Ask any gallivanting gastronome to recommend a spot to eat in his or her neighborhood and you will find yourself in an hour long culinary conference discussing the innumerable options that are available. You will be inundated with countless suggestions including, but not limited to, several steak slingers, a handful of hamburger hawkers, the rare ramen retailers, a surplus of sushi sellers, and a plethora of peddlers of Parisian fare. Foodies are as passionate about their local eateries as that guy, from work, that corners you near the water cooler to talk about his 16 fantasy football leagues, just a little less annoying.
During these delectable debates, a true fanatical foodie will often offer several recommendations for each type of fare that is discussed. However, there is one category of restaurant that an epicurean usually only has one suggestion for because a truly superb one is extremely rare. This unicorn of the gastronomic galaxy is none other than the five-star seafood joint, and this foodie’s recommendation is the ever impressive Brigantine Seafood, now located at 312 Lafayette Avenue in Hawthorne, NJ.
The relationship between a food lover and his or her Seafood Restaurant is a special bond that is about as stable as Gary Busey on a week-long bender teeming with crack-cocaine and hookers. Seafood, in general, is one of the hardest foods to consistently deliver to a customer base at a high quality, for a good price, because of its delicate flavor and perishability. These factors create a unique and daunting task for a Chef attempting to be creative in the kitchen without tossing all of his/her profits in the dumpster. Furthermore, it only takes one or two disappointing dishes to spook the feral foodie causing him or her to seek out a new fish monger.
There are several reasons that Brigantine Seafood and I are still BFF’s after several years. First off, the Owner and Chef, Alfred Ianniello, is as enthusiastic about the fish that he serves to his customers as his customers are about eating it. Chef Al proves this zeal each and every day by traveling to the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, where he personally selects only the finest seafood. Secondly, Chef Al does not skimp on the portions that are served at his restaurant, like some other spots that I have visited, and as you know, I can eat, so I appreciate this fact immensely. Lastly, Brigantine Seafood has never scorned me, meaning that every time I eat there I not only leave satiated but satisfied as well.
If you read my blog regularly you are probably having a slight case of Déjà vu. Relax, you are not crazy. I did in fact write a review on Brigantine Seafood once before, but they recently moved to a new, much larger, location in Hawthorne and I thought they could use the love of the interwebs. The new digs are beautiful and add a wonderful touch of elegance that goes hand in hand with the fantastic food that is served at this eatery. Plus, as stated above, I freaking love their food, so any excuse to visit Chef Al, is a win in my book. Now, without further ado, I present to you the amazing food porn of Brigantine Seafood.
Since I am a fan of social outings that include booze, food, and friends, Kat and I invited our foodie friends Alex and Steph to join us for our most recent trip to Brigantine. With us, we brought an eight pack of assorted craft beers, because Brigantine Seafood not only provides some of the best Seafood in the Tri-state area, they are also BYOB! FTW!
Each time I go to Brigantine Seafood, I never know what I am going to eat, except of course for an order of Oysters, which are always out of this world. I am sure the regular items on the menu are all great, however, a true Brigantine junkie knows it is all about the specials, and since Chef Al picks out the seafood daily, you just never know what you are going to get until the waitress rattles them off. Brace yourselves too, because there are a crap load of specials, and each one sounds better than the last.
Other than the requisite oysters, we ordered the Grilled Octopus with White Bean Salad and a Mixed Green Salad with Crispy Fried Goat Cheese for our appetizers, while we pondered our main course. While discussing the most important decision of the evening we helped ourselves to some of fresh baked bread, olive oil, and opened our first beer.
Kat is not a fan of seafood, and at some Seafood Restaurants that could pose a problem, luckily Brigantine is not a one trick pony, and creates a few dishes for those who suffer from ichthyophobia. On this occasion, she chose the Pasta Primavera in a Vodka Sauce, but she wanted me to stress that her favorite dish is the Chicken Scarpariello, which she adores. However, we were told by Chef Al, that he is adding aged steaks to the menu shortly and that might give that Chicken dish a solid run for its money. Alex decided to go with the scallop dish, and Steph and I are suckers for whole fish, so we both decided on the Whole Bronzino.
The oysters hit the table first and we were ecstatic. As always they were scrumptious and ever so fresh. The subtle, yet complex flavor of the oyster combined with the vinegar and horseradish sauces create a flavor that is both unique and memorable. If you have yet to try raw oysters, I highly recommend ordering a sixer of these slippery wonders of the sea when you visit Brigantine. You will not be disappointed!
While we were demolishing the Oyster plate, our Grilled Octopus was delivered, and it looked and smelled magnificent. Most chefs will tell you that Octopus is a tough dish to prepare. The fragile flavor of the meat is unassertive, creating an extremely fine margin of error when seasoning the dish. Furthermore, under cooked octopus has a distinct rubbery texture, whereas if it is overcooked it will be dry and tasteless. Due to these reasons, I only order Octopus at restaurants where I trust the Chef and his supply. Luckily for us and now for you, this ain’t Chef Al’s first tentacle filled rodeo and this dish was stupendous! The shy flesh of the octopus was the star of the dish, without being bland and it was grilled to perfection giving it the perfect mouthfeel.
As stated above, Kat is not a seafood fan, like the rest of us normal people, so while we were eating our treasures from the sea, she was partaking in this beautiful bed of greens paired with a warm, crispy, and creamy goat cheese croquette. Even though I always order too much food when we visit Brigantine, Kat loves me, so she shares her exquisite croquette with me. She is well aware that the map to my heart not only runs through my stomach but spends the weekend there.
After we finished our appetizers and the table was cleared our entrees began to arrive. Much like the many octopi dishes I have had in the past, Scallop dishes are always a gamble. UNLESS you are at Brigantine, where Chef Al makes you wonder if you have ever actually eaten a scallop in your long and food filled life. Alex allowed me to sample these delightful treats, and they so soft and buttery that I had food envy for a minute or two, as I savored this bite of brilliance. Not to mention that when they were paired with the provided sauce I damn near mugged Alex for his remaining morsels of amazeballs.
My affliction of food envy was cured in a matters of moments when I took another bite of my meal. There is something about the presentation and ritual of eating a whole fish, I absolutely love. It also helped that the fish itself was delicious. I have had Bronzino that is overly salted and seasoned which ruins the gentle flavor of this European delicacy. This fish however was seasoned expertly and cooked properly creating a balanced and flavorful dish without stomping on the fish’s widely celebrated flavor.
As far as Kat’s dish; sans fish, it was a solid pasta. The sauce was on point, which is of course the back bone to any pasta dish, and the pasta itself was cooked as it should be, Al dente. The addition of the fresh zucchini and mushrooms that were sharing space with the pasta added to the overall success of this dish. I believe this would be the perfect option for a vegetarian if they were to find themselves as your dinner guests at Brigantine.
This time around we decided not to get dessert because we were extremely full from our gluttonous meal, however if you are a dessert person do not miss out on their daily dessert specials. Ask your server and she will discuss the mouthwatering options that were made fresh that day.
As a bonus, since Brigantine moved into a space that is double if not triple the size of their old spot, Chef Al now has room to host events. This new venture allows you to eat all the amazing seafood that Brigantine offers, while celebrating that upcoming baby shower, bridal shower, birthday, or engagement party. It is okay, I won’t tell the person who you are celebrating that you are happier to be eating at Brigantine, than to be celebrating their special day. It will be our little secret.
I can’t stress enough that Brigantine is an amazing eatery and holds a special place in the center of my foodie heart. I implore you all to give this magical seafood haven a whirl, and remember to bring your appetites because you will not leave hungry. One last tip before you take your trip to Brigantine Seafood’s new location, 312 Lafayette Avenue, Hawthorne, NJ, to visit Chef Al and sample his outstanding creations. Make sure to make a reservation, because nothing is worse than having to smell all the awesome, while you are waiting on the sidelines for a table.