Restaurant Review

Cask 591

After Long Branch’s much-loved Joe & Maggie’s changed hands in November 2004, new co-owner Dennis Tafuri renamed it Cask 591—cask because wine is important to Tafuri and 591 for the restaurant’s street number. The wine list is very good, with about 250 wines, of which 30 are available by the glass. About to undergo an overhaul when I visit, Cask 591 is laid out in a casual L shape, with a bar tucked into the elbow of the L and exposed brick walls, skylights, and wrought-iron chandeliers. The restaurant already has a steady following, and perhaps with the refurbishment and some menu changes it will generate an even bigger buzz than Joe & Maggie’s did.

Chef/co-owner Peter Fischbach trained at the American Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing and worked at the Metropolitan Café in Freehold with Tafuri. Service is efficient, informed, and friendly.

The panko-crusted crab cake appetizer, made with very little filler and served with a sweet whole-grain mustard sauce, is small but crisp and full of crab flavor. Three crabmeat-stuffed shrimp that look like golf balls are tasty. Escargots sautéed with lardons of bacon and spinach in a garlicky broth and served out of the shell are very good, as is the warm goat cheese tart.

Among the main courses, I recommend the deliciously moist tilapia française, delicately battered and drizzled with an orange-basil butter sauce; the tender filet mignon, wrapped in bacon with a Bordelaise sauce; and the cherry-chipotle duck breast, nicely presented with a crisp orange-ginger duck confit leg. Dishes that need work include an overbaked quesadilla filled with roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, and goat cheese, and the salmon gâteau—chopped poached salmon and smoked salmon mounded onto a tough pastry round. The artichoke-crusted salmon sounds enticing, but it’s overcooked and dry, and the crust adds nothing. Alaskan black bass rubbed with a spicy peanut pesto tastes fishy and strange, and the purple mashed potatoes served with it are a mistake. A large grilled veal chop is fatty and poorly trimmed.

As for dessert, opt for the non-traditional apple strudel, made with tender pastry and sweet, buttery applesauce rather than sliced apples. Avoid the pretzel cup, filled with pistachios and chocolate ganache, which dissolves unattractively on the plate.

Reviewed in: April 2006

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