Clemmy’s, a charming neighborhood BYOB, has recently taken up residence in Waretown, New Jersey. Their mission? Deliver innovative and artful flavors that will undoubtedly give you an exquisite culinary experience–in an inviting, casual fine dining atmosphere. It’s no wonder why Clemmy’s has such a loyal following: the food is impressive, the staff is always smiling, and the stiffest thing in the place is the consistent stream of red wine flowing from the bottle to my glass. Thankfully, Clemmy’s gives us fine dining in a way that is approachable, letting the food speak for itself (and leaving the stuffiness behind).
Headed by seasoned Executive Chef and owner Allen Walski, Clemmy’s opened this past July and has seen success ever since thanks to its friendly wait staff, warm atmosphere, and ever-rotating menu brimming with locally sourced, farm-to-table items. The restaurant is named after Allen’s daughter Clementine, with inspired touches laced throughout the decor and menu. It’s comforting to see when there’s a story behind the plate.
Walski has developed an extensive knowledge of food from his experience working in kitchens that traverse his home turf in Long Beach Island, to some of Philly’s finest kitchens. After years of cooking back of house, “Clemmy’s menu is based on what I like to cook as well as ingredients that will give the young apprentice chefs in the kitchen the opportunity to learn new techniques,” Chef Walski explains. His food stays true to his experience as a chef; his seafood skills shine through from his time cooking in Long Beach Island as well as his astute knowledge of flavor gained from years of being in the industry.
One thing’s for sure: Clemmy’s proves that veggies can be the star of a dish. The medallion shaped sweet potatoes brushed with fermented honey and black garlic were cooked to a perfect char, breaking down the starchy vegetable and allowing its unique sweetness to shine through with each bite. A toasted sesame tahini sauce was complementary to the potato’s innate sweetness and added a nutty complexity to the dish. Beckoning for some texture, a sprinkling of puffed rice made the dish complete.
Even before it was cooked, the dish was set up for success solely based on the freshness of the ingredients. This sweet potato was different from any other I’ve tried–the color was lighter and the sweetness was deeper, almost resembling a pudding-like taste. Truly decadent. It’s something that I’d go back to again and again.
New menu items are constantly cycled in and out based on availability and creativity, with of course, the exception of crowd pleasing staples that remain constant. Right before service, Wallski had his servers try a new appetizer that he dreamed up–chicharrones de harina–a traditional Mexican street food that he grew accustomed to snacking on throughout his time working in kitchens. I knew I had to try it.
The chicharrones de harina were a refreshing change of course and acted as the perfect crispy, light bite before the rounds of the main courses hit the table. The airy, fried wheat crisps not only were fun to snack on, they served as the perfect vehicles for the accoutrements that packed on bold flavor. Aji amarillo—a Peruvian pepper with a fruity, yet heat-packed profile—added a punch of mild spice in combination with vibrant pickled chilis, cilantro, and queso fresco generously doused atop to create a playful snack of an appetizer.
Monkfish has a meaty texture and can easily overcook and turn chewy if not handled properly, comparable to the cooking process of steak. In this case, the Viking Village monkfish was cooked to perfection, enveloped in a seared, golden brown skin that locked in the juices of the tender and delicate meat. It was a seafood medley of sorts–perched atop crispy potatoes and a fragrant clam chowder broth that I could eat by itself, with a stick of dry bread to sop up all of its goodness.
Once the duck breast hit the table, I was immediately in awe. Its perfect medium-rare center and crispy, scored skin laid on top of a smoked onion soubise and cherry gastrique. The savory duck, paired with the creamy sweetness of the onion soup and tart, vinegar-based cherry gastrique is a flavor combination that I’m newly obsessed with. Alongside butter lettuce dressed in simple lemon and olive oil with crispy polenta, the dish couldn’t have been more balanced. Bright, succulent and layered.
I added another seafood dish to the mix, that being the Viking Village scallops, as I had to see how one of my favorite seafood ingredients could be elevated. Perfectly seared and golden brown, the scallops were paired with a silky sweet potato puree, with roasted maitake mushrooms fanned over the top, giving the dish the bitter earthiness that it needed.
As I don’t normally gravitate toward an orange cake, maybe because I don’t recall having ever tried one, I was drawn toward this dessert because it was labeled “Grandma’s famous orange cake.” That’s something that I’m not willing to pass up–I’m already sold. The story behind this cake is right in the name, Walski’s mother came up with the recipe and it became a huge hit among all the customers. It’s actually the best selling dessert in the house. Allen’s mother spends hours each week making the cake to deliver it to the hungry masses. I love the story behind it and the cake lived up to its name.
Just by the looks it’s a simple presentation, but there’s something about the sweet orange sponge cake that is effortlessly moist and addicting. And the spooned vanilla gelato pairs perfectly with the citrusy cake. Not only did grandma make it, but it seamlessly ties in the theme of Clementine–a full circle moment.
Clemmy’s is open from Thursdays to Mondays from 4pm to 9pm and does not take reservations. It’s a small space that is usually packed with local regulars, but it’s well worth the wait. Fill your night and palate with unexpected flavors and warm, familial hospitality that will have you eager to come back for more.