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New Jersey Restaurant Review

Waters Edge
Restaurant Now Closed
Beach Drive & Pittsburgh Avenue
Cape May, Cape May County, New Jersey
(609) 884-1717

By The Artful Diner
5/24/99

The exterior of Waters Edge has often been described as "a sunken Denny's." Which just goes to prove, once again, that you can't judge a book (or a restaurant) by its cover. The interior is California casual, bright and breezy, boasting works of modern art and large plate-glass windows overlooking the Atlantic. The main attraction here, however, is Neil Elsohn's incredibly flavorful fusion cuisine. Chef Elsohn is an absolute genius at creating incomparable culinary marriages of the most intriguing combinations of tastes and textures--and all of his unions appear to have been made in heaven. This is truly grownup fare, so do prepare yourself for an immensely satisfying dining experience.

The attractive bar, to your left as you enter, provides the ideal venue for an intimate cocktail before dinner. Or, should you prefer a more tranquil setting than the bustling dining room in which to enjoy your meal, this area usually provides the coziest seats in the house. Snag one of the comfortable booths and hope that no one lights up.

Wherever you finally settle in, you will be confronted with a bill of fare that is a veritable lexicon of culinary exotica. Appetizers and entrees are described in complete detail, in some cases the list of ingredients stretching on for several lines. But should you be thinking that this is just another overzealous exercise in semantic (and gastronomic) futility, trust me, you would be very much mistaken. Many chefs have attempted these highly stylized and creative infusions--often at their peril--Mr. Elsohn is one of the few who has succeeded.

Want to see what goodies the chef has in store? Have a go at "Glenn's Italian Hoagie" ($10.50). Yummy rosemary-garlic focaccia is filled with Prosciutto Di Parma, smoked mozzarella, roasted peppers and dried tomatoes, then dressed in garlic aioli and black pepper extra virgin olive oil. Definitely for those with hearty appetites. Then, of course, there's always the delicious barbecued duck, chorizo and goat cheese quesadilla ($9.00) garnished with roasted corn/black bean salsa and lime creme fraiche. You might also consider the luscious salmon tartare with sesame oil, smoked habenero powder, scallions, capers and chopped eggs ($8.50) or the seared Hudson Valley foie gras with merlot-plumped dried cherries ($14.00). A more traditional starter, yet one with a decidedly innovative twist, is the wonderful chilled shrimp cocktail ($12.50) accompanied by an enticing Thai barbecue sauce and sesame slaw.

If you prefer soup or salad as a prelude, you will find these items equally as inventive as the appetizers. Mr. Elsohn prides himself on serving up the most expensive bowl of soup in Cape May--and it is worth it. Depending upon his predilections on a given evening, you may be treated to a chunky gumbo replete with lump crabmeat, andouille sausage and a grilled langoustino ($9.75) or, perhaps, a beguiling Thai ginger and red chili soup crowned with a tempura shrimp ($8.25). His salads are made for one or two persons and vary with the freshest of greenery available. A savory warm escarole salad with hot garlic dressing ($4.75/$8.00) is extremely popular here. And, when it is in season, be sure to sample the Jersey spinach ($7.50/$12.00). It is adorned with tasty crawfish, charred peppers, roasted tomatoes and drizzled with a Creole mustard vinaigrette.

Entrees are something of an enigma, albeit a downright delicious one. Despite the fact that Waters Edge is located just a stone's throw (quite literally) from the Atlantic--and that Mr. Elsohn's seafood offerings border upon the sublime--beef is a bigger seller here. Aged rib-eye steak ($24.00) is the cut of preference; it is studded with cracked peppercorns, quickly seared, and then presented with roasted onion gravy and the establishment's legendary mashed potatoes. The grilled filet mignon ($28.00) is another popular choice. On one occasion, it may be adorned with roasted tomato butter sauce and a horseradish polenta cake; on another, it arrives at table wrapped in smoked bacon accompanied by a luscious roasted tomato filled with Gorgonzola & herbs, a grilled portobello mushroom, and enhanced with just a touch of horseradish bearnaise.

While carnivores may be smacking their lips, lovers of finny fare, as noted above, will surely not be disappointed. A beautifully sauteed red snapper ($31.00) is topped with succulent chunks of crab, oyster mushrooms & leeks, then finished with a heady lemon/thyme buerre blanc sauce. The roasted rainbow trout ($23.00) is equally appealing. This freshwater species is filled with smoked salmon and asparagus, crowned with toasted pecans and lime butter, and escorted to table by a savory lentil pilaf. If you prefer tuna ($26.00), Mr. Elsohn's version will have your taste buds standing at attention. The filet is rubbed with a roasted garlic/chili paste, then grilled and embellished with blackened tomatillo salsa, lime creme fraiche and a crisp noodle cake.

And vegetarians need not feel the least bit slighted, as the chef always incorporates several exceptional offerings into his nightly changing menu. You will find the medley of grilled, roasted, steamed and sauteed vegetables with various accoutrements ($21.00) the height of savory simplicity. A bit more elaborate--but equally delicious--is the Oriental veggie stir-fry ($21.00), incorporating tofu, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, scallions and soba noodles in an intoxicating ginger/chili broth.

If you're a wine lover, you'll enjoy the carefully chosen selection representing some of California's premium small producers. Prices are a tad elevated, but there are still some very nice bargains to be had. The Silverado Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent choice at $22.00 per bottle or $6.00 per glass. The Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc ($21.00) is also highly recommended. In the red wine department, be sure to try the St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.00/$6.50) or the Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel ($22.00/$6.00).

For dessert ($6.25), the tangy lemon tart with strawberry coulis would provide the perfect finishing touch to your meal; ditto the homey apple tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Or, should you be in the mood for something a bit less cloying, be sure to try the Hudson Valley cheese sampler with strawberries, apples, and port-plumped dried cherries. Those who really want to splurge may decide to tie into one of the incredible "Dessert Martinis" ($7.00); the rest of us, however, will be content to wash things down with a potent cup of espresso ($2.25).

All things being equal, and depending upon your choice of liquid libations, you should probably plan to part with $125.00 - $150.00 per couple (including tax and tip). An expensive evening, to be sure, but I guarantee that neither your palate nor your pocketbook will feel shortchanged. A trip to this lovely resort community would simply not be complete without a visit to Waters Edge.

Cuisine: American/Fusion
Hours: Summer: Cocktails from 4:40 p.m.; Dinner, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. daily; Spring & Fall: Closed Monday & Tuesday; Winter: Call for hours
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Smoking is permitted in the bar area only
Reservations: Essential
Parking: Ample street parking
Alcohol: License
Price: Expensive
Handicapped Accessible: Yes

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