By Lori Draz
This month, our eager diners traveled to Point Pleasant Beach, a town that is in no way short on restaurants. Point Pleasant Beach has one of the longest and most diverse restaurant rows, not just along Arnold Avenue, but on the side streets and right down to the boardwalk. Fish off the boats, Italian, high-end, casual, from well-known names like Jack Baker’s and Joe Leone’s to Surf Taco – it’s not hard to find any of it at Point Pleasant Beach. And there, in a humble corner, we found a winner: The Poached Pear.
The restaurant has garnered many accolades from the most respected restaurant ranking groups. The honors were almost expected when you consider that the highly-regarded Scott Giordano is the chef-owner. He was the chef who put Spring Lake’s Whispers on the map. At his right hand is the highly-ranked pastry chef Teah Evans, who counts being a winner on the national TV show “Chopped” among her many honors. And running the front of the house is Giordano’s brother Marc; a powerful triad, indeed.
There are two dining areas, both with a sleek, industrial-esque feel. The furniture and floors are dark wood, set against neutral, cool walls with a large mural stating “good food…good friends…good company…good times.” The wait staff is well-schooled and enthusiastic and we were especially delighted by a welcoming visit to our table from Marc. The level of food could make this a special occasion spot, but the casual energy and the crowded dining room (we were there on a Wednesday) made us understand that good friends and good food can make any day a special one.
We chose three appetizers. The very popular Pear Pizzetta – a flatbread pizza topped with pear, gorgonzola, walnut, and radicchio with a port wine reduction – was a huge hit and we devoured every piece. We also chose the Mozzarella Burrata, which was a portrait of the sunny colors of many of the dishes with its mandarin orange, pickled red onion, pear tomatoes, arugula, and mint dressings. We also chose the Duck Confit Ravioli that is served with sweet potato puree, blood orange butter, and topped with crispy sweet potato shoestring frizzles. We didn’t know what to expect and were so pleased and surprised. The dish was not overly sweet and had a truly original flavor and a gorgeous presentation. It’s a rich dish, but so worth a try.
For the entrees, our first diner selected the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna, served with crunchy cashew Thai quinoa, baby bok choy, and a pineapple coconut red curry sauce. It was beautiful. The perfectly cooked tuna was super fresh and well-seasoned. The nutty quinoa, with the cashew, grounded the dish and the bok choy and red curry sauce was a delicious middle note. Our second diner was about to order the lobster and crab cake combo, which we were told was a signature special, but he called an audible at the last minute, choosing the vegetable risotto instead. It was an eye-popping portion, filled with a colorful mix of chanterelle mushroom, asparagus, fava beans, and roasted peppers, with a basil pesto. It had a delicate, almost innocent flavor and was perfectly cooked. I chose the filet mignon special, which came topped with gorgonzola and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and haricot verts. The menu filet mignon selection comes with truffle mashed potatoes. With the filet as the star, either would be a good choice, and mine certainly was. It was well-cooked, tasty, and tender – a classic cut and presentation of fine quality beef.
I must admit, I couldn’t wait to try the desserts from this accomplished pastry chef, and choosing was hard. We selected the Caramel Panna Cotta with Poached Pears. It is a beautiful presentation, topped with a lacy white chocolate almond tuile that made the dish look like it was wearing a Sunday hat. The cinnamon-spicy tender poached pear was worthy of sharing the name of the restaurant. We also tried the Lemon Napoleon. It was a breathtaking presentation. You could count the individual sheets of whisper-thin pastry that were layered with a tart lemon mousse and crispy pistachio. The bright blueberry sauce was equally vibrantly flavored. The chef’s technical skills were showcased in this well-assembled dish; napoleons can be hard to cut, but this yielded easily to the lightest touch of the fork, so each of us got a taste that stood up and stayed balanced. It packed a real punch. The coffee was very good and the espresso was as good as any in the area.
There is a small parking lot in the rear, as well as some street parking and a municipal lot across the street. The Poached Pear is an exquisite gourmet bistro, serving elegant food in a friendly space. It’s BYOB.
The cost: Moderate to high
What we liked: The cheery accommodating staff, the bold flavors, and the colorful dishes. The desserts, in particular, are truly beautiful and the coffee and espresso really delivered.
What could be better: It can get to be a little loud, and we thought the lighting could be a bit more, even in the one room.
We give it 4 and a half J’s.
The Poached Pear is located at 816 Arnold Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach. Call (732) 701-1700 or visit www.poachedpearbistro.com.