The panoramic view from the second-floor balcony of Maritime Parc, on the south side of Jersey City’s Liberty Landing Marina, takes in Jersey City’s Exchange Place to the north, Manhattan’s Financial District across the Hudson River to the east and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the south. This grand setting suits executive chef and partner Chris Siversen, a self-described “big-picture guy.”
“I looked for a year, and when I saw this space at the crossroads of New Jersey and New York, I knew it could be an amazing dining destination,” he says. “We opened last September and fought a long, lonely winter.” Pause. “But we made it.”
And how. As a catering facility, the second and third floors of Maritime Parc—ringed by that balcony—are booked for months to come. As a restaurant, the ground-floor dining room, with its ship-like railings and polished wood-plank floor, is serving exciting, gratifying food in a special setting. With summer here, the octagonal building’s stone patio, overlooking an inlet off the Hudson leading to a marina bristling with masts, is shaping up as a fashionable meeting place for Jerseyans—and for Manhattanites, who can hop a ferry for the seven-minute ride from the World Financial Center.
Maritime Parc took months to rev up to speed, mainly in the service department. But it is now a smoothly managed operation offering lunch, dinner, brunch, a raw bar, a bar menu, signature cocktails and winemaker dinners. Siversen also oversees the catering kitchen upstairs.
“I always wanted to cook and run my own place,” says Siversen. Now 42, he washed dishes in a Long Island diner at 14, studied under chef Alain Sailhac at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, and cooked alongside top toques like Tom Valenti at Manhattan’s Alison on Dominick and Michael Lomonaco at the 21 Club. He also has 10 years of experience in high-end catering at locations in Manhattan and at the Westminster Hotel in Livingston.
His modern, seasonally driven cuisine is flavor-charged by unerringly chosen ingredients, not, he claims, by kitchen legerdemain. “You want the flavor to stand out, not the technique or the presentation.” (Easy to say when your technique and presentation are shipshape, as at Maritime Parc.) A Ridgewood resident, Siversen is passionate about Jersey seafood, fruit and vegetables and dairy products. “It’s a bounty,” he says.
Siversen’s ceviche-like seafood cocktails are a fine way to start. The Barnegat Bay scallop cocktail is zingy with citrus; the octopus cocktail is Spanish tasting, with smoked paprika and roasted pimentos; and the blue-crab cocktail is velvety with avocado chunks.
Another worthy starter is rock-shrimp risotto with arugula and cured lemon. One of the best mussel dishes around is pan roasted in wheat beer with garlic, shallots and slivered celery. The dish is showered with celery leaves and tiny sourdough croutons that soak up the delectable broth. Celery may seem an innocuous ingredient, but it contributes a lot to this outstanding starter. Not that everything has to come from the sea—for example, there’s also rich and crunchy honey-glazed pork belly topped with sweet-and-sour diced cucumbers.
Baby spinach salad with pickled quail eggs tweaks conventional spinach salad. Its leaves lightly wilt under Siversen’s warm bacon-and-egg dressing (“more fun than adding them as dry ingredients,” he says). For another playful twist, try house-made fettuccini with diced guanciale (cured pork cheek) in pesto made from asparagus rather than basil. The grace note is an egg yolk that slithers over the dish “to mix in yourself at the table, like old-fashioned fettuccini Alfredo,” says the chef.
“I like to surprise,” Siversen says, and proves it with two revisionist surf-and-turf entrées. One pairs juicy Jersey sea scallops in a creamy-pickly gribiche sauce with a fork-tender mound of deboned short rib over melted leeks. The other offers fresh lobster meat flanking rich shredded pork belly.
Pink snapper is rarely as charming as Siversen’s squared fillet, pan seared so the skin crisps, and brightly flavored with basil, Meyer lemon and pickled pearl onions. Succulent skate wing gets sassy with cured white anchovies and garlicky spring ramps. Brined Griggstown chicken is served with rye dumplings exhibiting a winning hint of caraway.
Siversen has a way of making every dish his own—even rack of lamb (with a smoked eggplant relish) and grass-fed ribeye steak (served with marrow still in the bone). His most unusual entrée is my favorite: a plate-sized whole golden trout. Its tiny bones are plucked out and the cavity is stuffed with morels and sorrel bound with honey. Then the fish is wrapped in Berkshire pork bacon and pan seared. The thin, smoky bacon forms a handsome, crisp skin and complements the distinctive flavor of the fish. Every bite includes the payoff of the earthy morel-and-sorrel stuffing.
Portions are generous enough that you don’t need side dishes, but they are good, and one is not to be missed. I’m not talking about the french fries cooked in duck fat, nice as they are, but rather the one-of-a-kind mashed-potato rings. They look like big, rough-surfaced, golden-brown doughnuts. They’re super crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Irresistible.
Dessert presents a conundrum. Shall it be Maritime Parc’s intriguing fromage plate of half-a-dozen sheep’s-milk cheeses from Valley Shepherd Creamery in Morris County or a delicious dessert from pastry chef John Sauchelli, formerly of New York’s Gramercy Tavern and New Jersey’s Serenade and Copeland? His old-fashioned cobblers flaunt perfect crusts and sweet Jersey fruit. Key lime crème brûlée topped with coconut meringue and a crisp graham-cracker tuile is lip-smackingly intense and big enough for two. And his big, bold, classic chocolate layer cake, dense with chocolate from San Francisco’s Guittard, is retro perfection.
An inexpensive way to get to know Maritime Parc is to come on Thursday evenings, when six oysters, a burger (choice of three types), fries and chef-chosen beer or glass of wine are $20.Click here to leave a comment
Cuisine Type:American - Modern - Seafood