Fire & Oak Restaurant / Westin Newport
485 Washington Boulevard, Jersey City NJ 07310
Web Site: http://www.southcitygrill.com
South City Restaurant Group’s latest, Fire & Oak restaurant at the brand-new Jersey City Westin Newport.
Rachel and I were recently invited to dine at a press luncheon for Fire & Oak restaurant, a brand new casual dining restaurant attached to the recently opened Westin Newport hotel in Jersey City, which is conveniently located near the Jersey City PATH and only a block and a half away from the Port Imperial Ferry to Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.
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Fire & Oak at the Westin Newport is part of the South City Restaurant Group, which operates three South City Grill restaurants in Northern New Jersey, as well as two other Fire & Oak locations, in Little Falls and Montvale.
I had never eaten at any of South City’s restaurants before, but I had experienced watching two of the organization’s chefs cook competitively against my friend Christine Nunn at the Ultimate Chef Bergen County events at Chef Central in Paramus. Back in January of this year, Chef Carmine Spinazzola plated some gorgeous-looking seafood Asian-Fusion dishes for the Lemongrass-themed elimination round. So when I heard he would be running the kitchen at Fire & Oak Newport, I was eager to see what he could do.
The bar area of Fire & Oak at the Westin Newport.
Single diners at the hotel need not worry about the awkwardness of having to sit at a table by themselves, the bar area is great for eating and socializing with other guests. South City also has a great wine list and beverage program.
Fire & Oak’s Lunch and Dinner menus are remarkably affordable and creative considering that it is a hotel restaurant in an urban setting. The casual dining atmosphere combined with the large array of upscale comfort food items on the menu makes it a great Jersey City dining choice for business lunches and dinners.
Chef Carmine Spinazzola
Fire & Oak’s main dining room is spacious with a warm, earthtone woody decor.
While Fire & Oak is primarily American/Mediterranean themed comfort/bistro cuisine, the restaurant has a few sushi items. These are spicy tuna rolls in a dinner-sized portion. Considering that sushi and Asian food is not the restaurant’s primary focus I thought these were surprisingly good.
Fried Oysters Appetizer, made with Pacific Oysters. These didn’t have the characteristc brinyness or funkyness you get from East Coast or Gulf oysters but I enjoyed them.
Macaroni and Cheese, served in a Staub cast iron casserole. I really liked this and kept grabbing for more. Could have easily eaten the whole thing by myself.
This roasted vegetable flatbread was a big hit at the table. Really nice seasoning and caramelization on the roasted vegetables on a thin crispy crust.
As was this beet and fresh tomato salad with feta cheese.
Fire & Oak serves excellent French Fries with their sandwiches and entrees, but you can also get Parmesan and Truffle Oil French Fries as an appetizer. I’m somewhat conflicted about the use of Truffle Oil in dishes as typically the ingredient is synthetic and if used with a heavy hand tends to overpower dishes with its aroma which really don’t need it. Rachel in particular really dislikes the ingredient, although I think that Fire & Oak does a good job of using it lightly, and they are using a much higher quality infused truffle olive oil rather than one of the synthetically manufactured ones.
Rotisserie Chicken with Pan Juices, one of their signature entrees. The piece of chicken breast which I tasted was nice and moist, cooked properly and seasoned well, although the skin was not as crispy as I would like.
Steak Salad ordered by one of the other guests. Steak prepared perfectly, nice and juicy.
Rachel ordered the crabcakes which are an excellent value. These are 90 percent lump crab with very little filling at all, there’s just enough egg and breadcrumbs here to use as a binding agent.
I ordered the “Best BLT”, which is inspired by the BLT sandwich featured in the Adam Sandler comedy “Spanglish” in which Chef Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry and NYC’s Per Se) instructs Sandler’s character on how to make his favorite sandwich. Like in the movie, this BLT features a runny fried egg, crispy bacon, young lettuce and melted cheese over buttered toasted thick bread. My only complaint is at the end of June, the beefsteak tomato served in this sandwich still had a fairly white core. I admit to being something of a BLT snob when it comes to tomatoes and told Chef Carmine that maybe that until our beautiful Jersey tomatoes become available in the late summer, they might want to consider using slices of a smaller Roma-type tomato or an imported vine-ripened Holland or Israeli tomato rather than am unripe domestic beefsteak. When a Tomato is a prime featured ingredient in a dish, especially for BLTs it really has to be a good ripe one, regardless of what size tomato or type you use.
All of Fire & Oak’s desserts are big enough to share, but this Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pie was so rich it beckoned for five spoons.
Fire & Oak’s Key Lime Pie is made with real Key Lime Juice and one of the better ones I’ve had in New Jersey. It doesn’t have any Key Lime zest in it but it makes up for it with plenty of Key Lime tang.
The house baked Apple Pie a la mode was my favorite of the desserts. What can I say, I’m a traditionalist.