| DATE NIGHT | Thirty Acres

The DATE NIGHT series on BURBS + A BBQ spotlights local restaurants and adult playtime activities for those fleeting but important couples-only nights. Next up in the series is thirty acres. A birthday is as good an excuse as any to a.) have a date night and b.) try a new restaurant in our new city. Over the past three months we've begun to amass a mental list of must-try spots as we wander around and explore.

thirty acres was top of that list, based solely upon reading the always original-and-tasty-sounding menu posted at their door (conveniently on the way to Van Vorst Park where I can be often tempted en route to play time), and the simple, modern, adorable interior that is entirely visible from the outside. I thought that we would first try thirty acres for brunch, but an opportunity for The Love of My Life's birthday dinner came first. We took it.

Before I go to a restaurant, I check out their website, their menu and if possible, their story. thirty acres nailed all of the above before we ever stepped through the door and invited our taste buds to the party. We were so excited to try it out for the first time.

thirty acres was born out of a love for all things Jersey. Owned by chef Kevin Pemoulie and his wife Alex, the Pemoulie's honestly believe that the products of New Jersey and our neighboring states just taste better, and have built their restaurant on that belief.

thirty acres is named after an 80,000-seat arena built expressly for a 1921 Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier championship fight after it was disallowed in Manhattan by the non-sporting governor at the time. The story struck a chord with the Pemoulie's, who after years of living and working in NYC, moved to downtown Jersey City two years ago to set up a place of their own.

Yup, our kind of people.

They have a very creative, innovative and fluid menu, which changes based on the markets and thirty acres' vendors. Honestly, a couple of the items on the menu always sound a little crazy; even for people like us who love food, travel the world eating crazy things and have pretty damn open minds. For example, our date night menu:

Thankfully for open minds, we pushed ourselves beyond a few initial thoughts of "I'm not sure about that" and trusted the advice of our server and her faith in the chef. We tried the oysters (that's a given, we are fanatical oyster people), the raw sea scallop, the chilled squid and the summer squash, and paired it all with a great glass of white wine (we sadly can't, for the life of us, remember which one) that we blissfully nursed throughout our meal. I wish we could remember, because it went so well with our choices. Again, at our server's recommendation.

The.entire.meal.was.divine. I mean, divine. Both our taste buds and our minds were exploding with every bite.

The flavors were not only incredibly fresh and appropriate to the season, but surprising in their pairings in a way that was so lovely to the palette. Herbs are used brilliantly. For example, the mint in the summer squash complemented the little bite of the citrus and the sweetness of the candied cashews. The squid had a perfect spice to it in the chili vinaigrette that was countered magnificently by the cilantro. The raw scallop, which we had never tried anywhere else in the world (and was therefore our "Eeiiiiin, I'm not sure" choice on high recommendation from our server), was absolutely fantastic.

Raw sea scallop with pickled angelica, chamomile, rye bonji and nori. So good. Photo courtesy of thirty acres' Facebook.
Raw sea scallop with pickled angelica, chamomile, rye bonji and nori. So good. Photo courtesy of thirty acres' Facebook.

We sat in the most exposed corner of the restaurant, farthest from the kitchen and bar, but closest to the outside world (the left-most corner in the photo below). Despite the huge, exposed windows, the restaurant achieves an intimate feel inside and it was a perfect date night special birthday edition choice.

We left the restaurant blown away and anxious for another visit. May it be soon. As soon as possible.

Find thirty acres on the interwebs:

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LATE FALL/WINTER UPDATE: Just FYI, brunch is over for the season (and we never made it). So we can all enjoy their amazing dinners and look forward to next spring and a new round of inspired cuisine.