PLANTATION RESTAURANT AND BAR
HARVEY CEDARS
June,05

As we're escorted to our table by a blazing fireplace at Plantation Restaurant and Bar, we have the sensation of being transported from Long Beach Island to a well-appointed home in Charleston, South Carolina. The dark wicker chairs, louvered shutters, prints of palms and pineapples, beautiful lanterns and sconces all create an ambience of sophisticated yet informal charm.

Executive chef Jeff Alberti spent his formative cooking years in dozens of top kitchens, from the Coonamessett Inn in Cape Cod to the Princess Resort in Scottsdale with stints on a Caribbean yacht and in Brazil. He brings the broad range of his palate to the menu, emphasizing the fresh and simple and altering dishes seasonally. The service and food follow suit, with attentive khaki-clad waiters and adventurous dishes that represent the diverse flavors of America.

For starters, we love the gentle blending of flavors in the ahi tuna sashimi roll—paper-thin slices of Hawaiian tuna rolled around a spicy crabmeat mix, served atop a fresh avocado salad with a touch of lime and a drizzle of soy. The sea scallops, caught locally, are also terrific, blackened and served with a creamy mélange of proscuitto and root vegetables, which Alberti replaces with a summery mix once he gets his hands on fresh New Jersey tomatoes. Don't miss Plantation's thick and rich clam chowder, which Alberti perfected on the Cape and which won an award at the 2004 Long Beach Island Chowder Fest, or his French onion soup, a refreshingly original version made by baking caramelized Vidalia onions with stock and fresh thyme, then puréeing it to a smooth and velvety finish.

The wasabi-crusted sea bass is the standout entrée on the menu, miso-marinated, seared, then baked until crisp and served with an orange-ginger sauce that balances the miso's saltiness. The blackened tilapia, with its zippy mango-and-papaya chutney, also strikes a pleasant note. The center-cut filet mignon, paired with an interesting potato-and-goat-cheese croquette and buttery collard greens that meet the approval of one guest who hails from Georgia, is especially tender. The one disappointment is the crab-cake sandwich, utterly forgettable and unworthy of the remoulade served with it.

As is often the case, the best desserts are made in-house. Skip the imported sorbets in favor of the deliciously tart and rich homemade Key lime pie.

—M. F.

7908 Long Beach Boulevard, Harvey Cedars (609-494-8191). Open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 9:30 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. Wheelchair access easy. American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa.