Nestled up against the Manasquan River at the Brielle Boat Basin, the Shipwreck Grill is the quintessential Shore eatery. The interior boasts lacquered knotty pine, a plethoric variety of nautical accoutrements, and a bustling bar scene. Just how bustling? Even in the dead of winter, this place packs them in. The superior quality of the cuisine, however, is what sets the restaurant apart. Executive Chef Terry Eleftheriou cooks up an impressive array of seafood offerings as well as other innovative American presentations. Begin with such creative starters as warm goat cheese tart garnished with oven-roasted black olives and grape tomatoes, roasted corn clam chowder, or seasoned cornmeal fried calamari. Entrées include a marvelous pistachio-crusted grouper, pan-roasted Chatham code, and seared halibut. Landlubbers may choose from such sumptuously grilled items as filet mignon, rack of lamb, and veal chop. There is also a pristinely fresh raw bar and an interesting wine list with some very nice selections available by the glass.
anchor dominates a little patch of lawn at
the entrance to the Shipwreck Grill in
Brielle. A three-ton artifact from a
terrible collision at sea, it sat on the
bottom of the Atlantic, 10 miles off the
Manasquan Inlet, for more than a century
before salvagers coaxed it to the surface
with giant balloons called lift bags. They
brought it back on a scallop boat and spent
years restoring it to its muscular, rusted
Grill comes by its name honestly: the head
of that salvage team was one of the
restaurant’s owners, William Cleary, 45,
whose profession is law but whose passion is
diving. A display case near the front of the
long, barnlike building holds silverware, a
ceramic pitcher and a bottle of apricot
brandy that he retrieved from the storied
wreck of the Andrea Doria, which went down
off Nantucket in 1956.
In the five
and a half years since the Shipwreck opened,
it has also come by its reputation honestly.
It’s one of those shore places with a
low-end look and a high-end menu, catering
to the sort of diner who can afford a boat
(with a profession-suggestive name like the
Verdict or Hot Commodity) and maybe a
want something more ambitious than fried
flounder, and to deliver it Mr. Cleary
turned to an old schoolmate, Terry
Eleftheriou, who had spent 13 years at
Jamie’s, the pioneering New American in
Englewood Cliffs. Mr. Eleftheriou, 48,
concentrates on the fresh and seasonal, with
an apt emphasis on seafood. He has an
envelope-pushing way with ingredients like
avruga caviar (from Spanish herring), crème
fraîche and fig-shallot demi-glace.
envelope gets pushed right over the edge. A
special appetizer one recent evening (at
$22, mighty special) mated two giant seared
scallops with foie gras. That idea is at
least debatable — you either appreciate the
main ingredients’ opulence and textural
similarities or you don’t — but the dish
badly needed something other than creamy
goat cheese and dessert-sweet
vanilla-poached pears to keep its richness
On the other
hand, avruga caviar was a nifty addition to
another appetizer, tuna tartare, which was
layered with chopped avocado in a sort of
free-standing parfait. Lobster bisque was
suffused with flavor and adorned with
generous chunks of lobster meat, along with
a pretty and piquant drizzling of chive oil.
An old shore standby, broiled clams with
chopped bacon, got a patina of refinement
from truffle butter and bits of lobster.
tuna sushi tempura and blackened shrimp
quesadilla were familiar and merely
pleasant, and cornmeal-crusted calamari were
chewy and lacking in flavor. My favorite
starter was the simplest: five types of raw
oysters, including plump, juicy Malpeques
and Raspberry Points from Prince Edward
Island and briny Beaver Tails from Rhode
Grill is a big place, and its entree menu is
long, with 13 carefully composed “Shipwreck
favorites,” half a dozen simple “shore
favorites” like scampi and lemon sole, and
separate sections for grilled meat and
lobster, not to mention at least two daily
specials. They were consistent across the
board. Six jumbo scampi-style shrimp,
ordered without garlic by a companion with a
wary palate, still had ample character. A
generous slab of sautéed grouper was
enlivened by a pistachio crust, creamy
horseradish sauce and a compote of roasted
beet and fennel.
Tuna sautéedin a crust of black and white sesame
seeds came with ginger-sesame vinaigrette
and an unexpected helping of braised red
cabbage. A salmon special was sautéed with a
delicious coating of grainy mustard and an
accompaniment of juicy, slightly bitter
fiddlehead ferns and puréed parsnips. On the
red-meat side, duck and rack of lamb offered
no surprises: both were of top quality,
accurately seared and finished in the oven.
half-dozen or so lavish desserts, first
place went to the chocolate cake, with its
witty peanut-butter-and-jelly-like infusions
of peanut mousse and raspberry liqueur. The
night we ordered it, we happened to be out
on the restaurant’s 30-seat deck. A gentle
salt breeze drifted from the marina, where
boats bobbed against a darkening sky. It had
been a pricey evening, but a satisfying one.
720 Ashley Avenue
THE SPACE A
cavernous place with 78 seats, 28 more at
the bar and 30 more on a deck. Accessible to
Prosperous, if casually dressed.
Competent and businesslike.
THE BAR Large,
lively and loud. The wine list is adequate,
but hardly bargain-priced.
THE BILL Entrees,
$19 to $36. All major credit cards.
WHAT WE LIKE Tuna
tartare, lobster bisque, broiled clams, raw
oysters; shrimp scampi, grouper, halibut,
sesame-crusted tuna, Chatham cod, salmon,
rack of lamb, duck; chocolate cake.
IF YOU GO Dinner:
Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and
Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m.
Reservations recommended; ample parking.