As diners arrived on a recent weekend evening, a pair of guitarists settled into a corner of Graze restaurant, a dressed-up storefront in a town that suits its name: Little Silver.
This quiet, and yes, little, ville is often overshadowed by its big-time neighbor, Red Bank. Yet it has precious resources for the culinarily inclined–Sickles Market, Little Silver Seafood, Little Silver Bottle Shop, Ye Olde Pie Shoppe, to name a few.
Graze, an ambitious BYO opened in July 2016, will reward those willing to tiptoe southeast just beyond the Red Bank border.
Its chef-owner, Laercio Chamon Jr., born and raised in Brazil, came to this country and at age 16 began shucking oysters at Doris & Ed’s, the seafood restaurant in Highlands that earned a James Beard Foundation Award in 1998, being named one of “America’s Classics.”
Chamon then trained at the culinary school at Brookdale Community College in Middletown. It took almost a couple decades, but Chef Junior, as he is known, now has his own restaurant.
He says the Shore food community has nurtured and supported him, and he’s paying it back, in part, by using local ingredients such as squid. He stuffs it with house-smoked pork belly and serves it over preserved lime aioli.
I got a taste of Brazil biting into chicken croquettes dipped in a tart green tomato ketchup that gave the meat a zesty smack.
Octopus is rarely as juicy as Chamon’s was, deftly seared and served with a red pepper purée, roasted fingerling potatoes and a Jackson Pollack-esque swish of crème fraiche.
Graze won my heart when our sometimes-intrusive server made a point of telling us that the nightly varying Graze Greens salad features lettuces and hardier greens from Asbury Park’s Kula Urban Farm, which was conceived by Interfaith Neighbors and employs at-risk young adults. The red, white and green ingredients of the salad, studded with dried apricots, sprinkled with seeds and barely dressed, popped with tastes both mild and peppery.
Duck confit, however, was on the dry side and needed more than a tame salsa to bring it to fruition when stuffed into mini corn tortillas.
There are dishes I’d like to try on a return visit: a custom-grind Graze burger; butternut squash “pappardelle;” and fried sous-vide chicken with cornbread pudding.
For dessert, I loved the milkshake made with cold-smoked bourbon and served with macaroons scented with coffee from Fair Mountain in Atlantic Highlands. I adored the frangipane tart topped with apples and set in salted caramel sauce. It came with house-made bourbon ice cream. I could have eaten a gallon. At least.
Graze, 151 Markham Place, Little Silver. 732-747-9988. Open daily for dinner, except Monday, and for lunch Tuesday through Friday. graze.restaurant.
Editor’s note: Chef Junior Chamon will offer a class in butchering at noon on Sunday, February 12. Cost is $50 per person.Click here to leave a comment