As I sit at a table next to a window of McLoone’s Pier House looking out at sand that’s white enough to be snow and the lapping waves beyond, I remind myself that I’m here to review the restaurant, not to sink into a delicious stupor and imagine myself on a desert island. I’m quickly brought back from this reverie by loud laughter and chatter emanating from one of the restaurant’s two bars.
McLoone’s Pier House is the sister restaurant to McLoone’s Riverside in Sea Bright and part of a new condominium complex and shopping center in Long Branch called Pier Village. The two McLoone’s are owned by Tim McLoone, a journalist with NBC and the arena announcer for Seton Hall basketball games. Chef Neil Jordan, who spent five years at McLoone’s Riverside, offers a fairly comprehensive menu, including a page of comfort food such as baked macaroni, burgers, and shepherd’s pie.
Appetizers are the best part of a meal at McLoone’s. We start with Beth’s Salmon Cakes—well-flavored, moist, and paired with slivered vegetables in a soy-butter sauce. Another winner is McLoone’s Roll, consisting of shrimp tempura tucked inside rice and spicy tuna, wrapped in nori, and served with a wasabi-soy dip. Two satisfying appetizers are the six huge, crunchy coconut shrimp, served with an apricot dipping sauce and vegetable salsa, and the seared and spicy peppercorn ahi tuna, which comes with a Vietnamese salad. Crab dip baked with artichoke hearts, jalapeño, and cream, topped with cheese and served with chips, is tasty but too rich for an appetizer. A hearty leek-and-potato soup special is fine, but the fried calamari is soggy.
Recommended main courses include the moist and nutty pistachio-crusted halibut and the rare pan-seared tuna with Parmesan mashed potatoes. Grilled salmon with tarragon cream sauce is also a good choice, while the chicken potpie and the pastry-topped New England lobster casserole are delicious but too rich. Blackened swordfish topped with lump crabmeat is quite acceptable. Linguini tossed with chunks of lobster, mozzarella balls, spinach, and roasted tomatoes sounds wonderful but turns out to have very little flavor. The twin lobster cakes are chewy and dry.
The best desserts are the Key lime and apple pies. The fried-banana cheesecake is just plain weird, and the rice pudding is so undercooked it’s crunchy.
Reviewed in: June 2006
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