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JerZ Wine Geek's Profile

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Bistro 44 - Toms River

My bad entirely. I didn't expand the previous post(s) so I didn't see that Mr Welzer was referring to Siam Spice. Oops... sorry!

Feb 05, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Bistro 44 - Toms River

Bistro 44 is Thai now?

Feb 04, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Monticello in Red Bank

Eesh, sorry to hear about your experience Mairem. You didn't happen to check on here before you went did you?

Feb 03, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Disappointed by Nicholas

RGR, occasionally Nicholas will bring in a small quantity of white truffles in season and create a couple of dishes that highlight them, at a hefty supplement. Seal had mentioned in his original post that he was flexible with the date of his dinner, anytime between November and January, and since white truffles are still in season in November I figured it was a fair question to ask. Of course after early December it would be black truffle or bust.

Jan 26, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Brooklyn Bistro to Open Soon Rt 9 Toms River

That menu could be copy/pasted from any one of the other hundreds of red sauce joints in the area. Doesn't look like they're doing anything new or exciting. I never understand the point of opening an establishment identical to 90% of your competition.

I will say the prices seem fair though, but I can't imagine they have too high of a lease in that hole in the wall Route 9 strip mall so I guess they can afford to be moderately cheap.

Jan 25, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Disappointed by Nicholas

Seal, were you asking for white truffle dishes, or black? If white then it's possible they didn't want to bring them in for just one table being that you're talking about minimally a few hundred dollar investment. Now I'm not saying this makes what they did right. If my line of thinking is the case then there is absolutely reason that someone couldn't have expressed that to you early on rather than stringing you along for weeks or months.

Jan 25, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Le Fandy - Fair Haven

I can't make a comparison between the two as I've never dined at Le Fandy.... However, I can say that the last time I dined at BB my server was chewing gum and was also observed handing another table their glass of soda while holding the glass by its top (imagine a claw stuffed animal machine at the boardwalk and you have the right visual). In addition to the lackluster service the food was mediocre.

Jan 20, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Bistro 44 - Toms River

You are probably getting confused with the previous chef and owner, Eric Witherspoon, who won chopped back in 2010 (?). He has since sold the restaurant and moved on. Unless you mean the current chef has won Chopped as well?

Jan 13, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Nisi Greek Restaurant Closing

I spoke with the owner's daughter and she said that they're relocating to Soho. Just an FYI.

Jan 12, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Is Nicholas worth Michelin stars?

I think it could qualify as a 1-star Michelin restaurant. Looking over the list there are quite a few 1-star restaurants that Nicholas is as good, or slightly better than.

Jan 07, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Japanese in Manasquan/Wall/Brick?

Let us know how you like it! I've had some good experiences there, but it's been a little while since my last visit.

Jan 06, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Japanese in Manasquan/Wall/Brick?

I don't think I'd go with Shogun Legends if your parents are "unadventurous". First and foremost, the menu there is a bit higher priced than most Japanese restaurants, with many entrees being in the $24-38 range (have to pay for the $3.5m in renovations somehow). It doesn't sound like your parents are the type of people that lean towards expensive food. Plus, it's a Japanese fusion steakhouse, and I find that it leans more towards the fusion than the traditional. I mean, its good, but nothing fantastic and I find the service there to be mediocre at best...

If it was me in your shoes I would go to Ikko in Brick. The prices are fair (most of the dishes are under $20), the food is quite good and the service is authentic and friendly. It's perfect for your parents with their conservative palate. It's traditional Japanese food cooked the way it's supposed to be.

Jan 06, 2012
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Metropolitan Cafe?

I didn't say it was good, I just said that not everything can be pegged on the manager!

Dec 30, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Metropolitan Cafe?

Most restaurant managers have no control over hiring in the kitchen, and I know for a fact that this is the case at Metro. The chef who has been there for the past handful of years used to be a chef at the old 75 South which was owned by the owners of Metro. So throwing the manager under the bus for the decline in food quality is entirely unwarranted...

Obviously I can't speak about the manager's behavior in regards to the rest of your experience, though I will say this. The current GM has been with that restaurant since the day it opened, starting as a waiter, then bartender, then Assistant Manager, then General Manager. Who would be more qualified to run that restaurant than someone who has worked there for over a decade? So to disqualify the manager because he used to be a waiter there... are you kidding? All restaurant managers were waiters at some point, and if they weren't, they shouldn't be managing.

Dec 30, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Cafe Spezia in Manalapan

I think the prices are pretty reasonable based on the menu online. Given, I haven't seen the portions... It's much cheaper than Nonna's Citi Cucina down the street in Marlboro.

Dec 30, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Monticello in Red Bank

It would appear that Monticello might be running into some hard times. They are no longer available on OpenTable which was how I made my reservation.

Dec 21, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Monticello in Red Bank

Thanks for the information MGZ. I have had Yellowfin before and yes, it is certainly on the pinker side of the red spectrum, however, if you had seen this tuna I think you'd likely lean more towards my line of thinking. When I say this was neon hot pink, I'm not exaggerating.

Years ago I had the dubious pleasure of working at a restaurant that served tuna identical in appearance to what we were served Saturday, and that restaurant also stated on their menu that it was sushi grade Yellowfin tuna. I do not know for certain what type of tuna it was, possibly a poor grade of Yellowfin or possibly a different type of tuna altogether, but what I do know for certain was that it was dye injected for color by the distributor. I once asked our sales rep why the tuna had such a obnoxiously vibrant color and he explain the dye method.

I can't say with 100% certainty that Monticello was serving the same, but it certainly looks like it. I'm also not in any way trying to state that they are the ones altering the product.

Dec 21, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Monticello in Red Bank

So we had a dinner reservation at this establishment Saturday evening. I guess if I had to sum up the experience in one sentence it would be "You get what you pay for."

We arrived five minutes early for our 7pm reservation to find no hostess, heck, not even a hostess podium. After awkwardly standing in the 5'x5' area that passes for a foyer for 3-4 minutes we were finally approached by a man wearing jeans and holding a clipboard. I told him the reservation name, he then simply turned around and started to walk away, finally saying "follow me" over his shoulder after a few steps. This was not exactly the first impression I was hoping for. This coupled with the fact that the restaurant was half empty at 7pm on a Saturday... Not good.

We were seated at a banquette table for four that was less than 1' from the tables on either side. In fact, there was a woman sitting at the end of the banquette next to us and her chair back was almost touching our table. This isn't Manhattan folks, and people aren't waiting three weeks to get a reservation at your restaurant. You can space things out a little bit. Especially considering the fact that at no point was the restaurant full from when we arrived until 9:10 when we left, so removing a table or two wouldn't really effect your finances and would help boost your customer satisfaction.

We waited at the table for roughly 5 minutes before our server came over. Not really that big of a deal, but when the restaurant is at half capacity you expect a touch more attentiveness. Its a fine line that servers need to walk. If they come over the moment you get sat it seems rushed and obnoxious, but too long without attention, water, menus or your wine opened and a party will start to get antsy. I find 5 minutes to be just on the verge of the latter scenario.

So once she came our server was very friendly, although rough around the edges in terms of service abilities. She first gave us menus and then asked which bottle of wine we wanted opened (we had a few). While she was opening the wine she mentioned that they did have specials for the evening, but that we'd have to wait a few minutes because she can't open wine and tell specials at the same time... I found this to be odd, but it made sense afterwards when she pulled out her pad and read the specials to us. This is a huge pet-peeve of mine... This is what you do for a living, this is how you pay your bills, at least make an effort to know your job and know your product and take a modicum of pride in what you do. The specials were not complex and there was no reason they could not have been memorized at the beginning of the shift. Apparently this is the norm for service at Monticello though, because I observed every server do the same throughout the night.

A few minutes later we placed our order, had some wine in us and were in high spirits (more thanks to the fact that we were dying to see Jim Gaffigan at the Basie at 9:30). First course came after about 10 minutes which I found to be perfect timing. My wife had fresh mozzarella with tomato and grilled eggplant, her sister had the eggplant rollatine with grilled crostini, and both myself and my sister-in-law's fiance had seared scallops with a pancetta risotto (I know, a very filling appetizer but I simply had to check it out). My wife loved the mozzarella caprese, but that's pretty hard to do poorly. The eggplant rollatine looked quite good and I liked the fact that the eggplant was not breaded, giving it a lighter, fresher quality. The scallops and risotto, well they weren't quite up to snuff. The scallops were nicely seared, though lacking seasoning. The risotto was a bad imitation of what risotto is supposed to be. The rice was under cooked and clumpy, and the pancetta obviously hadn't been cooked before being added to the dish, it must have just been thrown in raw while the risotto was cooking because it was soggy and tasteless. The entire concoction was disappointing to say the least.

After the appetizers were cleared it took about 15 minutes for the entrees to come to the table, again, perfect timing... or it would have been if all four entrees arrived. Let's say it was perfect timing for three of the dishes, but it took an additional 5 minutes for my wife's entree to arrive. And to add insult to injury it took 10 minutes for anyone to bring a knife to the table so my wife could cut her chop. I gave her my butter knife to use while she waited.

So here were the dinners... My wife had the 12oz Veal Chop Marsala, served with grilled veg and pancetta risotto (the risotto was utilized in no less than four dishes between the menu and specials... very creative). Her sister had Sesame Crusted "A1 Sushi grade ahi tuna" (notice the quotes) over sauteed baby spinach and finished with an Asian sauce (apparently there is only one sauce in Asia, because no other specifics were given). Her fiance had a Seafood Arrabbiata over spaghettini. I had seared duck breast over pappardella with a rosemary merlot reduction. My wife's veal chop appeared to be cooked appropriately (she requested medium) but she said the meat was dry and completely lacking flavor, plus the risotto was still sub par. The tuna dish was a mess, even the food runner apologized for its appearance. There was sauce all over the place and the plate was drizzled with some unknown beige thin crème fraîche looking liquid (maybe it was supposed to be a wasabi creme?). In addition, there is simply no way that the tuna was "A1 Sushi Grade". Sushi grade tuna is a deep red/purple color. This was neon pink, which tells me that its inferior quality tuna that's been injected with dye by the distributor to give it color... Completely unacceptable. Her fiance enjoyed his seafood pasta although he did mention that it was spicy to the point that his nose started to run, which was not surprising considering there were multiple pieces of sliced jalapeno in the sauce. Jalapeno? That's the first time I've ever seen that in an Arrabbiata, which is supposed to be plum tomato, basil and red pepper flakes. My duck with pappardella... where to start? The duck was overcooked, I had asked for medium rare and it was medium. The skin and fat were not properly rendered and were soggy. The "rosemary merlot reduction" just tasted like an obligatory brown sauce with salt. It reminded me of the sauce you get with your beef and broccoli when you order Chinese take-out. And, to top it all off, there was jalapeno in the sauce... Huh? At least the pasta was cooked a proper al dente.

We weren't exactly clamoring to order dessert after the debacle that was our entree course, but we still had time to spare before we needed to head over to the theater... Dessert menus were brought over and we took a quick look. Unfortunately the one item that appeared interesting (a coconut creme caramel) was 86'd, so we settled for other items that were significantly less appealing. My wife chose the crème brûlée and the remaining three of us chose the warm chocolate cake with chocolate gelato. The crème brûlée was far too firm and eggy, and the flamed sugar on top was more burned then browned. The warm chocolate cake was the worst frozen chocolate lava cake I've ever encountered. The molten cake at TGI Fridays that my daughter orders is better than this one. All of the desserts were finished with canned whipped cream... If I wanted crappy chocolate cake topped with Reddi-Wip, I'd go to a diner or chain restaurant. I understand that many restaurants can't afford to employ a Pastry Chef and thus rely on vendors for pre-made desserts (still, there was no excuse for how bad that lava cake was), but you can't at least make a fresh whipped cream?

This was one of the worst dining experiences that I've had in quite some time. I was beyond embarrassed that I actually brought people here. Frankly, the only reason I did so was because the other couple was on a budget and I tried to find someplace reasonably priced yet decent. Dinner for four, including tax and gratuity, came to $240.

I gave the experience two stars, mainly because even though the service was moderately inept, at least they were pleasant. Also, in retrospect I have to alter my initial comment from above of "You get what you pay for." I recently dined with a party of four at Bonefish Grill, a chain, and not only was the food 5x better than Monticello (let me repeat, AT A CHAIN RESTAURANT!), the total was $220 including tax and tip AND alcohol.

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Monticello At Red Bank | Italian Restaurant
69 Broad St, Red Bank, NJ 07701

Dec 19, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Blu and next door closed for 8 weeks

If he doesn't have a support staff in place that's capable of keeping the other ships afloat while he starts a new project then he shouldn't be starting a new project! What happens after 8 weeks? Sounds like a recipe for disaster...

Dec 11, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Monticello in Red Bank?

I'm going to see the Jim Gaffigan show over at the Count Basie next Saturday evening with my wife and another couple, and we're looking to go out to dinner before the show. Unfortunately the other couple are not one's to "splurge" on dinner, so they asked that I keep the restaurant "reasonable"...

Notice the quotes.

I'm pretty familiar with a vast majority of the restaurants in the declining (IMHO) Red Bank restaurant scene, but I've never dined at, nor heard anything about, Monticello. I'm not typically one to dine at an Italian BYO, but considering the other couple wants to keep the cost down it seems like this might be a good bet. The menu listed online seems decent and the prices are in line with the other couple's budget.

I was very surprised to see that there's not a single mention of the restaurant on this board or the Mid-Atlantic board. So does anyone have any input? It would be greatly appreciated!

Dec 11, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Nicholas 11th Anniversary Dinner

So last night was Restaurant Nicholas' 11th Anniversary dinner. I have to say, I give Nicholas and his wife Melissa credit, 11 years in this industry, and to be ranked #1 in NJ for all 11 of those years... that's quite an accomplishment.

The dinner was held in the restaurant's front room with the faux-Chihuly chandelier. Really it's unfair to call it that. The artist is Robert Kuster from Hillsborough, a very talented gentleman, but of course everyone always ponders the art and ask if its a Chihuly when they first see it. I must have heard that very question uttered at least three times during the course of the evening. As if a restaurant in Middletown, New Jersey could afford a 600 piece Chihuly chandelier... Then again, what do you expect from a bunch of middle-aged self-proclaimed sophisticates from Rumson, which was what comprised 95% of the guests yesterday evening.

The festivities started with a thirty minute hors d'oeuvres reception where they passed around flutes of Cuvee Restaurant Nicholas Cramant produced by Diebolt-Valois along with items such as tempura shrimp skewers, duck breast with almond, escargot, ahi tuna sashimi with a wasabi creme, chicken confit with carrot puree, and what appeared to be lobster with some form of beurre blanc, but that plate never made it to me and my wife so I'm not quite certain.

Once seated the service ballet began as the Nicholas staff flitted around with the evening's amuse bouche, a sliver of fluke sashimi served with toasted rye croutons, a green olive puree and a shaving of red bell pepper. It was light and refreshing, a nice start, though the delicate fluke was slightly overwhelmed by the green olive and bell pepper.

Shortly thereafter the first course arrived along with its wine pairing. The dish was sepia (cuttlefish) served with a shrimp and lime ravioli, as well as cauliflower floret and a crab consomme. The wine was 2009 Faustini "Beach House 34" Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley. This course was, hands down, the failure of the evening. The cuttlefish was nicely prepared, however, the lime was so pronounced in the ravioli that it was obnoxious. I would never have known there was also shrimp in the ravioli if they hadn't told us. On top of that, the wine tasted like a typical, uninspiring, California Sauvignon Blanc. It could just as easily have been Benziger Family or Cakebread. Light to medium bodied, mild citrus and minerality, a slight smokiness... nothing to make the palate swoon. And frankly, the little bit of citrus in the wine couldn't even stand up to the lime in the ravioli.

The dining experience got back on track the second course, which was a delectable sous vide filet of halibut served with a frisee salad, pistachio puree and poached egg. The buttery quality of the slow cooked halibut paired with the decadence of the runny egg, all brought together with the sharp nutty and earthy notes of the pistachio... It was very well balanced. Paired with this course was a 2008 Puligny Montrachet produced by Château de Puligny Montrachet. This was not one of their 1'er Cru sites, but quite good none the less. In many vintages I find that southern white Burgundies tend to be big, with pronounced butter and oak, almost new world in nature, but the 2008 vintage really lends itself more towards bright acidity and crisp mineral notes, and that's exactly what made this a perfect pairing for the course. The dish itself was already so heady and full, you needed that acidity to cut through the richness. The plate might not have been my favorite for the evening, nor was the wine, but I did feel that this food and wine combination was the best pairing of the evening.

For me the third course was the highlight of the night, though my wife would disagree. It was a seared day boat sea scallop with a french onion puree, parmesan espuma and crisp bacon. The scallop was cooked to perfection, which is no easy feat when you are sending plates for 50 guests simultaneously, and the depth of flavor from the french onion puree and parmesan foam was surreal. The only thing I would say negatively, and I am a bacon lover so this is borderline blasphemous... the bacon was unnecessary. It acted almost as a garnish rather than a component of the dish, a bacon tuile so to speak. The wine for this course was 2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur "Clos de la Feguine", 1'er Cru Beaune. It was a very nicely balanced red Burgundy, with bright acidity harmonizing with very subtle dark fruit, fresh earthiness and a slight tannic backbone. While this course was my favorite dish, and also my favorite wine of the night, I found the pairing of food and wine to be good, but not great. The wine was slightly overwhelmed by the onion puree and espuma. Much like the second course, the acidity played as a nice counterpoint to the richness of the dish, but in this instance I would like to have had something fuller and darker to enhance the decadence, rather than try to diminish it, possibly a northern Willamette Valley, Carneros or Sonoma County Pinot ('02 Whitethorn "Hyde Vineyard" or '09 Sineann "Resonance Vineyard" come to mind).

Fourth course was the buzz of the evening, as it was the official unveiling of the new suckling pig preparation. For those of you not familiar, suckling pig has always been THE signature dish of Restaurant Nicholas. They had been running the previous preparation for approximately 18 months, so the staff was anxious to see the response to the new version. The new incarnation is bourbon glazed suckling pig, served with parisian apple, blanched brussel sprout leaves and mustard seed caviar. The pig was beyond reproach, melt-in-your-mouth tender and full of flavor, but to me the accoutrements were peripheral afterthoughts rather than necessary components. I understand the vision of the plate and the intended purpose of its parts. The acidity of the apple is meant to cut through the richness of the bourbon and the pig, the sprouts are intended to give vibrant earth notes, and the mustard seed to give an interesting twist of flavor... But it just didn't happen for me. By itself the pig was amazing, but when I put it all together for that "perfect bite" I found myself wishing that it was just the pig on my fork.

The wine paired with this momentous fourth course was anything but momentous, 2007 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Yes, Katherine Hall is a superb winemaker. Yes, the wine received some critical acclaim (90pt from Parker, etc.). Yes, the wine is moderately good. But let's face it, it's a second label wine that can be found in half of the liquor stores in the tri-state area, and on many wine lists of restaurants 2.5 stars or above. You would think for what was supposed to be the jaw dropping course of an anniversary dinner at the top rated restaurant in the entire state that something better than Hall Cab could have been offered. I understand that the price of admission was only $150 so the wines weren't going to be overly valuable... I get that. But there are hundreds of wines, including Napa Valley Cabs if that's specifically the direction they wanted to go in, that are smaller production and higher quality for roughly the same price as '07 Hall Cab.

The fifth and final course of the evening was the pièce de résistance for my wife, but she's also biased due to the fact that not only is dessert her favorite course, but cheesecake is one of her two favorite desserts! So the evening's finale was a peanut butter cheesecake topped with a fortified wine gelee, served with a semi-sweet chocolate gelato and almond crumble. The wine pairing was 2008 Mas Amiel from Maury, a fortified grenache from Southern France. It was also the same wine that was used to make the gelee. I must say, this dessert was impressive. I am not a cheesecake fan, at all, but as desserts go this was a knock your socks off plate and a great way to end the service.

Overall, this was a very good meal and a fun evening. In my opinion there were a couple of culinary hiccups, and what I believe to be some questionable choices in wine, but regardless of those few points I still give the dinner four stars out of five because everything else was superb. I have yet to have a bad meal at Nicholas... there are not too many restaurants I can say that about. Once again, congratulations to Nicholas for his decade plus of success and I wish him, his family and his staff another 11 successful years!

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Restaurant Nicholas
160 State Route 35, Red Bank, NJ 07701

Nov 28, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Slow poached hen egg at Nicholas

Haha, I can understand that.

Obviously what makes it $60 is the fresh white truffle. I believe it's somewhere around $2,400/lb for restaurants to purchase this season (significantly more for us as normal consumers... D'artagnan is selling it right now for $304/oz) and Nicholas gives roughly 1/5oz portion. So that truffle on the plate cost Mr. Harary roughly $30. The same portion size by D'artagnan prices is $68. So really $60 is pretty darn fair for the dish.

Nov 14, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Slow poached hen egg at Nicholas

Ok, so $60 is not cheap for an appetizer.... But I've had it twice before and In my opinion it's worth every penny. But I can certainly understand people that flip out about the price. It's a perspective thing. Income not withstanding, some people refuse to pay more than $100 for a dinner for two, some people are willing to pay $2,000. Just like some people refuse to pay more than $30,000 for a car, while some people are willing to spend $150,000. If you are really into food and are willing to treat yourself once in a while, then go for it. That's my $0.02.

Nov 13, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Old Homestead in AC closing?

I would have to disagree on that one. The last time I dined at OH my mid-rare steak came out mid-well. Morton's is better imho.

Nov 10, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Unique Cocktails in NJ

If you're talking about going out in the City then this is certainly a hike for you... But if you ever find yourself over in the New Brunswick area definitely check out the bar at Catherine Lombardi. They do it the right way, I can assure you that. Also, if you're ever in the Princeton area Elements has a very interesting cocktail list. The only problem there is that they don't have much of a bar (only 4 stools), it's more of a 4-star restaurant that serves interesting drinks.

http://www.catherinelombardi.com/sle/cl/

http://www.elementsprinceton.com/

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Catherine Lombardi
3 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Nov 10, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

John Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen

I'm sure the menu changes on a very regular basis, which is why it's unlikely that you'll find a copy online. If he's potentially charging $10 for a three-course menu you better believe that his chefs will be preparing whatever items were specially priced that day from the vendors.

Oct 24, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Casual Seafood in/near Point Pleasant?

They're currently closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and will be shutting down for good on Sunday, October 23rd.

Oct 06, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

O Forno, Brick, NJ - Portuguese & Italian Cuisine

Thanks for the write up. I live in Brick and have wondered about this restaurant. I'll have to give it a try the next time I'm looking for a relatively casual evening.

Sep 05, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Daniel's Bistro, Point Pleasant Beach NJ

I may not have enough time over the next couple of days to write a true report of my experience at DB tonight.... but all I definitely NEED to say was that it was amazing! One of the better meals I've had in recent months, including a couple of meals at Nicholas and other top notch NJ/NY restaurants. It was my first time there and I will definitely be back very soon.

Aug 16, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey

Labrador Lounge, Normandy Beach

So it's ok to be below mediocre but charge for better just because it's the beach? That's an interesting line of reasoning... likely what got this establishment it's 25 food rating.

Aug 15, 2011
JerZ Wine Geek in New Jersey