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New Jersey Restaurant Review

Dennis Foy's
816 Arnold Avenue
Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean County, New Jersey
(732) 295-0466

By The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com

(2011: This location closed. See Dennis Foy's new retaurant in Lawrenceville, New Jersey)

Dennis Foy is as indefatigable as he is gifted. A restless and creative culinary spirit, Mr. Foy's enterprises have ranged as far afield as the Garden State's critically acclaimed Tarragon Tree and Townsquare and NYC's equally lauded Mondrian and EC. His current ventures include Bay Point Prime in Point Pleasant (in partnership with its executive chef, Kevin Pomplun) and its elder sibling -- the subject of this review -- the eponymous Dennis Foy's in Point Pleasant Beach.

Domiciled in a small strip of storefronts, the restaurant's interior may strike some as quirky and spartan. Be that as it may, after several visits, the décor begins to grow on you. As Frank Lloyd Wright once remarked: "Every great architect is -- necessarily -- a great poet." And there is surely a touch of the poet here -- in Mr. Foy's towering sky and seascapes (the chef is as accomplished on canvas as he is in matters gastronomic), the innovative lighting, the clean, unencumbered lines, the drama of an open kitchen.

The setting is minimalist but appealingly artistic. And this is true of other matters as well. The format of the restaurant's business cards, for example -- rustic red and off-white with simple lettering -- is the soul of simplicity... as is the printed bill of fare. Many establishments insist upon revealing the genus/species of each and every ingredient in a taxonomical pomp and circumstance march that may stretch on for lines. In contrast, Mr. Foy's menu descriptions are short, to the point, and tell diners all they need to know without subjecting them to a barrage of excess verbiage: "Seared Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Purée"; "Homemade Tagliatelle, Carbonara"; "Braised Short Ribs, Sweet Potato Purée, Ginger Glazed Carrots"; etc., etc.

But nowhere is this understated approach more discernable than in the character of the cuisine itself. Mr. Foy is a consummate artiste, but his methodology is muted rather than maniacal. His presentations are beautifully crafted but not egregiously ostentatious; they are, above all, profound in their simplicity. "The proof of the pudding," as Cervantes noted, "is in the eating." And that is surely the case here.

Early in the season, Mr. Foy is apt to tempt you with his spring pea soup ($8.00) -- a perfectly seasoned, utterly supernal verdant elixir -- or, during the summer months, an earthy chilled roasted tomato soup tinged with fresh basil ($7.00). But the homemade gnocchi ($12.00) and homemade cheese tortellini ($9.00) also have a great deal to recommend them. The former is sautéed with mushroom slices and hint of sage; the latter, dressed in a sumptuous Parmesan cream sauce. In both instances, the depth of flavor is remarkable.

The tian of crab ($15.00) is also a fabulous opener. The tariff may seem a bit on the steep side, but it is surely worth every last penny. Beautifully sautéed, there's just enough filler to hold the rich, meaty morsels together, just enough cracked black pepper to add a bit of zip, and just the proper amount of chive butter to provide the perfect finishing touch. The warm goat cheese tart ($11.00) is yet another of Mr. Foy's deceptively simple but totally beguiling presentations, as the creaminess of the tart is cleverly counterpoised by a substratum of diced tomatoes and tincture of thyme. Also not to be missed is a special of grilled/chilled asparagus ($12.00). The tender spears are wrapped in melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon and embellished with dabs of orange hollandaise. Superlative in every respect.

Entrées travel the same high road as the appetizers. Architectural razzle-dazzle is conspicuous by its absence; presentations are direct and forthright, engaging the diner's eye and palate in a discreet array of complementary and contrasting culinary constituents. Take the seared sirloin ($26.00), for example, an item served -- and often sullied -- in literally thousands of restaurants. But here the texture is superb, the natural flavor of the beef extraordinarily prominent, the gentle embrace of béarnaise an unmitigated joy. The accompanying fries are marvelously addictive, and the baby greens offer a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the sauce.

And confirmed carnivores will find the roasted Delmonico steak served on a bed of mashed potatoes dotted with green peas (Market Price) equally enticing... ditto the breadcrumb-encrusted rack of lamb. Even chicken, that humble fowl, is totally transporting. Thick luscious slices are incredibly moist and anointed with an amalgam of Cajun spices, which provide plenty of pizzazz for the eye and just enough heat to tantalize the palate.

But pristine piscatorial pleasures also abound. Mr. Foy doesn't suffer from an edifice complex, but he does tend to place his treasures of the deep on a variety of scintillatingly sensual seabeds. Beautiful filets of sautéed Atlantic fluke ($22.00) recline on a piquant pillow of celery root purée, while the sautéed wild king salmon ($22.00) settles comfortably on a divan of perfectly seasoned, not too creamy creamed spinach. On the other hand, if bivalves are more to your liking, be sure to try the seared diver scallops surrounding a sumptuous epicenter of cauliflower purée ($25.00).

Desserts ($7.00) -- including the most exquisite crème brûlée (Tahitian vanilla) it has ever been my pleasure to ingest -- are guaranteed to bring your evening at table to a most delightful denouement. The warm apple tart is exemplary, its flavor and texture tweaked by a smattering of caramelized pecans; the sable tart features a scrumptious crumbly cookie topped with a vertical arrangement of whole oven-roasted strawberries and tiara of fresh whipped cream; and the caramelized banana headlines delicate slices of fruit aligned on a tart shell surrounded by a celestial pool of peach passion fruit curd.

Creative cuisine, professional, unobtrusive service, and artistically infused, pleasant surroundings all combine to make Dennis Foy's an exceptional dining experience. During any season of the year, it is surely worth a journey.

Cuisine: Creative American
Hours: Summer: Tues - Sun, 5:30 - until; CLOSED MONDAY; Off Season: Fri & Sat only, call for specific hours
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant.
Reservations: Recommended
Parking: Onsite/ample street parking
Alcohol: BYOB
Price: Moderate/Expensive
Handicapped Accessible: Yes

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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