By Bob Sacks |
It’s a tribute to a restaurant when the warm and friendly atmosphere it strives to create carries over to the patrons as well, and the entire place feels festive, and not only during the holiday season! So it seemed almost natural that a few minutes after we were seated in the cozy storefront Dish in Red Bank a stranger came over to our table with a smile on his face, and a lit candle in his hand. He said they had just finished dinner and he had noticed that the candle on our table was not lit, so he wanted us to have his instead! Maybe in another restaurant this would have been strange, but here it just added to the feeling of conviviality that the service staff exudes. The very tasty food they serve is loosely Mediterranean, with New American elements, and to say the portions are bountiful is to understate the case!
The aptly named Crispy Spinach starter ($8), flash-fried baby leaves lightly coated with oil and salt, arrived as a small mountain of greenery in a large bowl. Clearly enough for three or four diners to pick at, it was an excellent riff on the fried kale one sees elsewhere.
Fried Calamari ($16), lightly breaded Narragansett Bay rings and tentacles, with a fresh-tasting Filetto di Pomodoro Dipping Sauce was juicy , tender and very flavorful, but lacked the crispy coating we personally prefer.
It was hard not to really like an appetizer special of the night: Tuna Spring Rolls ($16). Fried wonton shells, filled with chunks of tasty rare tuna, shredded red cabbage, julienned carrots, and a hint of poblano pepper, provided a savory mix of crunch from the wonton shell and the vegetables, contrasting with the soft, rich tuna.
Another special starter of the night was a fine rendition of Eggplant Rollatini ($12); two very generous squares of light-as-a-feather, alternating layers of eggplant, ricotta and mozzarella, topped with a tomato sauce which was almost summer-like, was big enough to be an entrée.
Three large Bacon Wrapped Shrimp over Grits ($15), provided smokiness from the bacon, creaminess from the yellow grits, and bit of sweetness from the shrimp, in every mouthful. The flavors were right there; all that was need for perfection was another minute or two of high heat to crisp the bacon and cook the translucency out of the center of those fat shrimp to render them firm and crisp.
Stunning best describes the presentation of the nightly Fish Special: an incredibly large, whole Day Boat Black Sea Bass ($38), served on the bone, stuffed with fresh herbs and plated with roasted lemon, oven-roasted potatoes, carrots and string beans. The sweet, tender, snowy white flesh was juicy and cooked perfectly; this was one of the best preparations of this fish that I have ever had.
I was also impressed with the regular menu, a very popular offering of Tuscan Seafood Stew ($34): clams, PEI mussels, shrimp and a good-sized chunk of organic salmon shared a large bowl with an addictive tomato fennel broth that was both lush and creamy, but not at all heavy. This was flat-out delicious and impossible to leave unfinished.
Many BYO restaurants lack decent-sized glassware for the wines that are brought in; this is not the case with Dish, who presented us with the large stemware we like for reds and whites. A delicious white, 2006 William Fevre Chablis Les Clos, was richer and more honeyed than expected, with just enough acid and minerality to keep the fullness in check. This wine showed no signs of fading, and will easily drink well for a number of years. I really liked the 2010 Proprieta Sperino Uvaggio, an Italian red; a mix of predominately Nebbiolo, with some Vespolina and Croatina grapes. Very aromatic and perfumed, it has just enough weight to provide substance without being heavy, and does not overwhelm the lighter dishes, especially seafood.
The desserts are made in-house, so try to save room to sample them. As with all the other dishes, the portions are very large as well. The chocolate layer cake ($10) was outstanding. Three airy, but deeply chocolate layers of cake, frosted with a decadent, real chocolate buttercream brought back memories of my grandmother’s kitchen!
A Crumble ($10) with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, came out warm with homemade vanilla gelato drizzled with caramel sauce on top.
Chef/Owner Anthony Ferrando demonstrates his vision for eclectic, very tasty Med/American cuisine, served in a fun and relaxed, homey setting, which is both unfussy but clearly very detail-oriented in regards to the plating and flavors of his food. I can’t promise that a stranger will appear at your table with a candle, too, but at Dish, anything is possible!
13 White St.
Rating: Very Good
Bob Sacks, longtime food and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob. Read his reviews here.
This article was first published in the Dec. 21-28, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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