FOOD New American
with a Southern accent
SERVICE Informed and
DRINKS Excellent beer
and cocktail lists; small
but smart wine list,
Madeiras a highlight
salads, $7-$12; sides,
$4-$6; entrées, $20-
$38; desserts, $8
OPEN Dinner, Thurs-day-Tuesday; brunch,
F601 Mattison Avenue,
to make a biscuit from a can.” From that
stemmed a lifelong love affair with baking.
At the restaurant Modine, one look
at the two hot, tawny biscuits that come
with the whole smoked fried chicken gave
me greedy eyes. But then, so did the chestnut brown chicken stacked in pieces, the
heap of straw-colored discs on top (barely
battered, deep-fried pickles, it turned out)
and the carafe of honey (maroon from
steeping in chili peppers and spices).
Each component was commendable.
Together, they were a blast. For sides, we
chose collards—the most engaging I’ve
come across, cooked with ham hocks,
coconut milk and Ethiopian spices—and
equally distinctive bacon potato salad,
slivers of pickled red onion giving it a lift
and a barely detectable blush. Faced with
this feast, I restrained myself—but only
relative to a hawk dive-bombing its dinner.
A passing grade in fried chicken and
biscuits is essential for a Southern eatery,
and Modine flat-out aced it. The kitchen
(Davin and Meerpohl are the chefs) also
aced other essentials, such as skillet
cornbread made with heirloom cornmeal
from South Carolina, house-made andou-ille sausage with mashed potatoes and
gravy, and Low Country shrimp and grits.
Through Local 130, the Asbury Park-based seafood company, Davin buys
“literally a boatload at a time” of wild
Florida or Georgia shrimp, never chemically treated. They are large and served
head on in a rich shrimp-reduction
sauce over wonderfully nubbly grits.
The shrimp are tender and delicious,
but suck all the juicy goodness out of the
heads and you hit the flavor jackpot.
Modine changed my mind about oysters. I love them, but just one way: raw
on the half shell, shunning lemon and
anything else that would blot out their
delicate, natural liquor. Now that I’ve had
Davin’s Barnegats, broiled on the half
shell in chipotle-bourbon butter, I’m an
apostate, and an avaricious one at that.
Of several dishes that might have
gotten away with being just passable,
only deviled eggs were. We had two of the
three salads. What I didn’t see coming
in the Little Wedge, with its crisp bacon
and smoked blue-cheese dressing, was
broad leaves of curly green lollo—hy-
droponically grown in Jersey—instead
of the usual iceberg (but that’s how it is
with icebergs). The Monticello involved
frisée, delicious smoked trout, pecans and a creamy sesame
dressing. Why “Monticello”? Thomas Jefferson grew sesame
The menu is not slavishly Southern. A perfectly seared
Arctic char entrée was as pleasing to the eye as to the palate,
with triangles of pickled radish around the fillet, which rested
on a smear of crème fraîche under a roof of deeply caramelized
carrots. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a Southern restaurant
to make a ravishing shiitake mushroom soup, but Modine does.
Heaps of minced shiitakes are reduced in chicken stock, thickened with roux, rocked with robust spices, smoothed with a bit
WARMER CLIMES Opposite: the sun-splashed, big-boothed dining room. This page, clockwise from
above: shrimp and grits; the three partners, manager Andrew Rasizer (in hat), chef Chris Davin and his
wife, chef/baker Jill Meerpohl; drizzling chili-steeped honey over fried smoked chicken and biscuits.