Restaurant Review #166: The Chowda House (Red Bank, NJ)

The Chowda House ran out of Chowda! That’s what my friend Roy and I were told the moment we walked into the Red Bank seafood establishment on a rainy Thursday afternoon. He had been wanting to take me there for some time, and assured me that the Lobster Bisque was even better than their chowder, and that is what he normally gets. There wasn’t a soul in the place besides us. I am assuming they do a lot of takeout orders, and this being lent, are probably swamped on Friday nights. Nevertheless, it was a good enough experience for me not to care about the lack of people…and lack of clam chowder. [Insert angry emoji here]

The waiter told us that they get their clams shipped in fresh daily from local suppliers, and that the day’s order had not arrived. A respectable explanation. But no matter. The Lobster Bisque made up for it. Roy described it as “different” and probably unlike any other such soup I’ve ever had. He was correct. Instead of thick and creamy, it was thin—almost like a lobster broth–with a couple of pieces of lobster floating around. The cream used, if any, was very light. While I like a thick soup as much as anybody, this was a nice change of pace. It lacked the calories (and filler) of a normal bisque, and where the cream sometimes obscures the flavor of the lobster (or lack thereof), that was not the case here.

As for meals, I got something which I almost never order: mussels. These came highly recommended. Roy said he gets them every time. On this visit, ironically, he ended up with shrimp scampi. Now, originally, I was getting a fish sandwich but then the waiter mentioned something about how their Mussels Fra Diavolo can be made extra spicy. I was convinced. I told them to make it as hot as possible. He asked if I was sure, I said yes, and then he said, “I’ll go 10 out of 10 on the heat and use ghost peppers”. Sounded good to me. About 15 minutes later, a literal mountain of mussels arrived. This was not pasta with mussels—this was mussels with pasta. There must have been 30 or 40 of them, no exaggeration. They were all tender. No chewiness at all. And not one grain of sand, which is a problem I’ve always had throughout my life with this shellfish. Just plain bad luck.

The sauce was spicy, though not as hot as I wanted. The pasta on the bottom was good, and they gave a basket of bread to soak up the sauce. Roy enjoyed his scampi as well. These were the best mussels I’ve ever had. I can say that without a doubt, since these are the first I’ve enjoyed 100%.

Service at the Chowda House was friendly and attentive. A waitress was training on her first day, and she did a fantastic job. To me, this is more of a lunch place and I have to guess pretty big on takeout amongst locals. I enjoyed my meal here and would definitely come back for those mussels again. They get 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Chowda House is located at 78 Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, New Jersey.


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