Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tulipano’s in Belmar (It’s a BYOB)

I love BYOBs!

My boyfriend and I decided to meet for dinner on the way home from work, and so we headed over toTulipano’s in Belmar for some vino and some hearty Italian food.
On the way over, I ask Steven to pick up a bottle of wine because it’s a BYOB and because I’m stressed out and running late.
We get there and someone greets us and asks us if we want to sit outside. I say no and joke about the tornado watch we’re under but I check out the patio as I walk by.
It’s adorable! It’s enclosed, canopied and edged with flowers. A few light wrought iron tables were set outside for diners on the sidewalk. It would be a nice place to come on a gentle summer evening.
Our waiter was a soft-spoken sleepy-eyed guy named Matt.  He took his time approaching our table and Steven was anxious to open the wine bottle, so he sped him along with a “Can we have a wine opener?” Matt opened our bottle and poured us each a glass.
As I’m chatting up my boyfriend, I survey the place. It’s clean, the silverware shines as if it’s been polished and the tasteful decor is one of warm, rustic elegance.  The wooden floors are glossy and I like that it smells like fresh bread.
There’s a table next to us and the older gentleman is speaking Italian.
Almost didn't get a pic because we
ate them so quickly. 
That’s a good thing, I’m thinking,because if genuine Italian people eat here and like it, our food is going to be awesome. 
Matt comes over to tell us about the specials. He leaves.
“What was that appetizer special he was talking about,” boyfriend asks.
“I don’t know, I couldn’t concentrate on anything once I heard about the snapper,” I said.
“And I didn’t hear anything after that appetizer, the one with the mushrooms,” he says.
“We’ll ask him about it when he gets back,” I say.
Our server tells  us that the mushrooms are stuffed with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe, then finished off with a lemon butter sauce. They were $11.
“We’ll have those,” we tell  him, practically drooling.
Someone stops by to bring us some bread and a sweet tomato dipping
sauce. The bread was warm, fresh and fluffy inside. We tore right into it, chatting and eating it all.
Our appetizer came out along with fresh plates and there are 3 mushroom caps swimming in a light sauce.
“Well we should have seen that one coming,” boyfriend says, staring disappointedly at the tiny serving size.
Look how handsome my date is... 
I do math and figure that each mushroom cap costs about $3.50 which is a completely overpriced if you ask me. They should have given us one more mushroom at least. Honestly, who creates an appetizer that can’t even be shared.
I take the biggest mushroom cap and cut it into 4 pieces. Before I’ve even put my knife down, Steven’s done with his, saying “These are awesome!”
I take a bite and instantly disregarded my thought that they were overpriced because they were easily the best stuffed mushrooms I’ve ever had. The mushroom caps melted in my mouth, the broccoli rabe and sausage stuffing was salty and crispy and that tart lemony glaze left a pleasing flavor on my palate that left me wishing this were my main course.
“Holy shit these are amazing,” I said to boyfriend.
He’s politely cut the other mushroom in half, effectively splitting the appetizer. I love that he’s so considerate, but I tell him he can have it because it’s obvious that he’s just completely dying to eat it.
We sop up all that sauce on the appetizer plate with the bread because it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
I ordered the chicken Marsala.
Looks cluttered, but
it was delicious!
When it came to the chicken, veal, or shrimp entrées, the menu was worded in a way that could be confusing. It listed the meat, followed by an assortment of preparation styles and that had his head swimming. He kept thinking it was one dish, with different side items.
We were both reviewing it, confusing each other and then I was trying to explain it and he got frustrated. “Just tell me which one I want!” he said.
“I think you want the shrimp Parmesan,” I said quietly and he shut the menu, relieved.
Our dinner was timed nicely. The server wasn’t intrusive and he gave us plenty of time to enjoy our wine and our conversation uninterrupted.
Our entrées came out on thick white square plates and they were heavily garnished.
On my plate, a tender chicken breast rested on top of a mound of mashed potatoes with a whole carrot and a thick breaded zucchinni slice on the side. A light marsala sauce with delicate whole mushrooms swimming in it covered most of my dish.
I look over at boyfriend’s dish and he’s got breaded jumbo shrimp arranged in a hearty amount of red sauce topped with fresh mozzarella cheese over linguine.
I tried a bite of it and it was fantastic. The sauce was tangy and not too thick. The jumbo shrimp pieces were fresh with a firm bite and fried in a thin layer of zesty breadcrumbs that stood up to the sauce so that there was a satisfying crunch when you bit down.
For a fancy Italian place,
that's not a bad price!

The next day, via email I asked him to describe his dish using five very descriptive adjectives. Here’s what I got in response: “I was happy with my entrée choice and it was pretty much what I expected. I liked the cheesy shrimp parm parts and the sauce was good. Five descriptive words? Come on.”
Anyway, my dish was fantastic. The chicken was juicy, amazingly tender. The sauce was super flavorful but not too heavy and I loved the mushrooms and ate every single one.
My food came out hot (I hate cold mashed potatoes) and it was obvious that it was prepared with care.
All in all, I give this restaurant high praise for being clean, pleasant, with delicious food and a relaxed and classy atmosphere. The service was decent and the prices were reasonable.
I wholeheartedly recommend it!

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