Rating: Very Good
Chris: Avenue is one of our favorite restaurants in the area. Whenever Janine asks where I would like to go to celebrate a birthday or some other occasion, my answer is always; “Why don’t we take a ride down to Avenue…” .
Janine: We had walked by about a dozen times before deciding to try it. A restaurant on the boardwalk with a dance floor above and a beach club below just didn’t seem like our type of place. It seemed like one of those trendy places people go to see and be seen. We really have no desire for either.
Chris: One time while walking by, we paused and looked at the menu posted in the front Window. Hmm? Boeuf Bourguignon, Moules -Frites…It was a small menu that featured classical French Bistro fare and a few American crowd pleasers. Maybe it was worth a try…
Janine: Then I read somewhere the Chef was voted one of America’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine Magazine. Perhaps we were too quick to pass judgment. A phone call later, and a table was reserved for the upcoming Friday night.
Chris: The room is big and bustling but the flow is comfortable and well planned. There is a trendy bar to the right of the Hostess station which leads to a spacious dining room. Large parties can easily be accommodated without over-powering smaller groups of diners. Walls of glass provide panoramic views of the ocean.
Janine: The menu features classic bistro fare that is executed with more of a nouvelle touch. The traditional ingredients and flavor profiles are retained but the presentations are done with a more flair. The food sounds good on the menu, looks better one the plate and tastes beyond expectations.
Chris: The onion tart and marinated sardines are two appetizers of note. The onion Tart is a standard menu item. It consists of caramelized onions supported by a semi-soft goat cheese and a flaky puff pastry crust. The onions are both sweet and savory. They help cut through the richness and saltiness of the goat cheese. The puff pastry rounds out the dish and helps the other flavors combine on the palette.
Janine: The Sardine fillets are lightly marinated and served on toasted baguette slices with what seemed to be a Rouille (or was it an Aioli?). Each serving is topped with a whole clove of Garlic that has been delicately poached to eliminate the overpowering raw garlic taste. This dish could go very wrong with these ingredients. The deft hand of the chef creates a harmonious melody of flavors with a chorus of ingredients all crying out solos.
Chris: And these are just the Appetizers! The main courses are just as exciting. I find the fish dishes superb. Wild Alaskan Halibut in Parmesan Broth and Blood Orange Marmalade is a good example. All too often, delicate flavored ingredients such as Halibut are inadvertently transformed into a neutral element of the dish. They deliver the flavors of the other ingredients but lose their unique identity in the process. It would be very easy for ingredients such as Parmesan and Blood Orange to overpower the Halibut. Care and restraint on the Chef’s part prevents this from happening. The Halibut is the master of the plate. The Parmesan Broth and Blood Orange Marmalade are his minions.
Janine: I prefer the meat dishes especially the Boeuf Bourguignon. Traditionally, this dish is considered cold weather fare, but I have no problem eating Avenue’s versions all year long. The dish is rich but not over-sauced. The portion size is generous enough to fill you up but not enough to weigh you down.
Chris: The wine list is extensive but fairly pricey. It’s no surprise that French wines dominate the list but other appellations are also represented. Most of the selections are priced north of $50, but there are a few reasonably priced bottles tucked away among the first growths and grand crus.
Janine: Perennial Patisserie favorites are offered for dessert. Who can choose between Crème Brulee, Crepes Suzette, Pot de Crème, and Profiteroles?
Chris: For us, the big restaurant/dance club scene is a road we seldom travel, but a ride down to Avenue is always worth the trip.
23 Ocean Avenuc
Long Branch, NJ 07740