Oct 02, 2017

Belford Bistro

By Lori Draz

The Journal is very proud to be introducing our new fifth edition this month: the Middletown/Lincroft Journal. With that in mind, we set off to find a Middletown restaurant – and boy, did we! We visited the well-established Belford section of Middletown. Tucked on the edge of the bay and home to NY Waterway ferry, Belford is full of friendly little shops, including a delicious surprise: the Belford Bistro.

The Belford Bistro is not putting on a show. It’s in the middle of a strip mall next to a pizza parlor. Its décor is quietly minimalistic, yet still comfortable and cozy. The menus are simple paper, which seems a little under-framed for the quality of the food, which is really superb. And while the food is good, the secret is to save room for dessert! (More about that later). The brightness in the dining room is not from the random pieces of art on the walls; it comes from the staff. Our servers had the bubbly enthusiasm of a kid who can’t wait to share a new toy. They enthusiastically met every item we ordered with, “Oh that’s my favorite!,” “What a great choice,” or “You’re gonna love it.” And they were right; we enjoyed everything we ordered.

We started with three appetizers; the first was the crab cake, which is also available in an entrée size. The single cake was very tasty, nearly solid crab, and the coating was not over seasoned. We also split a salad special three ways, which was very nice size and perfect for each of us. We did the same thing with the mushroom ravioli. Here, we weren’t sure the portion was perfect, because we each wanted more and more. The tender, perfectly cooked ravioli was soft and full of mushroom flavor. It was enrobed in a cream sauce that made you crave more. There was a little chopped asparagus to lend a spot of crunch here and there. So good, and a great choice for mushroom maniacs.

Now for the entrees. Diner one chose day boat sea scallops, which comes served over risotto and topped with pancetta, leek, spinach, and fennel in a Dijon-based sauce. These scallops were just delicious. The diner asked that the scallops be well browned, which they were, without compromising their softness. They were as tender as could be. The risotto was heavenly. It was a perfect taste complement to the scallops. Very good. Diner two chose a monkfish special that came served over risotto, as well. The snowy white monkfish was gently seasoned and the fish fan ate every bite. The risotto for this dish was different than the other and equally tasty and well-done. I had the all-natural chicken with lion’s mane mushrooms, peas, Applewood bacon, and gnocchi. Despite being a mushroom fan, I had never heard of lion’s mane mushrooms. I waited for them to roar when I cut them, but the only show was their good flavor. Still curious, I looked them up when I got home. They look like a sea creature or frozen waterfall; very lovely, just like the dish. The chicken is served on the bone, carefully flavored and seasoned, and very juicy. Dotting the plate were marshmallow-soft, thumbnail-sized gnocchi, which passed my test and the test of the gnocchi lover at our table, too.

Now, for dessert. We told you to save room and you will be glad you did. We chose three and wish we had chosen more. The bread pudding, with maple, pecans, and vanilla gelato, arrived bursting out of its still-warm ramekin. It was creamy and not to sweet and the cool gelato paired perfectly. Our second choice was a flourless chocolate cake that came with espresso gelato and crème anglaise. This very dense cake was closer to a brownie and very chocolatey. The espresso gelato’s strong coffee flavor set the taste off to new heights. What a nice combo. Our third choice was the peanut butter cup, which is simply described on the menu as peanut butter mousse, and chocolate ganache; such a humble description for the stuff dreams are made of. I don’t often order peanut butter dishes because I am often disappointed, with either a too bland or straight-out-of-the-jar taste. This is neither. It was incredible, amazing, and really the best peanut butter mousse I have ever had. The mousse is served in a deep cup, crowned with a layer of thick, shiny chocolate ganache. The mousse is creamy and the peanut butter taste is undeniable and unmatched. If you even have a passing taste for peanut butter, try it. It is something you will not forget.

The coffee was freshly made and very good. The single occupant bathroom was big and clean.

If you would like to try most of the selections we’ve described, you may also choose their $29.95 prix fixe menu, available on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Belford Bistro is BYOB.

 

The cost: Moderate

What we liked: The carefully prepared dishes, the staff’s cheerful enthusiasm, the simple and soothing interior, and those desserts; so very, very good! Nice bathroom and plenty of parking.

What could be better: An actual menu. When the food is this good, it feels like it should be introduced in a better fashion.

We give it 5 J’s.

Belford Bistro is located at 870 Main Street in Belford. It’s open Monday through Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to closing, and closed on Tuesday. Call (732) 495-8151. Visit www.belfordbistro.com.