River Market in Point Pleasant Beach is the latest addition to the borough’s growing list of culinary destinations; and a fine one it is. After a very successful run of eight years in Toms River, the husband and wife team of John and Lee Malcolm were met with a need to relocate their business. Lucky are the foodies of the Point Beach area.
The two chefs, who boast lengthy and impressive coast to coast culinary backgrounds, are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY. They have brought their California cooking style to a small standalone building at 522 Bay Ave. about a half block off Arnold Ave. They opened on Memorial Day weekend and word in the area of their creative culinary flair is just beginning to spread. My one fear is that they will quickly outgrow the current location that once housed the Tenth Ave. Burrito Company.
The new River Market Point Pleasant Beach location has exposed brick walls and a vaulted ceiling. The ceiling, towering rear wall and beams are made of knotty pine. The vibe could be described as the SoHo meets the Adirondacks. The high ceiling works well to add spaciousness to the 40 seat dining area.
My wife and I met two friends there for dinner on Saturday. We were greeted by the host immediately when we entered and were seated after our reservation was confirmed. Our waitress, Christine, explained how the paper menus are used to easily reflect any specials the chef creates. She was very knowledgeable of the menu items and, as the evening progressed, it was evident that she was a big fan of the owners, herself. I really like to see that in a server as it conveys a positive message.
I started out with a crab cake appetizer that was so good I could write this entire review around it. The three little crispy cakes were filled with blue claw crab meat and served with a wasabi broccoli slaw, house made pickles and a rich remoulade. The crisp cool slaw was the perfect contrast to the warm cakes. This was followed by the anticipated nose blitz of the wasabi and then finished by the creamy richness of the remoulade. There were some arugala leaves as a base which I used to wipe up every last drop. This is on my list of best things I ever ate.
Following that was a tough job but the shrimp and grits handled the assignment well. This is not the typical dish served all over the south. It is a pile of creamy, cheesy grits, surrounded by perfectly cooked shrimp, Andouille sausage and grape tomatoes in a broth that is smoky and flavorful from the incorporation of sausage. The only thing I missed was a beer. My sauvignon blanc worked better with the crab cake.
My wife and our friends all ordered the scallops which surround a pile of truffle mashed potatoes on a bed of young spinach leaves. When you put a picture of this feast for the eyes on your Facebook page everyone is going to want to try it. The fresh local scallops are seared perfectly and served with a nage of lemon and butter which enhances the scallops splendidly. Only one of us ordered dessert which was a piece of key lime pie that left me wishing that person was me. At least I got to taste it and it was as delicious as it gets. It was the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness with a velvety texture.
If I had a wish list for River Market it would not be very long as the inspired chef duo leaves very little to be desired. When the seasonal choices change on the menu it would be nice to see a few local seafood items, like soft shelled crabs, fluke, or monkfish as examples. The creativity of the kitchen would, beyond a doubt, take them to the next level.
River Market in Point Pleasant Beach is a very refreshing addition to the area. On our visit there we all had a remarkably enjoyable time. The food, the service, the ambiance and the pace all worked perfectly together. We never felt rushed which is my number one gripe about restaurant service. We can’t wait for our next opportunity to visit this cafe of culinary surprises to sample what is next.
River Market is a BYOB restaurant. There is plenty of parking even on summer weekends as they have their own lot. Prices are quite reasonable with appetizers averaging $12 and entrees averaging around $25. For the current menu visit their Facebook Page
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