Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Diving Horse, Avalon part two.

2109 Dune Drive
Avalon, NJ 08202
(609) 368-5000

After a frustrating afternoon on the beach, we decided to go and grab a drink (or 3) before dinner. We had heard good things about the Princeton and decided it would be a great place to hang out until dinner. It was even better once we realized it's basically across the street from The Diving Horse, and a block from a liquor store (Diving Horse is BYOB). Until we got there. We should have known that a place called Princeton would be pretentious, but it was worse than I would have thought. We walked in and asked to sit outside. The hostess sat us outside (much to the dismay of the woman who at one time was likely a trophy wife and was currently wearing an outfit that would have looked more at home at the Kentucky Derby, than a bar in New Jersey), and we looked at the menu. It was late in the afternoon, so we didn't think it would be unheard of for us to grab a couple of drinks. When the waitress arrived and asked if we knew what we wanted, we told her we were interested in some cocktails. She informed us we could only sit in THESE seats if we were ordering food (which probably explains why they were all empty). So what exactly was the point of the hostess, if she doesn't even ask if we were there for drinks or food? This place is certainly more of a bar than a restaurant in my view.

So we move inside, and to our delight, they had an afternoon happy hour consisting of four kinds of wine and Bluecoat Gin cocktails! I LOVE Bluecoat, and it's made right in good old Philadelphia. So one member of our party goes to the bar to order a round, and asks if the Bluecoat is on special. The bartender, who obviously thought that being an afternoon drink slinger in a pretentious shore town assures your passage into heaven, scoffs, furls his brow and responds, yeah, sure. Whoa, sorry to ask you a question pertaining to the one reason you are behind the bar. We get our drinks and a spot opens up on the NON food ordering side of the patio(?) and we move outside, only to sit next to an obnoxious group of 50-something singles that feel the need to continuously talk to us, and bother us. What is with these people? I left the city to get away from the annoyance, and these overzealous "down the shorers" are annoying as hell. To further irritate our group, the owners dog won't leave us alone, shook hair around our drinks, and jumped into someones lap, much to the amusement of the weirdos next to us, and the chagrin of the person whose lap it was in, especially when some of the staff yelled not to touch it because it bites, and had to send a manager to call the little shit away. Fed up, we left early and decided we would rather try our luck at getting to our dinner table early, than to lose our cool and cause a scene (I really HAVE matured). The only thing that was going to save the day was an extraordinary meal from The Diving Horse. We were in luck. The front of the restaurant beckoned like the Philadelphia embassy (it's owned by the same guy as Pub and Kitchen, which I used to live next to in it's Chaucer's days) in the middle of this town that had long ago lost my favor in only a matter of hours.

In the second shot below, you will see some girl who had too much of something dancing by herself to no music in front of the place.

So we entered (luckily the dancing queen did not follow), I LOVE the logo.

We were seated outside, on their awesome deck at the "family style" tables. I was hoping that being as early as we were, we would not have to sit with any of our "family" we had encountered that day in Avalon, as I felt that they held the warmth of an obnoxious mother-in-law one might find in a sitcom.

The server was young, professional, and knowledgeable about the menu. We were beginning to feel almost, comfortable. When a couple of our favorite songs came on in a row over the quiet outdoor speakers, we were in a better mood than we had been all day. Beers were opened, and menu items were poured over.

We started with the fried oysters. They were, without a doubt, among the best I have eaten. They were perfectly crispy, served with a pancetta remoulade on top and a rich savory smashed potato salad underneath. Perfection. I could eat these every day and not grow tired of the flavor contrasts.

For the main course, we tried the barnegat scallops, with lemon pearl pasta, wilted arugula, and shellfish broth.

The New Jersey fluke, which was served with a smear of herb puree, over a bed of wild grains.

The char, which was served skin on with leaves that tasted of butter, over a summer ratatouille.

And an heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella, micro greens and basil.

For sides, we opted for the brown butter smashed potatoes.

And the goldfish cracker crusted mac and cheese.

The favorites were...everything. We didn't have one dish we didn't swoon over. The flavors were all fresh, cohesive and summery. I really, really can't say enough how happy I was to have perfectly cooked seafood, on each count. It is rare that a place can hit the mark on every dish, and The Diving Horse did just that for me. Seriously. It was the sole reason I would ever, ever want to return to Avalon. And I plan on it. Just for the food. We even went for dessert. The coconut tres leches cake was one of the most interesting/delicious fine dining desserts I have ever had. It was served with carmel sauce and toasted crispy coconut bits. Divine. The texture of the cake was almost like a dry tapioca pudding. I loved it.

Here is a look into the open kitchen, where perfect is made.

As much as it tried, Avalon was unable to break our spirits (thanks only in part to the food at The Diving Horse), and we will return, if only to eat like kings. It is not cheap, but the BYO helps a lot, and the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

1 comment:

BiggRigg said...

BE CAREFUL TO HOLD ON TO YOUR FOOD. There are vulture sea gulls that steal hoagies right out of people's hands! You've been warned!