Jan 02, 2018

The Beach Tavern

By Lori Draz

On a cold winter Wednesday, we got the urge to return to the water’s edge, and so we traveled to Monmouth Beach to give The Beach Tavern a try. As waterfront views go, this is a dandy. The restaurant, on the site of the former Sally T’s at the Channel Club in Monmouth Beach, has views of the Shrewsbury River from every table. The nautical-themed interior, with its faded blue and pickled white colors, would be refreshing in the summer and has an almost snowy feel in the winter. There is a raw bar when you enter, and you turn right into the dining room, which is dominated by a large rectangle bar with a lifeguard boat suspended over the top. The dining area has two levels, with another private dining/private party room and plenty of outdoor seating, though no one dared to brave the mid-December temperatures to eat outdoors. It was not very crowded, but I’m sure it’s jammed in the summer, especially since it offers dock and dine.

The new chef has really brought some welcome expertise to the dining experience. Another major score is the pastry chef, who deserves to have a much brighter spotlight. The staff, too, is attentive and our server Sethe, who doubles as a daytime manager, was a real treat. We joked with her all night and she was very pleasant, quick with a response, and, most importantly, extremely knowledgeable about the menu. The wine list is large and has some nice choices. We each ordered a well-made house special cocktail and set about ordering our appetizers.

We chose three. The Roasted Beets, with avocado, grapefruit, fennel, and a hit of chili oil, was a deeply earthy, yet light starter. We also ordered Mezze Platter, which comes with a big bunch of warm naan and three big scoops of hummus, babaganoush, and tabbouleh, with olives, and harissa. This was a lovely, unexpected flavor selection on the menu, and very well done. It’s a great pick for vegetarians and would be nice at the bar with some drinks. Our third was the Broccoli Tempura, and this was just delicious. The broccoli was tender and the presentation, with its crisscrossed duo of Korean barbecue, and coconut cream sauces, was striking. We wanted to try the homemade pastas, so we chose a nightly special and split it three ways. Our choice was Orecchiette with sausage and a twist: shaved Brussel sprouts replacing the more common broccoli rabe. It is a big portion and nicely flavored and served very al dente. It would have made a nice entrée, with probably enough left over for lunch the next day.

Now for the entrees. We were there on a Wednesday, which happens to be sushi night, so diner one ordered the Shrewsbury roll and was quite pleased the selection. It was beautifully presented and very fresh. Diner two selected the fish and chips – three big pieces of beer battered cod, served with chunky Yukon chips. The three pieces of cod were perfectly matched in size, and were fried to a perfect honey gold color; nice and crispy and the dish delivered. I picked the Beef Bourguignon, a beautiful dish of a slow braised short rib, sitting atop a turnip puree with mushrooms, pearl onions, and a red wine reduction. It was so tender, you could cut it with a fork. You could really sense the chef’s technique in this warm and comforting selection; a perfect meal on a winter’s night and definitely worth the try.

Now for the desserts. I’m tempted to quote the phrase, “Eat dessert first” because they really are four-star. I can’t believe there’s not a bigger fuss made about this skillful chef, as these desserts were absolutely amazing. We ordered three and each was worth every decadent, delicious bite. There is no dessert menu, so I don’t know if the ones we ordered will be available on your visit, but absolutely do save room for dessert. This pastry chef really has a command of dense, rich flavors, without being oversweet. She understands texture and balance. One of those desserts was a rarely seen Pots de Crème. The version of this custardy delight was so thick, it had an almost fudge-like texture. Each spoonful was so thick and creamy, it was almost like eating a butterscotch truffle that slowly melted on your tongue. Another goodie was a take on Bananas Foster. This innovative twist came in a log-shaped cake, with the Foster tucked inside that oozed like a lava cake. It was topped with a thick layer of chocolate ganache that lusciously slipped down your throat. Really well done.

I’m sure The Beach Tavern will be a busy place in the summer, making a visit in the non-peak season a good idea. They are open for lunch and dinner and offer daily specials most days. They are: Sunday – all day happy hour; Monday – half priced pasta night from 5:00 p.m. to close; Tuesday, steak night; Wednesday, sushi night, and Thursday is lobster night and half priced wines by the glass.

 

Cost: Moderate

What we liked: The scenic location, the décor, big bar, the loads of well-placed TVs, the large and super clean ladies’ room, and those top-notch desserts.

What could be better: Some kids’ items on the menu and a little more spotlight on the desserts.

We give it 4 and three quarter J’s.

The Beach Tavern is located at the Channel Club, 33 West Street, Monmouth Beach. Call (732) 870-8999 or visit www.beachtavern.net.