26 West Makes The Most of Jersey Corn

A new restaurant on the Navesink gets an "A" for using this season's star produce.

If you’ve missed the start of Jersey corn season, one look at the menu at 26 West on the Navesink will clue you in post-haste as to exactly what time of year it is.

Chef Meg LaManna, who this spring opened the new kid on a waterfront block of Red Bank for owners Vince Gifford and Gregory Milano, has corn, corn everywhere, as rightly she should.

Nowhere is it showcased better than in LaManna’s corn agnolotti, stuffed as it is with rich, thick mascarpone into the nuggets of pasta and studded in an infusion that takes it all for a refreshing swim in a sassy, mushroom-flecked nage. It’s a terrific dish.

Corn Agnolotti

Then there’s a crab cake plated with a corn mousse, sweet young things, both, that are served well by a counterpointing, crowning pickled slaw. It’s well-balanced and has an attitude of high summer. Why not?

Corn also takes a turn in 26 West’s signature salad, the bountiful Navesink salad, which you can dig into while enjoying an expansive view of the river that lends its name to the fledgling restaurant. Along with corn, LaManna makes judicious use of greens and haricots vert, super-thin slices of fennel, green apples and red onions, and a vinaigrette that depends on a verdant herb garden. It’s all crowned with smoky Gouda and a nutty, faintly sweet brittle. Big salad lovers, heed the call.

LaManna’s dishes are less accomplished when she veers from the seasonal. For example, the “cacio e pepe stuffed oysters” are all about breading: A sprinkling of cheese and black pepper, as the term applies to a dish starring spaghetti, might be lovely with oysters, but not if the topping leans bready—and overwhelms the main ingredient.

Stuffed oysters

A mushroom burger billed to come with pickled onions and a compound mascarpone was little more than a slab of watery portobello with some greens slopping out the side of a bun, set astride French fries and a ramekin of ketchup. The dish tasted dull and looked unappetizing, to boot.

Portobella mushroom burger

There’s a daily ceviche on tap and if that day’s special is as spirited and fresh as our tuna ceviche, with nibs of chili and bell pepper, cilantro and scallion, go for it.

Tuna ceviche

The space, once the home of 10th Avenue Burrito, has been reimagined in coastal style. The floor crew, though friendly, has lapses when it comes to beverage service. For example: We ordered a wine from the printed list, and were served a bottle from the stated producer, but a different varietal at a temperature not flattering to the grape.

So, kinks need to be worked out at 26 West. Meanwhile, there are dishes to enjoy right now, in peak season.

26 West on the Navesink, 26 West Front Street, Red Bank. Open weekdays for dinner and Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner. 732-383-5664; 26westonthenavesink.com.

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