil and crispy plantain “swizzles.” The taste was great with just the right zip accented by a unique pairing of veggie sides.

Tom ordered the Peloponnesian Lamb – marinated Australian lamb chops, lightly grilled and paired with rosemary smoked red and golden beets, feta cheese and bitter orange sauce. This was a very unique presentation with many blended flavors. He enjoyed it although he thought the “smoky” flavor was a bit over the top for his taste and detracted from the flavor of the lamb but he loved the beets and accompaniments. We agreed that the tuna was our favorite.

Just for fun, we ordered the crispy Home Cut Spanish Onion Rings with a savory aioli that were fantastic. Tom said it is worth the trip back just to enjoy those with an iced cold beer! We finished off our meal with fresh coffee and a deliciously refreshing selection of house made cranberry-apricot, lemon and white peach sorbets.

While enjoying coffee, Cigar Aficionado Amanda stopped at our table to see if we wished to see the cigars being featured that evening. We gracefully declined to try a smoke but were happy to listen and learn about the differences of those on her tray that night.

We had a wonderful meal, in a charmingly different atmosphere with great friendly service in a restaurant that Tom said he “could not believe was as crowded as it was in such a remote spot!” The food alone is worth the trip and for those who enjoy the cigar experience; I imagine Leaf Restaurant Cigar Bar and Lounge is paradise.

New Jersey born Executive Chef Evan Kechely moved to the Lehigh Valley in 2004. He is self-taught and has developed his unique style in such local eateries as Pearly Bakers, Bank Street Annex, Silver Creek Country Club and back to Pearly Bakers as Executive Chef before coming to Leaf on day one. He is a strong proponent of using sustainable local meats, seafood and produce calling upon local farms and purveyors whenever possible and he visits nearby Klein Farms in Forks Township for his milk and cheese products. Chef Evan is proud and excited to be a part of creating the menu at Leaf – offering intriguing flavors and unique presentations to a group of loyal patrons of this niche eatery.

Tom and I will definitely revisit Leaf and suggest you give it a try. You will find delicious fare at an affordable price with very friendly people who will make you feel very welcome. And, for those of you who work nearby, Leaf offers a luncheon buffet during the week. Chef Evan assures that this is no ordinary buffet and you will be pleasantly surprised at what you will find from day-to-day.  I should mention that I watched  the bar and cigar lounge fill up during the evening so for those of you who don’t smoke, I would suggest that you make an earlier reservation.

Leaf is located at 90 Mort Drive in Easton, Pa. just off Kesslersville and Kuebler Roads in Forks Township and is open every day. There is plenty of safe on-site parking and outdoor seating when the weather allows. Telephone 610-559-1336 or visit: leafcigarbar.com for reservations, hours of operation, menu and other information.

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