M J’s Raw Bar, a restaurant review

Model of a sailing ship near the front entrance.

For a small city there are a lot of very good restaurants in New Bern, North Carolina.  We had spent some time browsing in the shops, but they were closing for the day and we realized we were getting hungry.  Deciding where to have dinner was a tough decision, because of the numerous choices, and because we had heard good things about so many of them.  In the end the decision was practically made for us because we found on-street parking less than a block from M.J’s Raw Bar.  Rain was on the way so it was a quick dash from the car to the door and we were inside.

The interior is rather small, with the dining space longer than it is wide,  The ambience is cozy and the service is friendly.  Tables occupy the front near a large window that looks out on the street, while the rear portion consists of booths.  Decor is decidedly nautical and “fishy”.   Along one side the backs of  the booths are each topped with a metal fish.

Metal fish sculptures decorate the backs of booths along the right side.

Along the other side each separation is topped with a sailing schooner.  The walls are lined with framed pictures of sailing ships.

Models of sailing schooners decorate the backs of booths on the left side.

We were seated near the front at a table for four where we could look out at the street scene.  Our waitress, a southern gal, was very friendly  and described the day’s specials that were in addition to the regular menu offerings.

A cup of lobster bisque.

The soup special was Lobster Bisque.  This sounded especially good, so three of us ordered it as a starter.  It was rich and flavorful, with lots of small pieces of lobster floating in the creamy broth that had just a hint of sherry in it.   A cup size serving was ample as a first course, but my husband had the bowl size because he likes a lot of a good thing.

A bowl of lobster bisque.

The fourth person in our party ordered the crab chowder.  Of all the items we ordered this was least appealing because it was so heavily spiced.  While the flavor was good, the “heat” and spice was too much to be enjoyable.  Spicy chowders seem to be popular in this area, so it is probably an acquired taste.

Amongst four of us we ordered three different entrees as two of us had the same thing, and that was the Crabby Patty Melt with Fries and Jamaican Tartar Sauce..  This consisted of two toasted English Muffin halves with a scoop of crab salad and a covering of melted cheese on each one.  Served along side were the fries and a small cup of somewhat spicy tartar sauce.  We both enjoyed this very much and found the serving size to be plentiful.

Crabby Patty Melt with Fries and Jamaican Tartar Sauce

Another member of our party had the Soft Shell Blue Crab Sandwich with coleslaw.  The crab was breaded and crispy on a bun with lettuce and tomato, and tartar sauce.  She was pleased with this entree and said the crab was tender and flavorful. My husband ordered the house salad which consisted of green leaf lettuce, sliced strawberries, pecans and feta cheese.  It was beautiful to see and delicious to eat.     This was followed by Pan Seared Scallops in Pomodoro Sauce over Angel Hair pasta.  The serving size of this dish was large, with a generous number of scallops that were sweet and tender.  The tomato sauce was thin and nicely seasoned, a good compliment to the fine angel hair pasta.  He liked his dinner very much, but finishing it was difficult—could it be because he already had a bowl of lobster bisque and a salad?

Pan Seared Scallops with Pomodoro Sauce over Angel Hair Pasta

We did not order desserts because we couldn’t eat another bite, but there were several desserts available, all very tempting.

Our impressions of this restaurant:  the food was moderately priced, very tasty, with ample portions.  Service was prompt and friendly. If I lived in this area, it is a place I would go to for a casual lunch or dinner.  Another really great perk:  street-side parking is FREE.  No meters to put change into, and no time limits.   I would definitely recommend M.J’s Raw Bar to anyone visiting New Bern, N.C. or living in the vicinity.


A Taste of Tuscany

Although our extended family got together to celebrate Father’s Day, I wanted to treat my husband to a special meal, one which I did not have a hand in preparing. So I presented him with a list of three restaurants from which to choose.  I had heard or read good reviews of all of them, so I was pretty sure we would enjoy our meal at any one of them.  The one he chose probably would not have been MY first choice,  but now I’m so very glad it was his first choice, because it was delightful in every way.

Called Brio Tuscan Grille, it is located at the Mall.  (See why it was not my first choice?)  On a busy Sunday afternoon, when there were families out and about at the Mall, cars and traffic nearby,  this little place was an oasis of calm and quiet tucked to one side away from all the hustle and bustle.  We were seated outside at an umbrella shaded table, on a patio/courtyard, and there we relaxed, sipped a glass of wine, and leisurely ordered and then enjoyed a wonderful meal.

The menu is extensive, and there were some additional chef’s specials for Father’s Day.   Also, every Sunday a pre-fixe menu of four different offerings is presented.   This is what got our attention, because for 19.99 a three course meal was available that included a soup or Caesar salad, the main entree and dessert.  Our waiter, a friendly and well informed young man,  was very familiar with the menu and able to answer questions, and make suggestions.  As soon as we placed our orders, he brought us a basket of wonderful crunchy bread, and our first course(s) arrived soon afterward.

My husband’s first course was Lobster Bisque, and mine was the Caesar salad.  We were both very satisfied with our choices.  His soup was served in a small tureen, a beautiful golden color with bits of lobster floating in the rich cream broth.  My salad was cold and crisp romaine lettuce and crunchy croutons with a well balanced dressing and topped with shaved Parmesan cheese.  Even though I brought my camera with me with the intention of taking pictures and writing about this outing,  I completely forgot to start at the beginning and get photos of the appetizers.  I must have been really hungry!

Mr. D’s entree was called Chicken Limon.  It consisted of two large chicken  breast fillets, dipped in an egg batter, then pan cooked in a lemon sauce with capers.  It was served with a mixture of grilled vegetables, and spaghetini, a fine pasta similar to angel hair.  It was attractively plated and garnished with sliced lemons.  The quantity was such that he was not able to finish all of it, and brought some home for enjoying at a later time.

My entree was called Shrimp Verduta.  It was served in a large, shallow dish, and consisted of a mixture of large shrimp, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and caramelized onions over a bed of angel hair pasta.  This was absolutely delicious.  The smell and taste of garlic was there, but not overpowering, and the blend of flavors seemed perfect to me.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but could not eat all of it, so I too brought a portion home.

We were very happy to have saved room for the desserts.  Our waiter brought to our table a sample display of six different desserts from which to choose.  They were all served in small glasses–not a large serving–but just enough to satisfy after a large meal.  Mr.D. chose the chocolate cake with caramel sauce and cream topping, (below, right); and mine was hazelnut pudding topped with sliced almonds,  whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  Oh, my!  it tasted like Nutella, and I was in heaven.  This is what they looked  like before we devoured them!

            Would we go back here again?   Absolutely!