Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pick Pier W

Pier W, that landmark Lakewood culinary destination with stunning lake views (gets my vote for best place to watch a storm-- rain or snow-- in full squall), and impeccable service, has just debuted a new something-for-everybody winter menu, marking the first big change in the selections since the restaurant was remodeled and reinvented four years ago. Executive Chef Regan Reik, a culinary perfectionist, told me he spent many months developing recipes that broaden the offerings beyond the seafood (for which the place is so justly famous) to satisfy meat-eaters and vegetarians, plus provide for those who want simpler, more approachable and affordable dishes.

The top quality oysters, lobster tails, and king crab legs are still available. You can spend big on a surf and turf combo or a prime 14 oz NY strip. But now you can also choose a less expensive flat iron steak, pork tenderloin with creamy polenta, or the Lamb trio, pictured above, that includes braised shoulder meat, a rib chop, and a sausage in a savory herbed jus.

I sampled a number of his creations and found much to like. Among my faves were Reik’s playful lobster sliders- scoops of a lusciously chunky and creamy lobster salad were stuffed in a buttered and toasted brioche style “hot dog” bun. The beef in the short rib pierogies is slow cooked for 15 hours and the result was outstanding. Humble talipia got a tasty upgrade with a pistachio almond crust and a puddle of lavender honey butter, surely among the most extraordinary and delightful flavors I’ve encountered.

The breaded Japanese eggplant served with tomato jam, a spray of watercress and Parmesan shavings atop gnocchi with marinara sauce and a drizzle of basil oil was fine from first bite to last. (Chef said the kitchen can tweak to make this suitable for vegans). And if dessert is what really gets you going, don’t miss the housemade ice creams and truffles.

T’is the time of year when dining out is about more than just eating. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the season with friends, family, and colleagues. Pick up the tab and the meal is a way to say thanks. Wrap up a restaurant gift certificate and you’ve got a present that will definitely elicit squeals of joy. And of course, enjoying good food in a lovely setting with a staff that’s paid to take care of you offers a great lunch or dinner break from the annual marathon of shopping, cooking, and creating happy holiday memories for others. Take it from me, Pier W is the perfect place for all these purposes.

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