A kitchen that’s open to the public and an easily accessible wine rack would be enough to make dining a unique experience at Fire and Oak, the new 140-seat restaurant next to the Newport Westin Hotel on Washington Boulevard in Jersey City. But it is the food that puts it in a class by itself.
The Midweek Reporter was joined by two guests at a recent lunchtime visit to the Fire and Oak.
Served up were abundant samples of some of the many flavorful items prepared by executive chef Carlos Valdez: roasted beets and montrachet cheese salad, wood grilled vegetable flatbread, a Fire and Oak burger, fresh fish sandwich, pan seared jumbo lump crab cakes, rotisserie organic half chicken, seven-spiced tuna flatbread, Fire and Oak BBQ ribs, coconut shrimp, and Thai tuna rolls.
The restaurant Fire and Oak has 140 seats.
And then there’s the restaurant itself, with a wooden mahogany décor and other features that harkens one to a country inn rather than an urban eatery.
According to Dan Koo, regional manager for South City Group – the company that operates Fire and Oak along with the nearby South City Grill overlooking Newport’s Town Square – many of the dishes on the menu will remain. But some changes are being contemplated.
Fire and Oak = really tasty
The roasted beets and montrachet cheese ($8.95) were complimented with candied pecans and micro greens, seasoned with a truffle vinaigrette. However, they were added in such a way as to not to bury the fruity flavor that makes the dish enjoyable to the palate.
The coconut shrimp ($12.95) and Thai tuna rolls ($11.95) are as delectable as sushi can be, with added props from the guest diners for the spicy kick of the coconut shrimp.
The wood grilled vegetable flatbread ($13.95) may have been the highlight of the lunch. Light and crusty yet filling, a benefit of the seasonal vegetables, roasted tomatoes, artichoke, again montrachet cheese and fresh herbs. The seven-spiced tuna flatbread ($11.95) was a delight and makes a perfect entree for the health-conscious gourmet.
The crab cakes ($26.95), made of real crabmeat, and with sides of baked potato, house remoulade (mayonnaise-based sauce) and coleslaw, impressed one of the guests with its soft, meaty texture that made it melt in the mouth.
Of the sandwich items, the fresh fish sandwich ($14.95) with fresh toppings of lettuce, tomato and onion and remoulade would put many a fish house to shame, and the Fire and Oak burger ($12.95) brings honor to its namesake with the just right enhancements of Vermont cheddar, peppered bacon, tomato and onion.
For the hardcore meat lovers, the rotisserie organic chicken ($17.95) and the Fire and Oak BBQ ribs ($25.95) are prepared to fall-off-the-bone perfection and mouth-watering satisfaction.
And all these delicious meals can be washed down with a wide range of vino from an inexpensive glass/bottle of Trinity Oaks pinot noir ($9/$29) to a top-flight bottle of Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon ($189).
Creating meals with affordable appeal
Dan Koo said when Fire and Oak was first being planned; it was as a first-class, top-price steakhouse with customers from the corporate employees working in the Newport area and along the Downtown waterfront as well as the clientele from the hotel.
“The economy went south, so we looked at prices and it was decided that we wanted to take it easy on the guests,” Koo said. “It wasn’t okay for customers to spend $75 to $80, and we want people come back again and feel comfortable spending their money.”
That’s when the South City group began to restudy their menu, keeping some of their signature steaks but also adding a variety of meals that were lighter on the bank account.
“We want people to come in their t-shirt and jeans, and we want them to come in their suit and tie,” Koo said.
Fire and Oak’s Carlos Valdez said South City Group sets the menu on a corporate level but Valdez adds his own personal flavor and variations, with an emphasis on American cuisine with French flavor.
Valdez also says he enjoys preparing all the meals in a place that he says has certain “sexiness” to the décor, from the back to the front.
Fire and Oak is located at 485 Washington Blvd. They can be reached at (201) 610-9610.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.