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Chow-worthy places near Princeton, NJ?

Teresa's Caffe
21-23 Palmer Square East, Princeton, NJ 08540

I'm a regular here, and while the wait times can be a bit crazy if you go too late on Fri/Sat night, the other weeknights aren't so bad. The bread is good, the pastas are all excellent (I've tried all of them, at this point.)

I admit, I am an olive fiend, so I particularly love their Cavatelli Salsiccia (gemelli-shaped pasta, + sausage, asparagus, kalamata olives, and plum tomatoes.) It's $18, but a big portion, so totally worth it and very nourishing, esp. on these cold winter nights.

Jan 18, 2011
trenches in New Jersey

IS there any Good Sushi?

Ajihei (Princeton) is great, so I'm echoing the sentiments of the original poster, and a few others. Not cheap, but incredibly fresh, and good. No nonsense, polite staff, small tiny nook of a bare-bones place. Totally worth it, though, enough for me to have gone there a lot in 2008-2009.

Ichiban in Princeton near the UPS store (now Zen Modern Asian) was mediocre, but super-quick, and a bit cheaper if you want to fill up. More on Zen Modern Asian in another post.

11 Chambers St, Princeton, NJ 08542

Jan 18, 2011
trenches in New Jersey

Lahiere's, Princeton (closed)

For historic reasons, I'm a bit sad, but as a chowhound, I'm not, not one bit. I went there 3 times, hoping on the 2nd and 3rd tries that it'd be better, but it was just mediocre, dated stuff, sad pieces of meat or fish, swimming in lackluster blah sauce, at exorbitant prices (thankfully, I wasn't the one to pick up the check the last 2 times.) If it weren't for this town full of rich people with dull palates, this place wouldn't have survived so long.

Jan 18, 2011
trenches in New Jersey

Ploy Siam in Robbinsville

pm_fan, I hear ya!

The first time I went there was in early December 2010, and it was great! We got the Golden Bags appetizer, which was lovely-- a fried tofu outer skin, the inside was ground shrimp and crab meat with some vegetable, and a lovely plum sauce on the side. My dining companion got the Hor Muk (seafood), which was divine and I got the Basil Duck, which was perfectly crispy and juicy, and just at the right level of spice (I asked for 3 out of 5, because I'm not a big spice fan). Service was excellent.

Now, this time, I brought 2 people, on Saturday, January 16, 2011 to have dinner. We were seated at around 7:45pm. And the service was the worst I'd ever had. This was the first time in my extensive (dining) life that I have ever given a $0 tip.

The restaurant was 2/3 full, and after being seated for 15 minutes, there was no sign of any waiter taking our order. We tried eye contact, we tried waving. No luck. So I got up, and approached the hostess standing at the entrance to the seating area and asked her to get our waiter. We put our order in, and we ordered 2 sets of the Golden Bags, because we'd really liked it from last time. They arrived after about 15 minutes. They were exquisite, though, so we forgot much of our earlier annoyance.

But then, we noticed that people who'd been seated far earlier than we had been, who hadn't even had their order taken, and they were bugging out! (Not that I blame them!) Several got up and left. Others complained, but seemed to be given very vague excuses and apologies.

We were pretty tired after a long day (we had a houseguest and we'd been walking all over campus and other areas), so we decided to stay.

It turned out, we waited 1hr 35 minutes between the time when our appetizers came and when our entrees came.

The reasons behind this? (1) Ploy Siam clearly prioritizes the takeout business. 7-10 takeout customers had been given their food in that time that we waited for our entrees. (2) Waiters are avoidant and maitre d' and hostess don't bother to say anything to patrons. Waiters also had no sense of priority-- a table of 6 who'd been done eating for 20 minutes and who had been waving to try to get their check were ignored so the waiter could go and clean a table that had been vacated by some other group. (3) Waiters knew people were pissed, so they didn't even come by to fill anybody's glasses-- they were totally avoiding eye contact. (4) Waiters were inefficient-- there was a party of 4 in the corner, and there were 2 waiters doubling up to take their orders, after they waited for 30 minutes! You don't need 2 waiters to take the orders of a party of 4.

What did the remaining patrons do? We warned anybody who came in and sat near us about what was happening. Many left. I saw a couple bail out after waiting 30 minutes for their appetizer (which never came.) Another couple left, possibly without paying, because the waiters were so avoidant.

So the food finally arrived-- my two dining companions ordered Pad Tamarind Beef (which was excellent), great balance of flavors highlighting, but rounding out the tamarind, and Pad Asparagus Chicken (they had to sub broccoli b.c. they ran out of Asparagus*, but it was quite tasty, too), and my favorite Basil Duck, which was as perfect as the last time. We got up to pay, and we decided to give a zero tip, because the waiters were so avoidant and didn't give us any water for well over an hour (we had to get up out of our seats and literally tap one on the shoulder to get water.) Even a simple-- "hi, we're having a minor problem in the kitchen tonight, so things will be delayed by N minutes" would have been APPRECIATED. And filling our waters would have earned some goodwill, but their flagrant ignoring of patrons really earned our ire.

Moral of the story-- don't dine there. If you absolutely must go there (because I will admit, the food is excellent), do takeout only.

Jan 18, 2011
trenches in New Jersey

Did Hanami (formerly Sunny Garden) in Princeton close?

I just tried calling them and nobody picked up. So, it's looking pretty likely now that they're closed. But for how long is the question- is it code violations? renovations? out of business? It's a pity, because their food was pretty good, albeit not cheap, service was great at the restaurant, and their delivery was also very good quality and quick.

Jan 18, 2011
trenches in New Jersey