Christine and I finally got the chance to get away for the evening to celebrate our anniversary. Our anniversary is on July 11th, but we have been so busy that we couldn't find the time to spent a nice evening together until this week. We have been married twenty-seven years. I have a wonderful wife and the years have been very rich. We went to McLoone's Pier House in Long Branch. McCloone's is part of a family of restaurants that began with McLoone's Rum Runner and has continued to grow with McLoone's at Favorites (the OTB parlor in Fords, NJ), and the newly established McLoone's Saltwater Beach Cafe and Tim McLoone's Supper Club in what used to be the Howard Johnson's on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park.
McLoone's is known for putting a contemporary spin on fresh local ingredients with a focus on seafood. The Pier House is located in Pier Village, which is a beautifully redeveloped section of the boardwalk in Long Branch. The style of the Pier House is what I would call casual chic. There are two sections of the restaurant: the deck which caters to beach goers and the indoor restaurant which serves fancier lunches and dinners. One of the best things about the Pier House is its oceanfront location and the dining room, which while in itself is beautiful, is brought to an even higher level by the sweeping ocean views. (The beach picture was taken from our window). The Pier House is one of a handful of restaurants at the Jersey Shore that offers the ambiance of ocean views.
The menu at McCloone's is a creative version of a Jersey Shore seafood and land lubber's menu. While we were waiting for our meal to be served we munched on Italian bread served with a butter, garlic, and herb composition. Being the traditionalists that we are we started our meal with a bucket of steamers. We were served a heaping bucket of steamed soft shell clams, more than enough for two. Along with the bucket we received the expected bowl of clam broth for washing any sand off the clams and a dish of drawn butter. The clams, mostly on the medium to large size, were sweet and cooked perfectly. When steamers are on the menu, it is the dish I use to judge the quality of a seafood restaurant and so far McCloone's was batting 1000.
My wife ordered the Lobster and Shrimp Bisque as her starter. (We shared it). The menu at McLoone's says this is one of their signature dishes and I can see why. The presentation set this dish apart from an ordinary soup. The server brought a dish which is empty except for a pile of diced morsels of shrimp. Then a rich amalgamation of lobster and cream is poured over the shrimp. This dish, with some bread and a salad, would make a substantial and delicious lunch. The menu has some other interesting starters such as lobster wellington, drunken clams, and a spinach and artichoke dip which we observed several tables enjoying. There is a also a raw bar with oysters and cherrystone clams which I hope to enjoy on a future visit.
For her entree Christine ordered Jumbo Sea Scallops. She received four large scallops that were perfectly caramelized and cooked just to the done side of sushi. The scallops were beautifully presented on a plate with julienne vegetables and a pacific seaweed salad. The seaweed salad was quite interesting. It had an unusual but not unpleasant texture. It tasted of the ocean but was not fishy and it was dressed in a toasted sesame dressing which gave it a distinctively Asian flavor.
For my entree I ordered the Lobster Rappa. The dish contained generous chunks of lobster and fresh mozzarella with spinach and a sauce served over linguine then finished with Parmesan cheese. The sauce was made of olive oil, diced tomatoes, onions and garlic. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, although it could have used a bit more salt and pepper. In addition to these entrees others that seemed interesting were the fisherman's dinner of scallops, shrimp and softshell crab fried in a graham cracker crumb crust. I was also very tempted to order the cowboy steak which was a 14 oz. rib eye steak grilled on the bone.
For desert Christine and I shared one of our favorites, a flourless chocolate cake. The Pier House's version was a rich, dark chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry. It reminded me of a rich, buttery truffle. Our meal at the Pier House was excellent. The only moderately disappointing part of the entire experience was the service. The service staff were mostly college age students. They were warm and friendly but seemed somewhat amateurish and less informed than I expected for a restaurant of the Pier House's caliber. That being said, if you are looking for an excellent ocean front meal at the Jersey Shore, I would not hesitate to recommend McCloone's Pier House.
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