Intimate, insular Bayonne is in some ways the Key West of New Jersey. Bayonne has shade trees rather than palms (but is recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA), Chuck Wepner instead of Hemingway (but heavyweights both). Yet they each offer a pot of gold at the end of the road and the rainbow.
Bayonne is more a place you come from and return to; Key West, a place you visit. Ten East, Bayonne’s sexy new pan-Asian restaurant, is a new kind of attraction for Bayonne. (Bayonne Golf Club, an extraordinary private course, and Cape Liberty are others.) Opened last August, Ten East weaves together Asian-fusion creativity, Benihana-style hibachi, a saketini lounge, and a sushi bar. Amazingly, the pieces mesh well.
Ten East’s backstory is a tapestry, too. Owners Anthony and Patrick Franconeri, 40-something brothers, grew up a few blocks away. Their parents owned a construction company and, for a time, Bayonne’s enduring Chuck Wagon luncheonette. The family relished going to Benihana in Manhattan “for birthdays, graduations, Easter, Christmas—any excuse,” recalls Anthony.
When the South Cove Commons mall sprouted on their old dirt-biking grounds, the brothers leased a corner spot and named their restaurant after their childhood street address. Their twin inspirations were hibachi and the quasi-Asian chow and seductive vibe they enjoyed at the original Buddakan in Philly, where the Franconeris’ trucking business is based.
The brothers, who also own a construction company, designed and built Ten East as an unabashedly theatrical set of spaces with four flat-screen TVs.
Asian fusion is served in the booths and lounge; hibachi, at the smokeless tables; and sushi, throughout.
Talented sushi chef Tokio Naito, formerly of Benihana in Short Hills, has created some two dozen special rolls, many of which flaunt flavors as saucy as their names. The Nasty Fairway spotlights spicy tuna; the 440 Liberty roll, wasabi-spiked caviar; and the Lightrail, luscious slices of avocado and banana.
The Asian-fusion menu is handled with equal élan by José Ronquillo. Born in Mexico 29 years ago, he learned the basics in Hudson County Community College’s culinary program and has already served as executive chef at Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack and Teak on the Hudson in Hoboken. In both kitchens, he says, “I experimented with fusion, bringing light Asian sauces and flavors to heartier bistro-style dishes.”
Among Ronquillo’s ample and appealing appetizers are tuna tartare with avocado, salsa, taro roots, taro chips, and black and white sesame seeds; chicken potstickers with sweet chili dipping sauce; and crispy duck salad with sweet-and-tart hoisin sauce. Ronquillo’s entrées are terrific, too. Asian short ribs are flavor-charged by braising for a minimum of three hours in a mixture of soy, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, pepper flakes, and water; the reduced liquid sauces the tender meat. The dish is accompanied by sensational truffled mashed potatoes.
Ten East’s best-selling—and best-tasting—entrées include miso-glazed Chilean sea bass, the wild fillet marinated in miso and teriyaki sauce, seared and served with truffle-oil-tinged black trumpet mushrooms; a rack of six New Zealand lamb chops, rubbed with ginger, lemongrass, soy sauce, and Thai chilis, then crusted with pistachios; and tuna rolled in the chef’s own five-spice powder (coriander, cumin, cayenne, Mandarin-orange zest, sesame seeds), seared, and served with wasabi mashed potatoes.
The horseshoe-shaped hibachi tables surround smokeless griddles manned mainly by young Indonesian cooks whose hiring Anthony Franconeri attributes partly to word-of-mouth, partly “because they really get into entertaining.” Their antics are along the line of twirling knives and corny puns; you won’t see flying shrimp.
Hibachi dinners are sold as complete, multi-course meals (a kids’ menu also is available). Salmon, scallops, and several cuts of steak were excellent. Unmarinated chicken, however, was dull, and vegetables too coarsely cut were insufficiently sautéed.
Hibachi meals come with several starters and hibachi-cooked sides; my favorite was the teriyaki-sauced Chinese egg noodles. Most diners spring for fried rice, prepared to the customer’s desired degree of spiciness.
If you can face dessert, miso bittersweet chocolate lava cake will please your inner sumo wrestler.Click here to leave a comment
Cuisine Type:Asian - Pan-Asian