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Fin Raw Bar and Kitchen: Montclair, NJ

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It seems to me that Fin is doing a bang-up job.

Two visits have turned me into a fan of this place, much to my delight.  While Fin does have its flaws, overall you can eat pretty well here, and if a loud and energetic room is your thing, have a good time while doing it.

The servers have been quite good.  Perhaps a little too comfortable for some at times, but I'm not one of those people who gets offended when a server introduces him or herself.  Runners and busboys, equally as good, and very efficient and professional.  

Little touches like hot towels for your hands, if you've been eating some shellfish with your fingers, a fresh set of wine glasses if you move on to a different bottle (Fin is BYO), and purse hooks under the tables (I've never seen purse hooks anywhere but on bars), really add up at Fin.  

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people.  chairs.  stuff.

Fin is a great looking spot.  Nautical, and they resisted the urge to have fishing nets with fake fish strewn over the walls, which catapults a restaurant with even the best intentions into some sort of Fast Times at Ridgemont High Captain Hook's Fish and Chips deal. 

 

Instead, you'll be greeted as you walk in with a bunch of real fish on ice.  A nice display, although no one really wants to look at a monkfish for very long.  

Right next to that display is counter seating, which offers a full view of the very open kitchen. I haven't eaten there, but plenty of people seemed to be enjoying themselves, watching the action.  I would think some of this seating can get uncomfortable, however, as it's right at the entrance, where guests tend to congregate, as they wait to be seated.  They won't seat you until your whole party is there.  Oh, and don't try to order oysters while you mull over the menu.  You have to order everything at once. 

But after you get over their silly rules, what really matters is the food, and the good stuff is being delivered at Fin.

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mignonette

They've got a selection of about 6 or so oysters, which is based on availability.  The oysters I've had at Fin have been served at an appropriate (chilled) temp, and most importantly, with the liquor intact.  I've said it before, but it bears repeating:  the oyster liquor is the reason you are eating the damned things. 

<mini-rant>Restaurants with sloppy shuckers or runners who seem to work harder on putting the liquor in the bed of ice than in your mouth should be ashamed.  And ridiculed publicly for this crime against food. </mini-rant> 

The oysters are served with cocktail sauce, which should obviously not be used, lemon, which should probably be used, sparingly, and their version of a mignonette, which is frozen/slushy, which should likely be used, sparingly.  

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crudo

On one visit I ordered the crudo, which is basically Italian sashimi.  Raw fish with olive oil.  Very pretty, very fresh tasting fish, very simple.  Although not all served with olive oil.  IIRC, the scallop was the winner.

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little necks

Steamed little neck clams with white wine/broth/etc., was exactly what it needed to be, and quite good.  You'll be drinking the broth. A fine version of this staple indeed.

The wood charred octopus appetizer was perhaps the most unique octopus I've ever had.  I order octopus whenever I see it on a menu.  On a recent trip to Portugal, I ate octopus several times a day for 10 days.  The octopus at Fin was without a doubt the most tender I've ever had.  Now, I don't know if that's a flaw, or a mistake, or what, but it was really good.  If you're trying to turn someone on to octopus, and they don't like it because of the texture, give them a fork full of this.  And give me the rest.  Fantastic stuff. 

I'd skip the lobster roll sliders. Too much bread, not enough lobster.  This is a flaw with "sliders" in general. But, people seem to like sliders. 

I'd also skip the tuna tartar, which was a bit too pulverized for my taste (I prefer a bit of texture in my raw fish) and served with a bit too much avocado and ponzu sauce. Not flaws, necessarily, just a matter of taste and preference.

Another app of shrimp and chorizo with giant white beans was a perfectly executed and elevated version of your and my favorite appetizer of garlic shrimp at those Iberian/Spanish/Portuguese restaurants which litter north Jersey.  It comes served in a large wonton, for some reason, which is glued to the plate with some sort of mash, which you'll be eating once you discover it under there.

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monfish osso buco

The monkfish "osso buco," wrapped with speck and served with mashed celery root, is a super dish.  As is the simply grilled monkfish (they menu includes the option of having fish simply grilled).  As is the simply grilled bronzino.

I spied a neighboring table of four, with four orders of very good looking fish and chips.  I haven't had the fish and chips yet, but have had the french fries, and they were great: crispy, salty, hot.  Fish and chips is next up for me. 

I just made myself hungry and now I want to go back to Fin. See you there.

Fin Raw Bar & Kitchen : 183 Glenridge Ave : Montclair, NJ : 973.744.0068 : BYO

 

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