6 Seafood Dishes So Good They’ll Make Your Head Spin
Crab and Mushroom Pancake at Lorena in Maplewood
Humberto Campos Jr., chef/owner of Lorena’s, has several dishes (like his superb beef duo) that he can’t take off the menu, but none are as inviolable as this sumptuous crepe, created on New Year’s Eve. 2005, styling the restaurant first months of life. It coats crabmeat and morels, chanterelles or other seasonal specimens in a white butter herb flavored with truffle oil. Simple, but… take a step back! “I’ve had women tell me they’ve had an orgasm when they’ve had it,” Campos says with a chuckle. “Others say it could end a war. We watch people take their first bite. They close their eyes, say ‘Holy shit!’ or just moan. It could happen to you.—EL
168 Maplewood Ave, 973-763-4460.
Surf ‘n’ Turf, Jersey Style
Maryland Steak at Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern in Atlantic City
Since Angelo and Isabella Mancuso opened in 1935, their classic red sauce recipes have drawn crowds year-round. Angelo’s is still family run. But the only Italian thing on his signature dish, Steak Maryland, is the Gorgonzola that crowns it. The 16-ounce sirloin is seared in a cast-iron skillet, topped with a giant mound of crabmeat (providing its Maryland nickname), smothered in blue cheese and gorgonzola — Italy’s brilliant blue — and passed under the grill. The cheeses melt and caramelize. A perfect bite joins a tender, juicy steak with sweet crab and creamy/tart cheese. At a modest $31.50, it’s the best and tastiest steak in a city where steak is king.—AE
2300 Fairmount Ave, 609-344-2439.
They cast a spell
Voodoo Shrimp at Drew’s Bayshore Bistro in Keyport
Hurricane Sandy shut down chef Andrew “Drew” Araneo’s famed Cajun and Low Country bistro for four months. When it finally reopened, the Voodoo Shrimp appetizer, its longtime bestseller, returned to the top. “One guy had it to start, then took it back for dessert,” Araneo laughs. “He said he missed it so much.” Small wonder. The prawns are large, plump and juicy, accented with tomatoes. But the secret is the sauce, a two-hour reduction of shrimp broth, dark beer, Cajun spices, Worcestershire sauce and cream. How did the $14 sybaritic sensation get its name? As the chef recalls, “someone said, ‘Ooh, this is a magic dish.’ And it just happened.”—EL
25 Church St., 732-739-9219.
Jersey oysters and clams at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
First, a permanent O for Rutgers biologist Harold H. Haskin, who in 1957 developed a disease-resistant species of oyster, saving oyster farming from Maine to Florida. And one for the state legislature under Governor Christie Whitman, who in 1997 passed an aquaculture development plan. Both have helped oyster farming return to Cape May and more recently to take hold in Barnegat Bay. You can enjoy several fine varieties of Barnegat (right) at JHBK in Morristown. The raw sea bass also serves up gorgeous farm-raised Barnegat clams in an inspired blend of pickled Calabrian red chili and a herb sofrito, pulling reels of flavor.—EL
110 South Street, 973-644-3180.
Sole Meunière Chez Catherine in Westfield
The whole wild sole, sautéed meunière with brown butter and fresh lemon juice added at the end, is as superb as it is simple. Stéphane Bocket, 48, has been leading him to the table since his teenage years in Michelin-starred restaurants in Provence in his native France. He still does, and you owe it to yourself to have him in what is now (after many years as maitre d’) his restaurant – Chez Catherine, the purest gem of classic French cuisine remaining in the state. For dessert, go just as simple and superb with the soufflé of the day at Chez Catherine. All the flavors (lemon, hazelnut, mango) are pure and fine, but if you’re really lucky, the flavor of the day will be Grand Marnier.—EL
431 North Avenue West, 908-654-4011.
Fresh off the boat
Dine on the dock at Hooked Up Seafood in Wildwood
“We kill it, we grill it” is the motto of Hooked Up Seafood in Wildwood, Bill and Michele Bright’s dockside restaurant. Bill sets off in his boat, Defiance, bringing in mahi, mako, bigeye and yellowfin tuna, swordfish and wahoo.
Bill’s second boat, the Retriever, commanded by others, fishes for squid (and sometimes John Dory, a deep-sea delicacy) off the edge of the continental shelf. “All of our products are packed in ice as soon as they arrive on board to ensure absolute freshness,” says Bill, who sells most of them to restaurants in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. “We saved fish from our last day at sea for use at Hooked Up.”
The kitchen is in a trailer. You order at the window and eat your meal at red and blue picnic tables by the dock. Michele fry, grill or blacken and sear the fish and serve it on paper plates with sides like corn on the cob, sautéed zucchini and a garlicky Caesar salad, the vegetables grown at Clinton Conover Farm in Cape May Courthouse. Bowls of steamed littleneck clams, served with butter, lemon and parsley, are also local, raised on back-bay beds the family rents from the state. Hooked Up’s food is simple but unbeatably fresh and delicious. It’s a taste of summer like no other.—AE
1044 Rio Grande Ave West, 609-522-2722.
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