Varka - Greek Seafood - Ramsey
I had the good fortune to discover this gem a few weeks ago and have been back to make sure my initial opinion was not blurred by fatigue or alcohol.Tucked away down a nondescript side street in affluent Ramsey I had one of my best dining experiences yet in New Jersey. A decent sized outside patio looked inviting,but as i was solo,I chose to dine at the bar.The Architects who put this place together had a clear eye and subtle hand to do just enough to transport you to the Med without it becoming a cliche.Plenty of comfort and room it this spacious well appointed restaurant.From the moment I took my seat,I knew I was in the hands of experienced professional people.The bartender was attentive,informative and a classic that I would have more expected to encounter in a 5* Hotel than a suburban NJ restaurant. First Class .
I returned with a friend and sat in the restaurant last week.We spent about 3.5 hours over a dinner of mostly shared appetizers,trying to get a feel for the menu and dining more like a tapas bar than what this place really is.We were never rushed or felt hurried.I wish this type of place existed in Monmouth County as it was truly refreshing to find a restaurant of this style and calibre.I have become jaded and bewildered at the praise heaped upon Shore establishments that are nothing more than ordinary - yet get away with pretending to be( and charging ) something they are clearly not. Varka is not inexpensive , yet it delivers on every aspect and this is what makes it worthwhile.If I had one complaint it is that the food runners can be a little frantic and over excited.This is just youth and inexperience,and i'm sure that more time spent with the seasoned ,mature waiters will temper thier rush.
30 North Spruce Street, Ramsey, NJ 07446
If you get back there and want to try one of their whole fish selections I recommend the Barbounia/Rouget (Red Mullet). Four of these small fish are served for a dinner entree and weight in around a pound (so you can get an idea of the cost). They are lightly fried and the meat is sweet almost shellfish like in taste. You just have to deal with small bones but so worth the effort.
I agree about the apps. I have made meals out of their apps alone as well. The octopus is excellent, charcoal grilled with just the right amount of char.