This month, we started the new year with the quaint class of Blend on Main. Located in downtown Manasquan, it’s almost across the street from the Algonquin Theater and is directly underneath the historic Inn on Main. Due to this placement, Blend on Main is two restaurants in one. For breakfast and lunch, the Main Street side of the space operates as the Peach Pit Café. It closes at 3 pm and reopens at 5 pm as the upscale Blend on Main.
Well-respected Chef Lou Smith is the owner and executive chef. He offers on- and off-premise catering, specials, and surprises throughout the year. You can park on the street or opt for the large parking lot behind the restaurant, with its own entrance as well.
There is a blazing open fireplace in the center of the room, and the décor is soft beiges and earth tones, soothing but not boring. We were there mid-week and were surprised to see how quickly it filled up. By 7 pm, there was barely an open table, so do make reservations.
As we reviewed our menu, we were brought a basket of warm, buttery pretzel rolls. OH my, oh my! I am still thinking of them. They came served with a reddish mustard dipping sauce which was so good, we had to ask for more. That was a very pleasant start to the evening.
We chose three appetizers. Each was very good, but our favorite was the flat bread, which is lavash bread topped with fig puree, goat cheese, arugula, balsamic glaze and truffle salt. That sweet-salty combo is a winner, and is very satisfying without being too filling.
We also had vegetable tempura with Thai plum sauce, which was crispy and light. I admit the name sold me on our third choice – green eggs and ham. These are four small deviled eggs stuffed with an avocado mousse, and served with toast points. They are good and quite popular, but I might try some of the other selections, unless you really love avocado.
Now for the entrees. Diner one selected salmon that came with a crispy golden cake of fried sticky rice and sautéed vegetables. It’s a compact piece of salmon, and with the sauce and sticky rice, she felt the dish has a distinct Asian flair. The salmon was well cooked, and it was a light meal in general.
Diner two selected the intriguing General Tso’s Short Ribs, coated in a ginger soy sauce and served with sticky rice and stir-fry vegetables. This was a stretch for our diner, who typically prefers non-red meat choices. While he was happy overall, he reported that the dish did not have a bold General Tso’s flavor.
I chose the Berkshire pork chop, which was grilled to a crisp edge with a hint of smokiness. The dish does not come with sides, so I added something called Bubble and Squeak. The server said it was an English dish of potatoes, cabbage and bacon that bubbled and made squeaking sounds when served. How could I say no? I wasn’t expecting it to perform the Flight of the Bumblebee, but I was hoping for a squeak or two. Mine was silent, but very earthy and with a peasant roots taste. It was a good choice on a cold night, and paired nicely with the hearty chop.
Now for the desserts. I was tempted to start the review with the desserts, that’s how incredible they were. I know I am breaking many new year’s resolutions even thinking about these dishes, but I have always believed that a little indulgence is good for the soul; and there was nothing little here!
They were big gorgeous desserts with equally big flavor. Our first was bananas foster (which was not flambeed at the table). Served in a big bowl, the combination of banana and brown sugar with a prominent rum flavor – puddled around a cool, ultra-creamy scoop of house-made vanilla bean ice cream – was hypnotic. It was deeply flavored and a grown-up delight.
Our second choice was a showstopper – the Ring Ding for two, and this is not child’s play. The flamboyant dish stands upright at least six inches tall and four inches wide. Inside the beautiful circular shell of Belgian chocolate are layers of devil’s food cake and peanut butter mousse, topped with a flowery mound of shredded phyllo. Our server had to cut the dish for us because this dish not for beginners. It’s a treat for the eyes and your taste buds.
Cost: Moderate to high.
What we liked: Desserts! We also liked the unusual choices on the menu and the ambiance; the room was crowded but never loud, the lighting was just right, and the beige, sand and putty colors were soothing. The central fireplace adds coziness, and we like that they offer brunches, catering and specials.
What could be better: We wished the wait staff would have been a little more enthusiastic. They have a really nice product to share. A kids menu would be helpful.
We give it 4 and half quarter J’s
Blend on Main is located at 152 Main St., Manasquan. Call 732-223-0030 or visit blendonmain.com. The Peach Pit Café is open for breakfast/brunch, Tuesday through Thursday 9 am to 3 pm and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 3 pm. Lunch daily 11:30 am to 3 pm (closed Mondays). Blend on Main is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5 to 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 pm, and Sunday 4 to 9 pm.