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RED BANK: FRANCE, NEW YORK MAKE INROADS

marc-fontaine-092216-500x375-5978152Chef Marc Fontaine in the kitchen of O Bistro, his new French restaurant, which opened on North Bridge Avenue last week. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rcsm2_0105081-220x165-9667185This edition of redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn serves up yet another mouthwatering smorgasbord with news about three Red Bank eateries:

• a new French restaurant for a long-displaced chef

• a soon-to-open “New York-style Jewish deli,” complete with “pastrami salmon,” in the heart of downtown

• and expansion plans for a popular Monmouth Street bar and restaurant.
susan-shapiro-092716-500x375-5369381Susan Shapiro outside the future home of her new venture, Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen. Below, a rendering of Jamian’s after the planned expansion into the former Art’s Barber Shop space, at the right of the building.  (Photo by John T. Ward; rendering by SOME Architects. Click to enlarge)

jamians-092616-220x112-7050184• Red Bank hasn’t had a proper French restaurant since chef Marc Fontaine said “au revoir” to Bienvenue in 2013. He’d bought the restaurant, at the corner of East Front Street and Wharf Avenue,  three years earlier, but found that with just 36 seats, the fine-dining spot just couldn’t support the rent. Fontaine said he turned away as many customers as he served for lack of room.

Muang Thai, which took over the space, soon expanded into the storefront vacated by an adjoining flower shop. Meantime, the native Frenchman Fontaine embarked on what turned out to be a prolonged hunt for a new place to practice his craft.

Last week, he finally got back on track, with the soft opening of his new venture, O Bistro Francais, in the former home of Red Bank Pizza and briefly, Puglia, on North Bridge Avenue.

With a whopping 140 seats, the space would appear to have room to accommodate all Fontaine’s following, as well as plenty of newcomers. And he evinced no worries about bringing enough of them in.

“The demand is definitely here,” he said. “The people need to have a French restaurant.”

Fontaine, who lives in Red Bank, eschews corner-cutting — we found him creating his own veal stock, which he said other restaurateurs might buy in a paste form —  and every dish will reflect his “years of learning” traditional French cuisine, he said. But O Bistro, true to its name, will be more about casual dining than fine dining, he said, with entrees priced in the $20 to $40 range. Check out the menu here.

O Bistro is a BYOB, and Crate’s Beverage across the street has an excellent selection of French wines, Fontaine said. The restaurant also offers catering services.

• Another Red Bank resident, Susan Shapiro, is behind Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen, now taking shape behind the papered-over windows at 51 Broad Street. At the moment, she’s remodeling the interior created just a year ago for Cuban eatery Chikyboom, which went bust in July. Before that, No Ordinary Joe’s had the space for two decades.

Hers will be a “traditional Jewish deli,” Shapiro said, complete with brisket, roast beef and turkey breast roasted on-site, and the pastrami steamed there, too.

Modeled on the delis of her New York childhood and, more recently, Gold’s, in Westport, Connecticut, where she lived before moving to Red Bank five years ago, Shapiro’s venture will rely on the same metro-area meat, fish and bread purveyors the old-timers use, she said.

Expect to find Norwegian salmon, creamed herring and tongue in the display case near the front door. And check out the “pastrami salmon,” which Shapiro said has dark edges from the same seasonings used on the meat version.

She’ll even carry a hard-to-find beverage coveted by deli devotees: Manhattan Special coffee soda. Check out the menu here.

Partly financed by shoe retailer Dean Ross, the deli is Shapiro’s reward to herself, she told Churn. The younger of her two kids is a senior at Red Bank Regional, and her son is out of the house, doing sports journalism. So after 35 years working in corporate property management —  and maintaining a catering business on the side — Shapiro decided earlier this year that “it’s my time now,” she said. “I’ve served my servitude.”

Shapiro and her boyfriend-slash-partner, Matt Kaplan, hope to open the business by Thanksgiving, she said.

Jamian’s Food and Drink plans to expand by taking over the next-door spot at 81 Monmouth Street formerly rented by Art’s Barber Shop, which closed this summer after nearly 50 years in business.

Owner Jamian Laviola’s proposal calls for using the 1,000-square-foot shop as additional dining space. Approval for the change of use to on-site food consumption is required from the borough planning board. No hearing date has yet been set.

The move comes three years after Laviola added an outdoor bar out back, on the Gold Street side of his establishment.

• And one non-food item for this Churn:

Three months after it opened, Ani Art Academy still hasn’t really quite… opened yet.

“Still no students,” instructor KevinMoore tells Churn. “I usually teach a drawing class on Saturday but no one full time yet.”

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank business owner happier than to hear "I saw your ad on Red Bank Green!"
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