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Daniel's Bistro, Point Pleasant Beach NJ

Based on all that I heard about this place here and elsewhere, I was excited for a rare night out with my wife so we got a babysitter and I made a reservation for dinner at Daniel's, a place we had heard good things about. We arrived a few minutes early for our reservation and, while waiting to be seated, we noticed a solitary two-seat table directly in front of the door, a few feet away from the hostess station, near the coat check and the restrooms. I joked to my wife that I hoped they didn't try to seat us at this outlander table. She laughed and said she was sure they didn't actually seat guests there.

Turns out, the joke was on us when, to our amazement, the owner/host picked up two menus and, ignoring the entire dining room, made her way the short distance to the pariah table. When I told her we did not want to be seated right in front of the door, she told us that it was the only table available (so why take our reservation if you don't have enough proper tables?), and that it was actually a better table because it was a quieter location and we'd have more room. When I expressed my concern at the proximity of the table to the entrance - it was in the mid-30s outside and the table was just feet from the door - she assured us that the exterior heater just outside the door would prevent any cold air from blowing in. Normally, I would have just left, but we accepted the owner's assurances despite our doubts and took the table. After all, we had driven 30 miles to get to the restaurant and the idea of leaving and hunting for another place to eat on a Saturday night seemed an unappealing way to spend our date.

At first, things were actually okay. Our starters were tasty, although my lobster cocktail came on a half melted bed of ice, leaving the food in a pool of cold water, and the main courses (duck breast and rack of lamb) were very good. But midway through our meal, it all crashed and burned. Because we were seated where we were seated when we were seated there, we suddenly were subject to a continually opening front door, much cold air blowing in, my wife freezing, and as many as two dozen people surrounding us as they waited for their tables!

Since people were not leaving their tables, the folks arriving for the next seating had nowhere to go but all around us! Add to this the fact that we were also seated right along the path to the restrooms, both of which were now flooding! Imagine a fine dining experience where your table is just outside the restroom at an outdoor train station in December during rush hour. You get the idea.

After dinner, I waited to speak to the owner to call her out on her assurances about seating us where she did (I believe the saying is "don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining" would apply). I told her we had expected to have a romantic dinner out, not to have been made uncomfortable at an expensive restaurant (check with tip was about $175 for two and it's a BYOB establishment). She said, "I'm sorry but I guess you just have bad timing." Then she turned away.

Really? You put up the pretense of being a top flight, fine dining establishment, charge high prices, then misrepresent what you're giving us, treat us like neglected step children and tell us it was all our own fault? I understand that the locals, many of whom were well into their sunset years, seem to love this place. Indeed, we heard a number of customers ask after the owner's family and daughter (who is apparently applying to Brown early decision and "Tuft" and other colleges - I know this because our dinner conversation was not as loud as the chit chat from the hostess station and waiting area, nor, for that matter, as loud as the horrid smooth jazz piped into the dining room), and I acknowledge that the food was mostly quite good. But when you charge people 200 bucks for a meal, that should include a good experience -- a nice night out.

Sadly, all we got for our money at this ill-conceived, pretentious excuse for a high-end restaurant was a decently cooked piece of meat and a chill. For my money, Nicholas or Belford Bistro make this place look like - well, a lot like a neglected step child.

Mar 20, 2012
HappyCurmudgeon in New Jersey