The James Beard Award’s semifinalists for national restaurants and chefs were announced this week, and New Jersey’s dining scene scored three nominations on the prestigious list.
Lita, the new Iberian restaurant in Aberdeen Township, which New Jersey Monthly recently named one of the best new restaurants in the state, is a semifinalist for the foundation’s list of best new restaurants in the country. (Esquire magazine, too, recently named Lita one of the best new spots in America.)
“Celebrated chef David Viana’s respect for his Portuguese grandmother’s recipes and his mom’s hospitality inspired Lita, his latest restaurant and a vibrant addition to the Jersey Shore,” wrote our critic Kelly-Jane Cotter.
The restaurant, named after Viana’s mother, Rosa Lita, is Viana and managing director Neilly Robinson’s third project in New Jersey; they also helm Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge and Heirloom at the St. Laurent in Asbury Park in Asbury Park.
Lita only offers a three-course, prix-fixe menu ($78), which includes starters such as rissóis de camarão, crisp and creamy shrimp turnovers, and delicate saffron spaghetti with braised chicken sofrito.
Honored in the best chef category for the Mid-Atlantic region were Dane DeMarco of Gass & Main in Haddonfield, and Nur-E Gulshan Rahman of Korai Kitchen in Jersey City. Writing about the latter for New Jersey Monthly in a roundup of the best restaurants in Jersey City, Shelby Vittek highlighted the Indian cuisine: “The menu, which changes twice a day, might include creamy chicken korma, pumpkin shrimp curry, begun bhaja (fried eggplant), and various spiced vegetables. Hilsa, considered the supreme fish, is flown in from Bangladesh. Everything is cooked by Rahman, including the stellar bhorthas, flavorful mashes made from eggplant, potato, tomato or egg.”
Gass & Main, a new American restaurant that opened last year, is tucked into a cozy space in downtown Haddonfield. Dishes include orange pomegranate shrimp, smothered pork ribeye and New England monkfish. Brunch is also served; dishes include gnocchi mac & cheese and Oreo pancakes.
The James Beard Awards winners will be announced on June 10. The foundation, established in 1990, awards exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, as well as other related categories.