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A Local Bistro in Colonia Puts a Modern Twist on Classic Dishes

Maxwell's 35, a global bistro in Colonia, is setting the food you know on its ear.

Maxwell’s 35 is a little bistro on St. George’s Avenue that serves modernized versions of classic dishes from around the globe.

This intimate, casual-meets-fine-dining family owned bistro just opened two months ago, and already it has acquired a following of familiar faces—regulars—who frequent the bistro six or seven times a week. Some regulars even come for both lunch and dinner, bringing a different guest with them each time. Needless to say, the word about Maxwell’s 35 is spreading quickly to the point where reservations for weekend dining are highly recommended.

The staff is very warm and inviting, and the bistro’s interior is both chic and charming. Guests are seated in white leather chairs at square tables. The tables are close together, which, in accordance with the dim light that glows from modern light fixtures, creates an intimate ambiance.

Every table receives a bread basket with French bread, walnut-raisin bread, and parmesan crostini with a kick of red pepper flake that is the perfect foundation for the olive tapenade served alongside the basket. Tapenade is a Provençal spread that is typically eaten as an hors d’oeuvre atop bread and consists of chopped black olives, capers, anchovies, pepper, and olive oil. The spread’s name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. The capers and anchovies give the tapenade its strong, salty, pickled flavor that tastes good with the red pepper flake in the crostini.

All the bread is served in a black wire basket lined with wax paper made to look like a page from a French newspaper with the headline La Liberté D’ExpressionFreedom of Expression. Black and white pictures of the River Seine and La Tour Eiffel hang on the bistro’s white walls, but the cuisine is not exclusively French or French inspired.

The Carolina Style Shrimp and Anson Mills Cheddar Cheese Grits appetizer, for instance, is a take on a classic Southern dish, and quite possibly the epitome of gourmet comfort food. In fact, chef-and-owner Wayne Ricco says the grits are purchased from Anson Mills in South Carolina, which is known for its “handmade mill goods from organic heirloom grains.”

Shrimp and Grits is an example of Lowcountry cuisine, which is strongly influenced by Caribbean and African cuisines. In South Carolina, the dish has been a staple breakfast for fisherman for decades and traditionally consists of a pot of grits and shrimp cooked in bacon grease or butter, but in recent years the dish has been showing up on the menus of fine-dining restaurants.

At Maxwell’s 35, the cheese grits are served in a large soup bowl and have the creamy consistency of polenta. They are topped with medium-size shrimp, sautéed onions, pancetta, tomatoes, and pickled green peppers that are a tangy surprise. The shrimp and grits are an island surrounded by a light tomato broth that keeps everything moist and adds sweetness to the dish.

One of the bistro’s Asian-inspired entrees is the seared tuna steak served over sautéed escarole, which comes with a choice of mashed potatoes, wasabi mashed potatoes, or French fries—definitely choose the wasabi mashed potatoes.

The tuna was good, topped with a bacon-butter-pepper sauce. The wasabi mashed potatoes, however, are reason enough to eat at Maxwell’s 35 again and again. The potatoes alone are buttery and fluffy (I would like to point out that I have always hated mashed potatoes), but the flavor of wasabi in the background gives these potatoes an intense punch. But don’t fear the wasabi. I took a timid, small first bite because 1) I don’t like mashed potatoes, and 2) every sushi lover has a wasabi horror story, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that these potatoes did not burn my mouth or clear my sinuses. The wasabi just adds depth to the sweet, buttery flavor of their regular mashed potatoes. Be warned: these mashed potatoes are addicting.

Overall, Maxwell’s 35 (on Route 35) has a pleasant atmosphere, great service, and a selection of unique dishes that draw culinary inspiration from around the globe, which is why it is a global bistro.

Maxwell's 35, 1159 St. Georges Ave., Colonia, NJ, 732-527-0293

Mary Ann Chopey March 27, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Went there last nite and doors are locked! Still have gift cards. Guess I'm SOL!
Deborah Bell (Editor) March 28, 2012 at 12:34 PM
I'll find out for you.

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