A Lobster Corn Dog, served on a stick at B2 Bistro and Bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
PieHole doesn’t always plan in advance, so on more than one occasion, our desire for a bite and a drink at B2 Bistro and Bar on Shrewsbury Avenue didn’t work out.
The question of whether we had a reservation surprised us on one evening. We told the hostess that we were there for a cocktail and quick bite, but our lack of a reservation meant that even the empty high-top tables were not offered to us. Her blank stare told us we were expected to move on.
Bánh Mi, another twist on a traditional sandwich, is a popular lunchtime order at the bar. The sausage pizza, below is covered with garden-fresh peppers. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
When we heard that B2 was open for lunch, we jumped. How busy could it be on a Saturday afternoon? The answer: surprisingly busy, though no reservation was needed.
The lunch menu, similar via small-plate options to the happy hour menu, is filled with inventive fare B2 calls Bites. They include four bar-sized pizzas offering vegetarian, pescatarian, and carnivore options and ranging in price from $13 for a shrimp topping to $11 for a kale topping.
It’s important to understand that nothing on the menu is what you might expect as straightforward. The mushroom pizza, for instance includes a duck egg, goat cheese and tarragon. Also on the menu: charred octopus, with orange, peppers, feta, olives and watercress ($14), and broiled oysters, with béchamel, lemon and gremolata ($11).
“We’re educating our customers,”assistant manager Sethe Block tells us. “The Euro-bistro style has no specific guidelines. [We’re] changing the menu seasonally as much as possible, with whatever the chef wants.”
The backless, canvas-covered bar stools fill up quickly. We order a craft beer and after much debate, settle on a Lobster Corn Dog ($13) and a Bánh Mi ($11).
A split lobster tail, skewered with a wooden stick, is dunked into a cornmeal batter and deep-fried. The result is a slightly crunchy, sweet wrapper, surrounding properly tender lobster meat. It’s served with a house-made pickled vegetable slaw and a dab of tarragon aioli sauce.
Related to — yet several steps away from — fish and chips or a hot dog, this dish is an enjoyable treat in every way. We’re adding it to our list of perfect noshes in Red Bank.
Staying within the parameters of what a Bánh Mi is expected to be, executive chef Caesar De Chellis still puts a gourmet surprise spin on the Vietnamese sandwich.
A fresh, crusty baguette is smeared with cilantro aioli and piled with house-made pickled vegetables, including tiny red Fresno jalapeno chili peppers and rings of the more conventional spicy green jalapenos. The country pate slices are studded with bits of earthy black truffle.
There is nothing run-of-the-mill about this dish. It’s a well-thought-out spin on a sandwich that we’d happily eat again. A cold brew is a perfect counter-point to this lunch.
The happy hour and late-night bar menus offer terrific deals on domestic and premium beer as well as $4 glasses of wine. We’re told that cocktail ingredients such as shrubs, syrups, grenadine, and fruit mixtures are all made in-house.
B2 Bistro and Bar serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Opening at noon on Saturday, it uses its happy hour menu, which includes most items on the lunch menu. We suggest calling ahead for a reservation.