Spring has Sprung at Avenue in Long Branch

Executive chef John Johnson and pastry chef Stuart Marx celebrate their guests at this Shore restaurant.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party! ” (Robin Williams)

And party we did at a press dinner to introduce the spring menu—as well as the new and extremely gifted chefs, executive chef John Johnson and pastry chef Stuart Marx—at Avenue in Long Branch. They are offering innovative, praiseworthy food. We were enthralled.

Here are the items we were served from the new spring menu:

Amuse: Two cylinders of beets on a base of avocado crème were sprinkled with goat cheese and surrounded with a clementine. It was a colorful light starter. The salad was served with a smoky-tasting drink that was created with mescal and house-made lemonade and presented in a tall glass with a sprig of rosemary. Wines were paired with our dinner and organic Brazilian coffee was served with dessert.

Garlic aromas wafted up from a glorious green, garlic soup made from garlic scapes. It screamed spring. A few garlic leafs floated atop of the soup that also contained frizzled shallots and a smoked oyster.

A raft of white asparagus scattered with fava beans and finely chopped, hard-boiled egg and dried olives was topped with a mustard vinaigrette—a beautifully plated, delicious dish.

Organic salmon tartare tossed with garlic, ginger and jalapeno served as a base for avocado crème. Small balls made from green apple and a wasabi-salt cracker added more textures and flavors. Dots of wasabi sauce were also on the plate. This was an absolute knockout.

A simple, light, summery dish, roasted branzino was paired with fennel fricassee and a slightly tangy grapefruit Pommery emulsion.

Spiced duck steak with apple-stuffed endive and toasted-walnut quinoa was an adventure to eat with the richness of the meat offset by the nuttiness of the grain, tartness of the apple and bitterness of the endive. In this dish, every ingredient mattered.

Two desserts were presented: a Meyer-lemon tart capped with fromage blanc sorbet blueberry and an incredible toasted-coconut cake with kaffir lime anglaise and mango salsa. Blueberries, blueberry sauce and mini meringue kisses dotted the plate. THIS IS THE DESSERT OF THE YEAR, and I want that coconut cake for my birthday.

A New Jersey native, executive chef John Johnson, was previously executive chef for the Four Seasons Hotel (NYC) and the Water Club, which he launched for the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.  Pastry chef Stuart Marx was at Fromagerie in Rumson from 2010 until December 2014. We first experienced his brilliance there in February 2013.  The Wine & Spirits Program is overseen by GM Thierry Carrier, who has a 300-bottle wine list comprised of small boutique labels, as well as wines available by the glass.

Looking for more bang for your buck? There is a daily happy hour at the bar from 3 to 7 PM (Fridays until 10 PM). It features $7 specialty cocktails and $6 house wine by the glass; $1.80 Malpeque oysters, $.95 Little Neck clams. A half-price bar menu is offered on Wednesday and Friday during happy hour. And there is more. Every day and on Tuesday a three-course, prix-fixe menu is offered from 4:30 to 6 PM for $30.

Specialties du jour include: Monday, seafood risotto; Tuesday, Cotelette de porc; Wednesday bouillabaisse; Thursday, duck confits; Friday, Dover sole meuniere; Saturday, lamb shank and on Sunday a lobster supper.

The stunning 5,000 square-foot space reminded us of a Parisian bistro, but lovelier as there are views of the beach and Atlantic Ocean through the floor-to-ceiling windows and the wraparound beachfront terrace. A marble mosaic floor tile, 25-foot oak bar with colorful vintage seltzer bottles and a fireplace with lounge seating, all add to the ambiance. Open daily for lunch and weekends for brunch.

Avenue garlic soup

Garlic soup.

Avenue salmon tartare 1

Salmon tartare with avocado crème.

Avenue desserts

Meyer lemon tart and coconut cake with kaffir lime anglaise and mango salsa.

Avenue chefs John Johnson & Stuart Marx

Executive chef John Johnson and pastry chef Stuart Marx

Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.

Avenue
23 Ocean Avenue
Long Branch
732-759-2900

**UPDATE: It was announced today that executive chef John Johnson of Avenue will be leaving in a few weeks. Dominique Filoni, who was previously executive chef will be back at Avenue starting May 5.

EXECUTIVE CHEF JOSH THOMSEN

Executive chef Josh Thomsen will be leaving Agricola in Princeton on May 9. He has taken a new position as executive chef of the 5-star, 5-diamond Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, in Manalapan, Florida. Replacing chef Thomsen will be Crawford Koeniger, formerly executive chef at Washington House in Basking Ridge. Chef Koeniger joined the Agricola team in January. He has worked in Princeton previously with Chris Albrecht, before moving to open Washington House. Chef de cuisine Manlee Siu will also be leaving Agricola to work with chef Thomsen.

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