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[Montclair] Fin Rawbar and Kitchen

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My wife, my sister and I ate at Fin yesterday evening. It was my birthday dinner.

Here are some notes and observations.

The entrance is via a long, strange, “gangplank” corridor, with a creaking wooden floor, which leads up into a fairly attractive dining room decorated with eclectic fisherman motifs.

I felt that our welcome was cold and indifferent. My companions didn't sense that.

When we were led to our table, I asked for another nearby as it was open on all four sides and the first abutted a pillar. The change was done without difficulty..

At our table was a bread “basket” in a galvanized pail. The selection was a tough but tasty baguette style bread and seeded Rye Krisp type crackers. There was no butter but instead a little dish of a mystery spread. It was not only unattractive but fishy tasting. We asked our waiter and he told us that it was white bean hummus. He named all the many herbs and ended with “anchovy”. We then requested butter and after a considerable wait, he brought a slice from a block.

I started with 9 mixed oysters on the half shell, very nicely presented on an iced tray pedestal. Freshly grated horseradish was offered and I accepted. Very picante house made cocktail sauce, mignonette and a cute mini bottle of Tabasco sauce. I tasted but didn’t use the condiments, other than lemon and horseradish. The oysters were good to very good except for one unfortunate exception, definitely spoiled. I was able to spit it out into the shell and our waiter took it and returned shortly with another, fresh one.

I was quite concerned about ingesting spoiled oyster, having had an awful illness from oysters in Veracruz Mexico in 1980. But this time, no ill effects so far. But the experience was unpleasant and frightening.

My sister enjoyed a Summer Salad with "Baby Arugula, berries, oranges, tomato, red onion, blue cheese, raspberry vinaigrette"; my wife had very tasty grilled octopus sided with a uninteresting salad of cubed tomatoes, small croutons and mozzarella cheese balls.

We’d ordered our main dishes at the onset.

Sister got a light and delicious crab cake accompanied by roasted yellow corn salsa, chipotle aioli, and petite baby arugula salad.

At my suggestion, my wife had wood fired filleted Branzino. This turned out to be a simple, pure treatment with no elaborate additions. It was accompanied by a large dish of tasty but heavy beans and escarole, which we tasted but ended up taking home.

I had barramundi, with cilantro-lime shimp. It was supposed to have applewood bacon brussel sprouts, but I don’t recall seeing or eating any. In lieu of the bacon brussels sprouts, there was an assortment of beautifully cooked “long” vegetables: perfect green beans, longitudinally shaved carrots, zucchini and also baby onions. The barramundi and vegs were the highlight of my meal.

Both the barramundi and the shrimp were delicious. The portion was large and we took some home.

We drank a Chardonnay brought from home, but the restaurant does offer wine service as well as a nifty menu of craft beers and cider.

My wife and I both had dessert. She, a perfect Creme Brûlée and I, Espresso Creme Caramel, with both whipped cream and ice cream to the sides. Both desserts were very good, but the Creme Brûlée had the most votes. It was perfect, in spite of lacking the anticipated fresh berries.

Coffees, just straight Americanos, was above average.

My conclusion is that the food we had was good to outstanding, but there are some exceptions that lower my rating of the restaurant.

- strange and ominous gangplank entrance

- fishy hummus

- mediocre bread assortment

- one spoiled oyster

+ mostly good oysters, plus attractive presentation

+ good bus boys



+ Mostly high quality food, attractively presented

- unpolished service

A side note: this is not the first New Jersey restaurant in which we've dined where there are no salt shakers on the table. But a busboy brought me one when I asked. (I wanted it to sprinkle it on my now buttered bread. Is there a low salt/no salt health campaign or what?)

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I'd suggest you give Gerry Cerrigno a call, or send him a copy of your report. Gerry is a co-owner of Fin, and is usually in the house most days. Walking around, chatting with customers, keeping an eye on tables, etc. I believe they now have four locations, and a catering shop.


Back in the day, I knew Gerry. Nice guy, very professional restaurant operator. An experience like you had would definitely have caught his notice, and would have been resolved. On the spot.

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Happy Birthday Anónimo!

Mil gracias, Sneakeater.

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