This month, as diners flock to the shore’s waterfront eateries, we went inland to try The Loaded Spoon. While some places prefer a low-key approach, this recently opened restaurant sends a clear message that you have arrived. It is a dazzling place, elegant and boldly sophisticated. The mood is set at the massive entrance complete with two flaming torches. Two huge doors lead you into the sleek dining rooms where no decorating detail was missed, from the impressive light fixtures, the slate tone walls, even the floor and tabletops combine to make this an immersive experience. They also have a garden room that creates a feeling of eating on a private patio in New York City. Then there’s the huge bar that cranks out not just DJ entertainment on the weekends, but beautiful, playfully named cocktails like the Let’s Spoon, Kiwi’s Big Adventure, the What’s up Doc and a tasty Brown Butter Old Fashioned.
We opened our evening with a couple of those cocktails with some appetizers. They do update their menus to include seasonal favorites, but we had the three Meatballs. These are huge meatballs served three ways; tender, tasty and big enough to share. We also tried the Burrata Tartufa, which comes with eggplant caponata and one of my favorites, Black Mission figs, with crostini and an aged balsamic reduction. It’s a lovely dish with fresh flavors.
Diner one concentrated on the salads, saving her appetite for the desserts, and soon you’ll find out why. She did rave about the Heirloom Beet Salad, and they also have a summery Compressed Watermelon Salad with crumbled feta, baby arugula, pickled red onion and fig syrup. Another seasonal selection is the Peaches ‘n Cream Bufala Mozzarella, with beefsteak tomato, peach brûlée, bib lettuce and hot honey dressing.
Diner two went with the classic Rib Eye Steak which he paired with a side of French fries. The nicely charred steak comes in at 16 ounces, and the big cone of crispy fries made a perfect combination, but you can choose from many other sides like asparagus and pancetta or smashed Peruvian potatoes.
I selected the Angry Shrimp which is served on a bed of creamy aged cheddar polenta, topped with a puree of smoked heirloom tomato and cilantro pesto. The ancho chili-crusted shrimp were tender and not too spicy, but the well-made polenta really shared equal billing. It was silky and rich, and overall this is a dish just about anyone can enjoy.
Now for those desserts I hinted at earlier. This is a finale of grand proportions. There is nothing shy about any of them, and you can watch the pastry master at work in the open-air kitchen. For purely whimsical fun, try the milkshakes. These are showstoppers that stand more than a foot tall. Each variety is topped with a dessert platter of goodies that includes cookies, brownies, Rice Krispies Treats, pretzels, marshmallows, waffles, caramel popcorn, even Swedish fish, depending on the flavor you choose. We enjoyed seeing the glee on the faces of the milkshakers and equally enjoyed watching them tackle the tower of treats. We tried the One Last Kiss, a fudge brownie with white chocolate, dark chocolate hazelnut mousse, candied hazelnuts and chocolate sorbet. We also had the Big Mahalo bread pudding with butterscotch drizzle, pistachios, toasted coconut and coconut gelato. No matter which dessert you pick, you are sure to be impressed by the creativity and plating.
The Loaded Spoon has updated their menu to include brunch, which is served every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. They also have live DJ entertainment every Friday and Saturday starting at 9 pm. This is a see-and-be-seen place with a dress code so no sweat suits, hoodies, flip-flops, hats or cut-off T-shirts. There’s plenty of parking and good coffee.
Cost – High
What we liked – The sophisticated and hip interior and its stylish lighting, furniture and sound system; the eye-popping, innovative desserts; the creative cocktails; big parking lot, long hours; and creative menu and plating.
The Loaded Spoon is located at 108 Schanck Rd. next to iPlay America in Freehold, 732-813-8700. It is open Tuesday 4 to 11 pm, Wednesday 2 to 11 pm, Thursday 2 pm to midnight, Friday 2 pm to 2 am, Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm, closed Mondays. loaded-spoon.com.