The Two River Times
By Bob Sacks
Whom do you believe? Thomas Wolfe, who says, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” or Bon Jovi, who sings, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”?
Clearly, celebrity chef David Burke is solidly in the Bon Jovi camp. Raised in Hazlet, in his early days Chef Burke moved to Europe to pursue his passion for cooking, then moved back to the U.S. and lived in Bergen County for many years. Now he has come back home – again – to the Two River area to live, and to open restaurants here at the Shore, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His most recent effort has been to acquire and update The Fromagerie in Rumson, where he worked as a young man, adding to his already substantial list of more than a dozen existing restaurants in the U.S. This iconic, classic French restaurant was an integral part of the community for many, many years until it was sold. It went through some name changes, ownership changes and menu changes, and is now fully under the leadership of David Burke. He said he knows and “respects its rich history” and honors that while looking to offer every guest the best experience possible in terms of food, service and atmosphere.
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Burke also said, “There are lots of locals… who loved going to Fromagerie as kids, and for special occasions, and are excited that it’s back and offering a fresh spin on excellence.”
Among a number of other things, the name has been changed to reflect the new concept in dining. It’s now Red Horse by David Burke. The original, beautiful colonial building has been updated – with all the charm retained – with improvements to allow it to offer a number of very appealing themes.
There are now two distinctive elements housed under the same roof. The elegant main dining room and more casual bar area downstairs are defined as modern American steakhouse with Asian influences. The “fun” upstairs, which has been redecorated, accessorized with artwork, and dubbed The Loft at Red Horse, has a sushi bar with a dedicated sushi chef, Sang Choi. There diners will enjoy a curated selection of the more casual dishes from the main menu, in a lively, colorful setting, as well as a variety of sushi, sashimi and rolls, plus an Omakase Menu (leave it to the chef) option.
To add to the something for everyone concept, the downstairs wine cellar has been redone and will accommodate private wine dinners for 12 to 20 people.
Burke has taken advantage of an emerging trend, where a number of New York/North Jersey top chefs, now want to work and live at the Jersey Shore; in this instance he has brought Chef Andrew Riccatelli of “Chopped”fame on board as executive chef – another “Jersey boy,” from Marlboro, who has come back home. Riccatelli worked with Burke before at Ventana’s in Fort Lee and said he is “food driven” and wants to “wow the guests” who dine at Red Horse.
The main dining room will also host a concept that Burke feels is appreciated after a year of pandemic restrictions. Initially, two Wednesdays a month will be deemed “dress-up, date nights” with patrons encouraged to break out their finery – which has been forsaken for sweats and sneakers during the pandemic’s prolonged period of self-isolation – and come enjoy fine dining with the “red carpet treatment.”
Burke and Riccatelli are both advocates of, and will emphasize, farm-to-table and locavore menus to support and give back to local producers and purveyors and give them access to the freshest possible ingredients. Two River Gourmet Mushrooms of Long Branch, Lusty Lobster in Highlands and Fossil Farms of Boonton are but a few of those suppliers. There will be takeout with curbside pickup and some outdoor dining offered, but those plans are still in the formative stages at the moment. Also in the planning stage is a weekly “no corkage fee” night to allow wine lovers to bring in their own special bottles to enjoy with the food.
Patrons can choose from prime meats that have been cured in-house with a Himalayan sea salt dry-aging technique – David Burke’s own patented method. Some of the other interesting offerings on the downstairs menu, in addition to the classic steakhouse choices, include Wagyu Beef Tartare & Sea Urchin with black truffles and crispy rice; Lobster Dumplings with chili oil, tomato, basil, miso and preserved lemon; Crispy “Johnny Hong Kong Lobster” withspring vegetable fried rice and Singapore chili sauce. There will be two versions of dover sole: a française-style filet with butter sauce, or a spicy whole fish, Chinatown-market style, done with black vinegar, scallions and Szechuan oil; and Roast “Gypsy Style Duck” with sweet potato vanilla puree, foie gras dumpling, kumquat and pickled blackberry.
Riccatelli said the intention is to offer diners “an exciting food experience with the highest quality ingredients possible.”
It would seem that one bright spot to emerge from this pandemic has been the influx of culinary talent to the Jersey Shore with a desire to cater to area residents who used to travel to New York City and North Jersey for fine dining, but are now staying closer to home. David Burke, is leading the charge with his new Red Horse.
Welcome home, Chef!
This article originally appeared in the April 22, 2021 print edition of The Two River Times.