Temptation: Do I tell you about an incredible find, with killer views and amazing food, or do I keep it to myself, so I can always get a table? Well, since we’re friends, I’ll tell you about Arugula at the White Sands in Point Pleasant. This restaurant is so charming and the food is so good that it is definitely worth the trip – and the scary thing is, I almost missed it. See, it’s not in the White Sands Hotel, but on the ocean. Its name, Arugula, makes you think it’s a farm-to-table or an Italian place, but it’s not that, either. It’s New American cuisine with a global touch, meaning the Brazilian chef has a menu with cleverly named dishes that represent all the world cuisines, so there is a choice for everyone. And when they’re not white tablecloth at night, they’re serving breakfast and lunch; they even have beach service.
After our meal, we were lucky enough to have Chef George Edward join us at the table. He is a classic! He looks like he could go right on TV or on a jar of sauce. He has been in the food business his whole life and you can tell he has developed his knowledge of quality ingredients over a lifetime. He told us about the painstaking way he develops his sauces, the extra steps he takes to create his unique flavors, and his long hours in his compact kitchen. This guy has been around, and you can taste it! His wait staff has been with him a while and they know his menu very well. He even decorated the interior of the nautically-themed restaurant himself. Chef George’s presence is not to be ignored.
We started with three appetizers: the Eggplant Tower, Drunken Clams, and Burrata Black Truffles, and each was just wonderful. The tower was layers of fried eggplant that held their crispiness, despite their warm blanket of melted cheese and pool of chunky tomato sauce. The clams were large and nicely briny, and the beer-based sauce with lemon, garlic, and wine must be dunked dry – delish! Next, the Burrata Black Truffles. I have never had this combination. The homemade burrata is surrounded by diced garden tomatoes and onions, grapes, and chunks of dark chocolate. Yes, chocolate. It tasted fantastic together – an amazing surprise. Do try it; it is a taste you will not forget.
Now for the entrees. Diner one chose Chicken Murphy, which was nothing like the classic Murphy-style dish you may be thinking of. The rich brown sauce clung to the tender chicken and potatoes with an almost syrupy consistency. Chef George later confessed he combines four different sauces, in intervals, to make this luscious blend. She loved every bite. Diner two chose the Divino, a house favorite. It is penne with bay scallops and shrimp in a light vanilla lobster cream sauce tossed with peas and diced tomatoes. It’s a light, summery dish, and there’s plenty of it. It’s a big bowl. Diner two only got halfway through it and said the flavors were soothing and well developed. With so many intriguing possibilities like beef cheeks, crispy pasta, chicken India, or chicken in a white Godiva chocolate sauce, I decided to follow the house recommendation and got the slow roasted pork. It was perfection! The enormous pork shank is slow roasted for an amazing 36 hours, and is so tender you can eat it with a spoon. It comes with pillowy baby potatoes in a natural gravy and none of us could believe how flavorful and tender it was. It is very popular and shows off this chef’s technique. A winner indeed!
For dessert, we chose one big one: a funnel cake topped with creamy homemade chocolate chip ice cream and whipped cream. It was like summer on a plate! The comforting flavors made us feel like we were on the amusement pier end of the boardwalk. The chef also made us a special treat, which I’m sure he’ll do for you if you ask. He made us Brazilian coffee, his way. Wow, this was incredible! He also gave us the instructions on how drink it. You scoop up some syrup from the bottom and pull it through the cream top. It tasted like it had alcohol, which it didn’t, and he explained it was decaffeinated and had no sugar other than some syrup on the bottom. It was a magic trick. This coffee is incredible. Even Diner one, who never drinks coffee, loved it. If you are able, please try it; you will want it every day.
Arugula is up a short flight of stairs, but still easy to navigate. It has a wraparound outdoor dining deck, but the ocean view is just as good inside in the air conditioning. BYOB.
The cost: Moderate
What we liked: The location and its wraparound view of the ocean and pools, the whimsical watery décor, the seasoned staff, the big selection of tastes on the menu, the chef, and that Brazilian coffee. Oh my!
What could be better: Better signage and more information on the website about parking, BYOB, etc.
We give it 5 J’s.
Arugula is located on the ocean at 1106 Ocean Avenue in Point Pleasant Beach, and serves as the restaurants for the White Sands Hotels. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week in season from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Call (732) 295-2800. Visit www.arugulaoceanview.com.