A new bistro run by established restaurateurs the LoBiancos puts new culinary twists on some old-school treats.
Ventnor’s new Salt Ayre restaurant marks a return of sorts for the well established LoBianco restaurant family.
The storefront, located at 7309 Ventnor Ave. near the Margate border, was the site of Nick LoBianco’s original entry in the Jersey shore restaurant industry from 2003 until ’06. He has also owned and operated LoBianco Coastal Cuisine for almost a year, just a few blocks away at 20 South Douglas Ave. in Margate.
Current plans are for scion Sage, 21, to assume day-to-day management at Salt Ayre upon graduation from Rutgers this spring. From our perspective, he’s one fortunate son.
Salt Ayre is already a pretty, airy dining room with good food karma — Manna and Gertrude’s, respectively, inhabited the space since 2006 — and a discerning clientele.
Our meal began with a trio of fine appetizers. Pulled pork sliders brought two little bundles of piggy goodness, tucked inside mini brioche rolls. A layer of crunchy slaw, not encumbered by excessive mayonnaise, served as spackle holding the soft, eggy bread and pink, luscious meat together.
Next, crab balls were four marbles of almost pure lump, each the size of a small meatball. From the consistency of their golden texture, we’re guessing these seafood delights were pan-sautéed. Presented with a ramekin of thick cocktail sauce and a plate striped by an underlay of basil rouille, we predict this starter is destined to become a shore summertime favorite.
But the very best of these options might have also been the simplest, tartine.
Three wide bias-cut slices of artisanal bread, ladled with olive tapenade, roasted red peppers and plenty of goat cheese. Served just warm enough to make the chevre soft and fragrant, this open-faced French treat was refined and sophisticated, yet wonderfully earthy at the same time.
Our initial entree, a house-made sausage platter, arrived atop a mound of steaming cannellini beans. Roasted red peppers lounged on one side of the plate. Dosed with fennel, the sausage was firm and just a bit spicy. Its accompaniments, particularly the large white Italian legumes, created a lovely contrast in color as well.
We liked the concept behind the winter risotto with braised chicken, but thought the execution could have been handled a bit better. The creamy rice — to which a healthful, seasonally accurate veg blend of butternut squash, mushrooms, turnips and spinach had been added — got just a little lost in the mix. Don’t misinterpret; the result proved delicious, with shredded poultry generously portioned. But we would have preferred to see that tender rice — the real star for us — afforded more spotlight.
My entrée was one I’d be pining over since first perusing Salt Ayre’s menu, posted several weeks past. That option, oxtail, sadly remains an item still quite foreign for local diners. This version should help change that.
Joseph Muldoon, the 20- something whiz kid chef installed at Bally’s elegant supper club The Reserve just over two years ago, will never be accused of taking his charges lightly.
As the Atlantic City region’s first, and still only, full-scale brewpub and restaurant, the Tun Tavern has always managed to nicely incorporate those house-made beverages into its bill of fare. Brewmaster Tim Kelly elaborates on this process, saying “I’m generally here as a resource for chefs. I’m an ingredient.”
If you’re a real food fan, ask to sit in the left rear section. Here you’ll be afforded a peek at the kitchen staff, through a screened service portal, as they prepare your meal.
... the warm shell clung to its ingredients like a miniskirt on Scarlett Johansson — taut, sexy and seductive.
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