Chef Mike Stollenwerk not only has a passion for seafood (which you’d expect of an Ocean City native), but a particularly creative and gentle hand with it. He made his name in Philadelphia, beginning with Little Fish in 2006. But after some ill-fated expansions and consulting gigs, he has crossed the Delaware and planted his seafood flag in Haddonfield. Two Fish, a 26-seat BYO, is one of the most promising openings in the area in recent years. Stollenwerk’s treasures include tender seared skate wing perched on truffled spaetzle in Parmesan broth and topped with melted leeks. His weekend prix-fixe (five courses for $28) delivers whale-sized bang for the buck and features desserts by Karen Adams, a talented baker who just happens to be the chef’s mom.—AE
26 South Haddon Avenue, 856-428-3474.
Robbie Felice made a fateful decision when he graduated from high school in Sussex County. He started a landscaping business, but he had always loved working in his father’s Italian restaurants. He went with the latter. After earning a CIA degree, he spent five years working in top kitchens in Europe and the U.S., including major stints with Mario Batali. Viaggio, the first restaurant of his own, has a filigreed sign that’s hard to spot in its strip-mall location, but inside there’s no mistaking his skill, passion and tireless work ethic for anything generic. His handmade salumi are consummate, his pastas deft and delicious. Perhaps his most rewarding creation, one of the best dishes of the year, is his braised and charred octopus on a tart-sweet apricot mostarda (think Italian chutney) with toothsome gigante beans and chunks of oven-roasted tomato. Felice recently turned 26. As you can tell, we think he made the right decision back when. Viaggio means “journey” in Italian, and his will be worth following.—PR
1055 Hamburg Turnpike, 973-706-7277.
Wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept of beauty embracing imperfection, is realized and reinterpreted in rewarding ways at this creative collaboration of three veteran chefs: Nelson Yip, Tommy Fok and Quan Tran. One apt example is the pork dumpling in peanut butter sauce—floppy-shaped, sloppy-looking but irresistibly savory and lush. Other gems at this BYO are buttery smoked duck breast and the creamy 40-hour-simmered bone broth in the ramen bowls. As a concept, wabi-sabi also involves chance, which brings us to the superb sushi, bolstered with weekly, line-caught shipments direct from Japan’s famed Tsukuji Market. “We call it the mystery box,” says Yip, 47, “because it’s totally seasonal, and we never know exactly what will be in it.”—EL
407 Broad Street, 973-680-9222.
Following the rousing success of their capacious Old World beer halls, Pilsener Haus in Hoboken and Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten in Asbury Park, Andrej Ivanov and his partners decided to think small. Instead of those muscular, multilevel industrial spaces, they have applied Ivanov’s signature look (faux Czech, early-20th-century, worker’s bastion) to a standard-size downtown storefront. Instead of a broad Austro-Hungarian menu (Ivanov himself hails from Slovakia), Würstbar celebrates just one thing: sausages. Yet the range of choices (19, including lamb, venison, rabbit, chorizo and chicken), their quality and imaginative accoutrements, make these würsts a best bet. Served on grilled Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls, some are fairly simple, like kielbasa slathered with kraut, mustard, pickled onion and relish, all house made. More fanciful is the improbably excellent Hound Dog, a beef frank garnished with bacon, sweet plantains and a satiny peanut aioli that would make Elvis drool. In addition to assembling 70 beers, credit Aaron Kahn, a co-owner, with embracing food-friendly hard ciders, and putting 31 on Würstbar’s list.—FS
516 Jersey Avenue, 201-479-8396.