Dining out with readers is something we wanted to try and the newly-opened Fin in Montclair was gracious enough to invite us. When the power went out, we decided to invite readers who were affected, thanks to Fin owner Gerry Cerrigone who generously hosted our group. We had one no-show, but readers and partners Brian Dickerson and Javier Mora were able to join the barista chicks which included the also-power challenged Holly Korus (who snapped all the photos). We had a blast slurping oysters, sharing lobster sliders and talking food. We hope to plan another dine out with Baristanet readers soon (tell us where we should go…) Dickerson and Mora sent us their own “review” of their night at Fin:
Like maritime travel, seafood dining can be daunting. Lucky for us, we had the fortune of having some of Baristaville’s finest guides at the helm. The staff of Baristanet coordinating this amazing opportunity provided us with the perfect antidote to the sea of darkness we most unfortunately plunged into last week as a result of the power outage. [Dickerson and Mora got power back at 6 p.m. on November 4].
The physical characteristics the name Fin connotes sets the stage for what’s ahead. In the world of aquatic physiology, the fin is a unique structure defined by an even more unique texture. Texture is also a main theme at Fin, the restaurant. From the street the establishment stands out like an underwater gem – setting the stage for sensory fulfillment. Whether feeling rich woods creak beneath your feet traversing the dock-like entrance, admiring the delicate, rustic aesthetic of burlap netting that makes up the lighting fixtures or the pearly iridescence of tiles that line the main wall against the open kitchen, texture is a unforgettable tie that holds the experience together and sets Fin apart.
Luckily for diners, this focus extends to the palate.
Shangai-Style Lobster and Shrimp, a curry-based stew, is served perched atop a nest of matchstick-thin potatoes and “crispy spinach”, cooked so craftily I was left scratching my head wondering exactly how it was done.
The kitchen also executes flawless simplicity, as evidenced in the special of the evening, a whole-grilled Orata (a Mediterranean fish meaning golden in Italian). Fittingly, stumbling upon this special was about as exciting as encountering a treasure-laden Spanish galleon. Skillfully filleted tableside, our specimen accomplished the task of having a rich meatiness inside and maintaining an outward flesh that gives perfectly with every bite. This is a trick only brought about by using the highest-quality cooking techniques and materials, the vehicle for Fin’s success.
Needless to say, the raw bar selections were incredibly fresh and easy to palate, even for Javier (who is squeamish).
Sitting at the restaurant’s dining bar before dinner, we had the opportunity to watch desserts being painfully constructed, with the [dessert chef] dedicating nearly five minutes to getting the dish perfect. Our meal was capped off with an extraordinary trio of desserts. Again, texture comes into heavy play here. Ribbons of chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse and creamy peanut butter supported a layered chocolate cake. A dome of bright passion fruit custard came atop a pillow of cake as light as air. Perfectly spiced pumpkin cheesecake was flanked by a potpourri of poached fall fruit that made this often-too-heavy dish a pleasure to cap off the evening.
In the kingdom of Montclair dining, competition is tight. Fin, if not taking the throne’s top spot, definitely makes its case as member of the royal family. Gerry Cerrigone and his staff strike the perfect balance of effortless service that returns the favor. Dining at Fin was evocative, easy and – most importantly – interesting.
— Brian Dickerson and Javier Mora