061415amaviewThe dining deck at Ama, with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Below, a brunchtime bloody Mary. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


061415ama1For many years, options for Sunday brunch, the 10-to-2 repast that invites an eat-whatever-you’re-in-the-mood-for approach to breakfast and lunch, were limited on the Greater Red Bank Green.

Our only choices were expensive buffets at Red Bank’s Molly Pitcher Inn and Rumson’s Salt Creek Grille, both of which required reservations and adherence to dress codes.

But the boom of new restaurants in Red Bank and Sea Bright has brought more a la carte options for brunch-seekers.

061415amarawbarCustomers help themselves to the cold buffet set-up on the bar at Ama. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

In Sea Bright, Dive and the newly opened Black Swine offer Sunday brunch. In Red Bank, Catch has caught onto the theme as well.

But if you’re looking for an ample buffet with a view, Ama Ristorante at the Driftwood beach club in Sea Bright is hard to beat. Patrons may eat indoors or take their plates to the tables on the outside deck to enjoy the air and views of the ocean and pool.

Typical of brunch buffets in general, Ama’s offers the expected breakfast fare of waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausages and made-to-order omelets. Coffee and a mimosa or bloody Mary are also included in the $35 tab.

If you’re in the mood for dinner-style dining, an array of Tuscan-themed dishes aim to please. Chafing dishes are filled with tasty, well sauced, perfectly al dente pastas. Orecchiette tossed with broccoli rabe and tiny sausage bits could can be meal by itself.

A carving station offers tender, medium-rare flank steak and a pork tenderloin, both perfectly pink and sliced-to-order. Chef Chuck Lesbirel‘s dedication to his craft shines through here. An eye-catching jar of arugula pesto in a psychedelic shade of green was not only pretty to look at but held a bright and savory condiment for the meat.

Lighter cold fare can be found in mouthwatering displays on the bar. Platters abound with bite-sized chunks of ripe melon, gourmet cheese and a delectably savory charcuterie platter piled high with salumi and prosciutto.

For the fish lover, briny oysters, shrimp and clams-on-the-half-shell with migonette and hot sauce choices were cold, fresh and delicious. But it was in a platter of spiced, cured-in-house salmon – sliced paper-thin and served with capers and finely chopped onion – that the message of who’s in charge comes to the forefront. It’s all about detail and finesse that brings excitement to a dish, and Lesbirel has it.

Buffet food as a rule is made to be eye-catching, but doesn’t always translate to the extraordinary gustatory experience that your taste buds expect. At Ama, brunch is about properly prepared dishes with big flavors. The reliably good food and a stellar view set this brunch option apart from others.

Save room for dessert. Pastry chef Megan Malley makes a traditional tiramisu and a key lime pie that are worth the calories. Not having room to taste another bite, we’re told by other diners that the cheesecake is delicious, too. We’ll have to take their word for it.

Ama Ristorante serves brunch on Sunday only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.