I feel cosmically compelled to plug this restaurant. It's called Bistro San Miguel and it's off 35 in Red Bank/Middletown (on the northbound side between the bridge and Whole Foods). I went there a couple 3 weeks ago (returning 2 times since) and had a great experience. The owner and her daughter are two of the most gracious people you'll meet. My friends and I sat down and told her that we wanted an authentic meal. She asked us what we couldn't/wouldn't eat (nothing), and then proceeded to make us a delicious 4 course meal (Cow's Foot Stew, Fried Milkfish with vinegar, Stir Fried Vermicelli Noodles, and some okra and pork dish). At the end, she gave us all a half mango and asked for 10 dollars per person, for a meal that would have probably rounded out to 15 at any other place (four dishes for 3 people).
Turns out she's rated in Zagat's but had no idea what that was. We called them and got them to send her the sticker. Also, she got a great write up in the Asbury Park Press that was copied here:
No, I don't work for the restaurant and I don't normally do this, but 2 out of the 3 times I went in there to eat, my party was the only one in the place. Central Jersey isn't the best place for adventurous eating. Check it out for yourself if you're feeling up for it. My only caveat is to get your bill from either the owner or her daughter, because some other schlub tried to charge us a 5 dollar a head cover charge one night, which I would normally be okay with, since there was a band playing, but it was sprung on us when the bill came. Spoke to the owner and got it taken off. Like I said, nicest people in the world.
Bistro San Miguel
273 Highway 35 North
Middletown NJ 07701