Getting right to it:
As the price of food continues to rise, its a comfort to find a restaurant that serves good, well-priced meals in pleasant surroundings. Its even better when the chef is ambitious, with an instinct for delicious combinations.
The place is Red, a narrowish storefront named after the town where it is situated, Red Bank, and the executive chef is Darryl Feeney, a native of Rumson and a 1997 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
We visited on two evenings. The first was a quiet Sunday. The huge windows (and many tables) were open; insistent bass (but little else) thudded on the speakers. The second visit was on a fairly rambunctious Saturday, when every table was full and the place was a bit of a scene.
On the plate, Mr. Feeney aims for a bistro style. Though the economy limits his use of foie gras and requires careful ordering, he says he finds ample flavor in many of the less expensive cuts of meat.
True enough; all that is lacking at Red is a bit of fine-tuning.
On the appetizers, Cook who also visited on a Saturday gives big thumbs-ups to the marinated tempura artichoke hearts and the sautéed shrimp with soba noodles (though she’d have liked more sugar snap peas with the latter.) As for the duck spring roll, that was
a witty take on a classic, with its stuffing of shiitake mushrooms and arugula balancing the sweet succulence of the duck. But the polenta crab cakes were simply less than what they would have been had the pesky polenta not been added in the first place.
She also had some misgivings about the pear salad and a chicken sandwich.
Main dishes were much better. A standout was pappardelle in a superlative sauce of tender beef braised in red wine, tomato and onion. A close second was seared and sweet sea scallops (slightly marred by a bit of grit), over beautifully braised and bitter endive and more of those shiitakes. The dish melded with a creamy orange-coriander sauce. The flank steak, first marinated in red wine vinegar, soy, olive oil, thyme and garlic, then grilled, was another winner, especially with its grilled onions on top and the bit of arugula beneath sweet roasted tomatoes.
A broiled veal chop special was less successful; the meat had an acrid crust from charring, the bacon bits scattered through the lentils overpowered the subtle veal, and the accompanying eggplant cubes seemed random. Another dish, farfalle with baby shrimp and roasted peppers, was unremarkable.
Overall, Cook says she found Red “an unusual restaurant thats worth visiting and revisiting.”