By Bob Sacks |
There’s a party going on in Red Bank and you’re invited. Just call Teak, a Pan-Asian eatery on Monmouth Street and make a reservation for dinner. Eat inside, outside, downstairs or upstairs, and you can be part of the festive atmosphere.
The tropical Asian decor with a modern twist is light and airy with windows all around, and a large Buddha looking down benevolently on diners in the front room. Service was knowledgeable and attentive; our server was more than happy to explain every dish in detail. Yes, the noise level can be high, but most of the youngish, trendy crowd seems to feed off of it. The sizeable menu offers a varied assortment of hot and cold small plates, sushi and sashimi, hand rolls, noodle and rice-based items, and entrée-sized offerings as well. My guests and I enjoyed ordering a number of dishes and sharing them family-style, served two or three at a time.
Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups ($13), tender bits of roasted chicken and crunchy rice noodles, dressed with a sesame ginger vinaigrette and served in three crispy Romaine lettuce leaf shells, was a light and pleas- ant starter that needed only some added ponzu or soy sauce to spark it up and make it sing.
We really liked the generously sized Poke Salad ($16) with its cubes of tuna, yellowtail and salmon, mixed with cucumbers, red onion, avocado slices and a dressing of sesame, soy and yuzu, and fresh greens at the bottom of the bowl which absorbed the complex flavors. The balance of textures and tastes, some gentle “heat,” and a touch of palate-cleansing acidity from that dressing made for a very enjoyable dish.
Real comfort food, two generous-sized Lotus Buns ($11), combined slow-roasted pork belly, scallions, pickled cucumber, and a hoisin glaze, wrapped in a Chinese-style steamed bun, making for a chewy, squishy exterior with a savor y meaty center. Yum.
It was far too easy to pop the Crispy Rock Shrimp ($15) into our mouths one after another. This deep-water relative of the better-known pink and brown shrimp has a flavor and texture that closely resembles lobster tail; meaty, with just the right amount of chewiness. The accompanying spicy cream sauce added a bit of zing to complement the crunchy exterior of the shrimp.
BBQ Korean Tacos ($11), a playful take on the ubiquitous taco, was composed of grilled short ribs which had been soy marinated, kimchi (salted and fermented Napa cabbage slaw), crème fraiche and a Korean barbecue sauce. Be sure to ask for extra sauce for dipping.
A large plate of Teak Pad Thai ($16) with added chicken ($5) combined stir-fried rice noodles, tamarind pulp, egg, bean sprouts, onion and chopped roasted peanuts. This take on the popular Thai street food was tasty, but the soft noodles would have benefitted from a little less cook time to make them more al dente.
From a wide variety of “Signature Rolls” offered we selected Double Agent ($16); composed of shrimp tempura, avocado, steamed shrimp on top and a mango chili sauce, it was surprisingly mildly flavored. Voo Doo Roll ($16) reconfigured the shrimp tempura and avocado, this time with spicy tuna, spicy kani (ersatz crab meat), mango, eel sauce (sweet, slightly salty), Voo Doo sauce (thick, sweet, and spicy) and soy paper, and was more unique and exhibited greater personality. Our favorite roll was the Naruto ($16); tuna, salmon, yellowtail, kani, avocado, red onion, cilantro, ponzu sauce and tobiko (flying fish roe), wrapped in thin rings of cucumber. This had a distinctive flavor and was light, refreshing and ver y refined. Highly recommended.
Teak offers a full service bar menu with wines by the glass or bottle, a variety of bottled and draft beers, numerous sakes, and specialty cocktails. My personal preference for all levels of spiced Asian food is white wine or beer. We chose two whites: a 2017 The Seeker Sauvignon Blanc ($9/33) from New Zealand; with its grassy (in a good way), grape fruity flavors, it provided tasty palate cleansing between dishes. The 2016 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($9/33) from Washington State clearly made specifically to pair with this kind of food, had good acidity and a lemon-lime minerality, with a touch of peach; another good match.
Even after all of this food we couldn’t resist sampling two homemade desserts. The Chipwich ($10), homemade Nutella ice cream sandwiched between two crispy, gluten free chocolate chip cookies, was a real treat and worth the calories. We also liked the creamy Coconut-Rum Flan with caramel sauce ($9), a tropical rendition of the classic Spanish version.
If you’re looking for a fun night out in a cheerful atmosphere, with a variety of interesting and tasty dishes to pass around the table, the lively Teak Restaurant and Bar will not disappoint.
64 MONMOUTH ST.
Bob Sacks, longtime and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob.
This article was first published in the Oct. 25-31, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times. Read more restaurant reviews here.
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