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Dec 6, 2008 04:51 AM

Vivas, Belmar NJ

Went to Vivas last night in Belmar NJ and overall it was a disappointment. We were expecting the flair that Will Vivas showed when he was at Bistro Ole but our meal was mediocre at best.

Bread was brought out as we sat down. Doughy and pretty ordinary, the infused olive oil had nice flavor.

We started by sharing the Polenta and Shrimp which consists of grilled yellow corn polenta, sauteed spinach, grilled shrimp and garlic-poblano sauce.
The good is that the shrimp were fresh and tasty. The bad was that the polenta was mushy and the garlic-poblano sauce was bland and and too thick, almost starchy. How a garlic-poblano sauce can be bland is beyond me:)

DW had the Halibut crusted with potato on top of spinach with two different sauces, one a tomato based sauce and the other a black bean sauce. The better of the two entrees, this was tasty but the fish was overcooked and dry.

I had the "signature" dish of Skirt Steak Cubano which was mojo marinated Cuban style skirt steak, sauteed onions and rice and beans. I asked for the skirt steak medium rare and the thin cut of meat came out medium well. I could not detect any distinct marinade. The rice and beans were dry and not especially flavorful. This dish should be brimming with flavor and instead it was rather bland.

We shared a dessert special of French Toast with Vanilla Ice Cream that had a bit of maple drizzled on the side and chocolate drizzled on the ice cream. Also came with a small cup of Mexican styled hot chocolate. Well thought out dessert that was very tasty.
A 2004 Alesia Pinot Noir was consumed and enjoyed during dinner. Service from our server was warm and friendly.

Value here is questionable as we had 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 1 dessert and the bill before tip was $90.00. If you decide to go, here is some information about the restaurant.

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  1. I'm sorry to say that our last meal at Vivas was also a big disappointment. Wrong meal brought out for my wife with no apology what so ever, so we eat sharing each other meals. Poor service and overall just a bad experience. If you go back to prior posts you will see that we are big fans of Will Vivas and have followed him from the original Vivas in Asbury to Bistro O'le and on to his new location in Belmar. After that about a month or so later we tried to make a reservation for seven people and got turned down with a half baked excuse on their part.

    I'm thinking that Will Vivas has hit his limit in his ability to manage a restaurant this size. They simply expanded to much and did not hire the right people to run the day to day operations required for a quality establishment. Will is still an excellent cook but you can on get so much out of your staff. I think it is going to be while befor we decide to go back again.

    8 Replies
    1. re: JerzeyShore

      Jerzey, agree with you in regards to Will's dishes having much more assertive flavor and focus when he was at Bistro Ole. After our meal last night, its not high on our get back to list.

      1. re: tom246

        Matisse in Belmar is very good, I think its one of the best around and the chef owner is there all the time now i guess winter you have to par back staff lol , We had dinner there last week $25 each 3 course meal very nice location and no fuss no rush ...its BYOB ....myself a vodka drinker wishes they had a license.

        1. re: beentheredonethat

          Tom - I'm sorry you were disappointed with your meal at Vivas. While I've generally enjoyed me meals there, the only clunker of an entree I've experienced was the Skirt Steak. My review of that meal is somewhere around here but I recall, the portion was small, the steak was tough and it was flavorless as well. On the other hand, I enjoyed most other entrees including the potato wrapped halibut. As far as desserts, one of my favorites is the chocolate Ezekiel bread pudding.

          beenthere - I'm sorry but I must disagree with you about Matisse. The meal I had there a few years back was less than satisfactory. And to be honest, yours is one of the first positive reviews I recall reading. None the less, I appreciate your recommendation.

          1. re: bgut1

            Heard Vivas is opening a place in long branch on brighton ave. Any truth to that?

            1. re: bgut1

              Bgut, we went to Vivas wanting and expecting an experience similar to Bistro Ole during Will's time there.
              Oh well, we will give Vivas another try sometime. Good to hear that your other visits there were enjoyable.

            2. re: beentheredonethat

              I think Matisse has some of the most mediocre food in the area. The only thing good about Matisse is the view. We gave it three shots and will not be back.

              1. re: bnemes3343

                When i get a chance later in the week i will write a review of Matisse I was there 2 weeks ago on a Saturday night it was fantastic, the only thing lacking was the desserts.

                1. re: beentheredonethat

                  Please do. Maybe they have changed, but the three times we tried it (with high hopes) the food wasn't just ordinary, it was downright bad. Beautiful presentation but nothing beyond that. Chicken that was dry and under seasoned, short ribs that were tough and chewy. Have you been going there for a long time? Maybe they have changed chefs or something, because I have seen mostly negative reviews on this site.

        2. I've dined at Vivas several times and have been pleased everytime, but in varying degrees. The first few times I tried it I was overwhelmed by the number of menu items that piqued my interest. I actually like the doughy bread provided before the meal and agree that the oil is nicely seasoned. On more recent visits I've been less overwhelmed by the menu choices, though still happy overall with what I chose.

          Although its been the same for quite sometime, I think Will may have removed some items from the menu. Also, I've noticed that many of the nightly specials are often repeated and there are rarely "new" specials. There are still plenty of options, but I've tried basically all of the signature dishes that interst me.

          Usually, at Viva's I'll order fish. I can do without Halibut, Grouper, Tilaipa, Mahi in general; I find these generic, boring and bland, and unfortunately these encompass many of the menu choices. I haven't tried the salmon dishes and probably won't, though if I were a bigger fan of salmon I probably would as they sound nice enough. Vivas' Chilean sea bass is very good, though the last time I went the portion was small. I once ordered the sesame crusted tuna (rare) and was disappointed with the steak itself and the flavor/seasoning. The whole Red Snapper was excellent and the stuffed trout also very good.

          The atmosphere is one of the best parts of Vivas. It tends to bustle and this promotes a fun atmosphere, especially on weekends. I'd love to see a few new dishes added and a few of the older ones removed, but I'm very happy with Vivas overall.

          1. I ate at Vivas a couple times last Summer and was pretty blown away. The food and service were both excellent. The seasoning and sauces were reminiscent of what I used to get at 75 South years ago.

            Sorry to hear it seems to be slipping. I wonder if it is a larger version of the Armadillo Crossing syndrome where they opted to upgrade to a much larger space just prior to an economic downturn...

            3 Replies
            1. re: equal_Mark

              The space is basically the same as when they opened, except they no longer use the "take out" window, and covered the outside eating area. I think its unfair to say they're slipping, I didn't intend it that way anyway, so I think if you enjoyed it last summer you should go again. Same great service, great sauces, etc. I love the fried calamari appetizer, its worth a try!

              1. re: jlsmi2

                Given some of the comments above, it doesn't seem like the term "slipping" is unfair. More than a few folks here have recently had less than satisfactory experiences there. I understand that last summer one of the head chefs left to open his own place in Avon, taking much of the staff with him. Hopefully Will can turn things around...

                1. re: equal_Mark

                  Are you referring to Alberto's in Avon? I ate there once - had a fairly interesting menu, beautiful dining room, but very very slow inadequate service. My waitress didn't have command of English (she was Russian I believe) and I noticed the adjacent table waiting endlessly for their waiter on more than one occassion - apparently out on a smoke break. The food was good, I would go back again to try other menu items, but I was not blown away, especially with regard to service.

            2. If anyone is planning to give Viva's a 4th chance, or whatever, just want to let you know that I was at that shopping center in Belmar today to try Boom Burger (pics coming!!)
              and I noticed Viva's had a big sign that they are closed for a "much needed vacation" till Feb. 4th

              1 Reply
              1. re: ellen4441

                Yes, apparently the owner doesn't trust his staff and closed the place for two weeks for vacation.

                Surprising, but in the famous words of Brian McNamee: "It is what it is."

              2. The original comment has been removed