My wife and I went to Vivas in Belmar Plaza last night for just the second time since it opened. Not sure why the long wait between visits, but I guess we weren’t that wowed the first time. Not so this time.
Everything about the place is very visually appealing, from the décor to the food; including the bottles of garlic infused oil on every table in tall slender bottles with long slivers of red and yellow peppers and cilantro. The bread was crusty and very good and while they will gladly bring you butter (another table asked), even my wife (who almost never eats bread without butter) was happy with the oil. (and yes, it is just as wonderful as what the chef used to serve at Bistro Ole, only prettier)
They have a very large menu to start with but added to that with a long list of Tapas and Entrée specials. We started with the crab cake and the seared scallops over mashed sweet potatoes. My wife (who grew up in Baltimore and ate crab when it was peasant food) really liked the crabcake. Served over a bed of baby spinach in a vinegarette with a but of mustard sauce on top. The scallops were nicely cooked and served over a sweet potato mash. Not my favorite rendition of scallops, but enjoyable none the less.
For mains, my wife went with the braised short rib special and I had the halibut with a thin potato crust. The presentation of both dishes (and really everything) is very nice if a bit superfluous. Both the ribs and the halibut were topped off with a long slender piece of beautiful garlic/herb toast and a thin curvy slice of fried plantain that were completely inedible, but added a great visual note (we just pushed them aside and focused on the actual entrée).
The ribs were moist and tender and served in a flavorful braising sauce with a side of the mashed sweet potatoes. Very nice dish. The halibut was plated over sautéed spinach and black bean and roasted red pepper sauces, each sauce occupying it’s own half of the plate and coming together in a nice ogee design. The fish was very nicely cooked; moist and flavorful. Another winner.
We normally split a single dessert, but decided to splurge and order two. She had the dark and white chocolate mousse and I had the empanada with mango and manchego cheese. Once again the presentations were quite impressive (somebody in the kitchen is keeping an eye on things). The empanadas were a bit too sweet for my taste (but it was, after all, a dessert), and the mousse was very, very good (ok, it was amazing – don’t pass it up).
They have a long list of after dinner coffees and espressos, which we passed on this time but would probably try on a weekend night (I happen to like places that aren’t too cheap to invest in a nice espresso machine).
The service was very prompt and attentive without being obnoxious and everyone seems to really care about what they were doing. Prices are very reasonable for a BYO – two tapas, two entrees and two desserts came to $100 with tax. Only the halibut at $30 was a bit pricey.
Obviously we really enjoyed the whole experience and will be returning often.