Sea Bright’s 2nd Jetty Proves A Great Catch

Young and seasonal, this eatery offers delicious fare oceanside.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore, the kind of restaurant that’s devoted to plain old delicious food that ranges from hand-held eats to haute-style entrees served in a down-right friendly atmosphere without a shred of pretense or a smidgen of gimmickry.

Nope, they don’t make anything like 2nd Jetty any more, let alone stationing it at the tippy-top of Sea Bright, across the street from the Atlantic Ocean and a stone’s wave-skipping throw from the entrance to Sandy Hook’s beaches. As Jersey Shore denizens know too well, you don’t always need good food to attract diners when the ocean’s not even a breeze away.

Chefs Kyle Hopfensperger and Daniel Ciambrone, the forces behind this seafood-dominated spot that opened without fanfare early last summer, immediately attracted a two-prong crowd: locals who love good food, and the culinarily curious who have bloodhound noses for a lobster roll that both deviates from the norm and respects tradition.

That’s where we’ll start: 2nd Jetty’s lobster roll comes on a warmed, split-open potato roll that’s plumped high with lobster from Maine dressed in melted butter, and then maybe a little more melted butter. There’s the crunch from the underpinning of shredded lettuce and cabbage and a topper of micro-greens, but none of that heavy mayonnaise dressing business to obscure the flavor of the sweet-sweet lobster meat. On the side, you get skinny fries and a terrific little salad with cubes of golden beets and translucent slivers of fennel. If this doesn’t make you happy, then you need a how-to-enjoy-food intervention.

Lobster roll

To get back on the salad track, on the night of our recent visit 2nd Jetty had on tap a fall salad that tossed baby kale with nibs of roasted cauliflower, pert chunks of apple, more cubes of golden beets, a nugget or two of fig and a generous crumble of goat cheese in a hearty fig-balsamic vinaigrette. My dining companion and I looked at each other and said, “Thanksgiving’s salad.” Simple stuff; in need only of the right ingredients treated with respect.

Fall salad

Likewise, crab is treated with respect at 2nd Jetty. The chefs took shreds of crab and mashed it with roasted cauliflower for a dip served with toasts of naan. Again, there wasn’t an overload of mayo or dressing of any sort to glop up the appetizer. Though there was a bit too much toasted breadcrumb topping.

Halibut is having its moment right now, so 2nd Jetty is starring it in a couple of dishes. We snagged the halibut tacos, and got a trio of them that held chunks of perfectly grilled fillet cradled in strands of Napa cabbage and capped with a diced tomato salsa and a swoosh of aioli. My, this one’s yar.

Halibut tacos

Corvina, perfectly seared, was set atop one of the most decadent accompaniments I’ve had in a tortoise’s age: It’s potato “risotto”—and by that the kitchen means it cooks up cubes of potatoes in a sauce the chefs claim is butter-free, revved up by stewed leeks, apples, mushrooms and seriously smokey bacon. And, they admit, a little truffle oil. A very little truffle oil. I don’t ordinarily like truffle oil on anything, but if it made this potato “risotto” taste as seductive as it did, I’ll give it a nod. Just this once.

Corvina with potato “risotto”

Dessert? Do it—especially if a sort-of crumble is offered when you check out 2nd Jetty. The current version sports shaved-thin apples with a scattering of blueberries, figs and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. “This is made to order, and we ran out of figs just now, so there should be figs in this, but there isn’t in yours,” our amiable server confessed as he delivered the pie-size portion to our table. Our gastric juices had been revived by the smell of warmed cinnamon and brown sugar scattered atop the fruits; at that moment, we didn’t give a fig about the lack of figs.

Apple crumble

So this is the story on 2nd Jetty, which is a small, humble spot that looks like it was airlifted from a fishing town in coastal Maine. Locals are loving it in this post-tourist season; another server in the casually attired dining room told us, “We had people come down from Brooklyn last night.” Yeah, I’d come down from Brooklyn, too. In fact, I plan to visit 2nd Jetty again soon, ’cause I missed out on the lobster bisque—and my pal, Dan, the fishmonger, says the short ribs are killer.

I’m going to do this soon because—and now the bad news; of course there’s some bad news—2nd Jetty is closing for January and February. Meaning, if you don’t make it here by the end of this year for the lobster roll and all the fresh-fish good stuff, you’re going to be craving them till March 1.

2nd Jetty, 140 Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright. Open daily for dinner and on Saturdays and Sundays for lunch as well. BYO. 732-224-8700; 2ndjetty.com.

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