Unique combinations
Popular Brass Rail restaurant offers both upscale and casual food
by Caren Matzner
Reporter Editor
Jun 27, 2010 | 3544 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Executive Chef Douglas Gough likes to combine the sweet with the spicy, the tangy with the mild, and create unique dishes at the popular Brass Rail restaurant on lower Washington Street.

Young Bayonne native Joseph San Philip, who worked in restaurants for all of his adult life, bought the popular eatery with a number of investors several years ago. Its upstairs is a place to bring relatives or a date for an upscale meal, while the downstairs is popular for its bar menu and can open up for outdoor dining on hot days.
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The sweet taste of honey tempered the spicy pepper.
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The historic spot, which has been around for nearly 100 years, gets enough of a clientele that they don’t really need to tout their menu. In fact, on our recent stop on a Friday at 6:15 the downstairs was already filling with patrons, and a private party was bustling upstairs. But since the restaurant has been around for so long, some might not realize what is new – and delicious.

What we ate

From the appetizers on the menu (soups, calamari, salads, mussels), we tried the most popular: Gough’s lobster macaroni and cheese, as well as the Wagyu beef Shabu-Shabu (Kobe-like beef that we cooked in a broth). Both were delicious, well-presented, and did a good job of “entertaining” our palate, as Gough pledged. There were plenty of small lobster chunks in the mac and cheese, and I enjoyed its delicately crisp top and the creaminess underneath. There was also a hint of a sweet flavor to it.

As far as appetizers, the cheese plate is also popular, and we spotted it on a neighboring table, full of interesting accoutrements like honey walnuts, fruit, and brioche toast.

Appetizers run from $6 to $16.

Entrees

Entrees on the menu range from shrimp and sage ravioli ($19) to grilled filet mignon (with mushroom ragout and Yukon whipped potatoes, $32).

We tried three of the most popular: jalapeno and honey marinated chicken breast, ginger steamed salmon, and mustard glazed scallops.

The chicken is an example of Gough’s combinations –joining one of the most spicy ingredients around with one of the sweetest. Even some of the cocktails on the menu use jalapeno or honey. And it worked!

The chicken dish came with a stuffed pepper and a long chorizo sausage on the side – definitely enough variety and food to keep you full and happy. It’s like three meals in one. I enjoyed the sweetness of the chicken, and the way I could push the giant pepper and its fillings over to temper the flavor. The sausage was another treat. I saw the couple next to us ordering the same thing.

My husband, who eats a lot of salmon and knows the good from the bad, loved the salmon dish.

We split the mustard-glazed scallops, which were excellently presented with cauliflower puree, ham batons, and snow peas. It’s lucky we were not able to engage in a duel for them.

Dessert

Oh, those desserts! The chocolate mousse is popular and you get a good portion in a glass. We were also interested in trying the “pound cake French toast,” the banana crème brulee, and the fried apple pie. Other options range from fresh fruit to warm chocolate cake.

The pound cake French toast was unbelievable, and worth going back for alone. It had the taste of sweet French toast combined with the softness of pound cake.

The crème brulee was a larger portion than at most restaurants and was also delicious. Both desserts were so amazing that they made the apple pie, which was more of a tart in a pastry covering, seem a bit ordinary. I’d go for one of the more unusual desserts.

Drinks, bar menu, raw bar, brunch

Just like Gough tries unique combinations of food, there are plenty of sweet and sour cocktails on the menu, as well as a complete wine list and a roster of bottled beer. Happy hour specials are very popular.

The bar menu contains more casual food items for consumption, like a spicy ham and cheese pizza, a guacamole tasting, and burgers. Of course, there are some unusual items too, like a beer-battered cod sandwich and beef tartar with sour dough toast points.

The Brass Rail offers a prix fixe brunch on weekends. Edibles include banana mascarpone French toast, unique omelettes, burgers, steak and eggs, and quiche.

The restaurant also has a raw bar that includes oysters and a chilled seafood platter.

For more information and to look at the menus, click on www.brassrailnj.com. The restaurant is located at 135 Washington St.

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