I like the location, live nearby. I just dont understand the SKATE on the menu. kinda gross, skate is the fish u throwback when you're expecting a flounder. still want to try, esp after reading this. DEF need better parking, Rahway can be nasty at night, no offense to anyone.
I'm especially glad to read about someone having the basil ice cream. I had a rosemary one, it came with what I termed "a difficult desert" because of it. At first, I wasn't quite sure what I thought off it and then I realized I was really into the herbal quality of it. And like I mentioned in other hands it could have been a disaster but DD really has a very subtle way with flavors that could go overboard if not done correctly. I also had skate & gnocchi with "fall flavors". I was really worried it was going to taste like a pumpkin pie gone awry - but nope, it was just barely touched with it, just enough to give the essence without drowning it.
I think part of the fun at DD is trying the dishes with the unusual flavors and dishes which will wind up with vivid colors on the plate (which mine did too). Thanks again for the review - it was very entertaining :-)
BTW you should post this separately.
A most entertaining review, Engineer. Glad you all enjoyed it. But I have to say that those who ordered the salad and the steak opted for what I consider to be two of the most pedestrian dishes on the menu. In my view, you made the smart decision to go a more "adventurous" route. I haven't had that risotto, but your reaction doesn't surprise me because it's the kind of dish that really showcases David's talents. Next time, try his foie gras. Every preparation I've had there had me swooning!
I went to DD last night for the first time.
Some of our party arrived by train, the rest by car. The driver reported well lit, free, ample on-street parking on the other side of the station.
Forwarned by 'hounds about the possibility of cramped seating, we let the reservationist know that there would be a (very) pregnant person in our party. She arrived first and an extremely smiley, very accomodating gentleman made sure she was settled comfortably. Having seen the place myself now, I wouldn't say the place is physically cramped, but maybe aurally cramped is more like it. I wouldn't go to DD to propose, break up, or have a conversation regarding what E.F. Hutton told me. That said, we were celebrating a birthday (Engineer's 40th) so we had no problem there.
Cocktails. Thumbs up. I don't know why its so rare to get an Old Fashioned with muddled fruit in 21st century NJ, but I order them all over--- and it is. DD's Old Fashioned is right on.
For dinner, the table went with the three course menu. Here are some impressions:
Amuse-bouche (Freebie #1) mushrooms in Thai(?) marinade. At first I thought Mr Smiley said Thyme marinade, but it seemed like a chiffonade of basil and mint, with hot and sour notes in the liquid... so I guess it was Thai. The thin, slightly rubbery (in a baby octopus way) slices of 'shroom and clumps of herb were a little clumsy on the fork. The overal effect was a little underwhelming. Quoth the matriarch-to-be, "We are not amused."
Acorn Squash risotto was the best app at the table, partly because everyone else got the chef's salad. (Hey! Where's the julienned boiled ham!?) The risotto was a study in contrasting textures and flavors that kept the eye, tongue, palate, and fork engaged. Just the kind of food I love: it commands your attention. The kind of dish where you can't gab or read or let your mind wander while you eat it. Textures: tender pulled (actually braised) rabbit, toothy shrooms, risotto-y risotto, thin sauce. Flavors: sweet rabbit, mildly earthy shrooms, slightly bitter parmesan-y risotto, and that bright green scallion sauce, or rather broth. The broth was poured at the table, and it tases the way an electrical fire smells. Sounds bad, and to be honest I wouldn't want a bowl of the stuff, or even a shotglass, but it worked in conjunction with the rest of the elements.
The chef's salad crowd all got the flatiron steak, which was a substitute for the currently unavailable rib-eye. It was sold as "like a filet mignon." Maybe, but it had more flavor than filet. (What dosen't?) The accompanying potato gratin had a hint or more of nutmeg. I laughed thinking of Rachel Ray and her oft-repeated "secret tip" about nutmeg. In everyting.
My monkfish was fine, colorful (!), etc. I wasn't really blown away, but that's alright. Its a thoughtful preparation, executed with skill. The asparagus and potato puree were SO damn good, but what do you expect with two winner vegetables plus butter, salt, and pepper?
Freebie #2: sorbet! Strawberry sorbet with a chocolate balsamic sauce. The balsamic was lost on me... maybe the sorbet chilled my tongue down too much? Smiley said he'd like a whole pint of the stuff, and we agreed... but little did we know what was to come...
Dessert: Forget the pint of sorbet, gimme a gallon of the basil ice cream! This came with the pan-seared pineapple dessert, another study in contrasting flavors and textures. And colors(!). The basil ice cream was so good! It reminded me of a recent find (thanks to a fellow chowhounder): Jeni's ice cream in Columbus Ohio, which does mail order. Get the Marie Antoinette package. I digress... All the DD desserts were top drawer. One quibble was the naming of the chocolate parfait. I hear parfait, I think sundae, and my mouth sets its expectations accordingly. What arrived was delicious and inventive, but not what I would call a parfait at all. There was another dessert item called a "non-traditional" creme brulee. I think that's better; if you're going to play with a classic, you ought to tip the folks off in advance. (Don't get me started on the word "bisque.")
Freebie #3: cookies! What the Pepperidge Farm distinctive collection would be like if it was made in small batches by top chefs instead of giant machines.
Miss Prego and the Old Gentlemen were yawning by coffee time, so we (cheese lovers both) skipped the cheese plate. Next time for sure. Guy Smiley did that old cheese-plate trick of leaving it out in full view of our room after one table ordered it. Smooth upselling, my man! We shall return!
So what's with the fork on the right side? I mean, it makes sense from an efficiency standpoint, if you expect more righties to show up than lefties. A friend eats his hamburgers upside-down, insisting that's the natural way they end up when picked up in the logical manner. I bet he would put his fork on the right too.
A couple of oddities- my wine (a rose served by the glass) was waaaaay too cold to taste. It smelled sweet n fruity, but tasted nothing but acidic. I think the temp killed the flava. It got the white-zin treatment! Another wierd thing for this kind of place was when somebody walked by with armsfull of cry-o-vac'ed meat.
All in all, we had a great meal, and will return. Love what they've done with the place.
re: The Engineer
Alas, you do have to realize the train is not convenient for all parts of NJ and then you are on their schedule. And have you ever had the misfortune to be stuck at Rahway train station for an extended period? If anyone thinks parking 1/2 block from the restaurant is an issue, believe me you would not want to be hanging out at the train at night.
We've had dinner at David Drake three times since it opened, and the food has been uniformly excellent. I disagree that it is very pricey. In fact, I think the $49 prix-fixe price for 3 courses is quite reasonable for top quality cuisine served in very lovely surroundings. It's certainly in line with what other restaurants of its caliber are charging. For example, Nicholas, in Middletown, charges $55 for the 3-course prix-fixe. And even that is not ridiculously high considering how superb the cuisine is. Furthermore, when you take into consideration that 3-course prix-fixes in upscale NYC restaurants start around $75 and go substantially upwards from there, these prices in NJ for cuisine that is of equal quality are truly a bargain.
I don't think David Drake is in any danger of not succeeding despite its being in Rahway because, at this point, it is becoming a destination restaurant.
As for the parking situation, of the three times we've been there, only once were we able to snag a spot on the street directly in front of the restaurant. (There are also some parking spaces across the street in front of the railway station.) The other two times, we parked in the garage which is conveniently located just around the corner less than half a block away. It was well lit, there was an attendant there both times, and it cost us the grand sum of $1!
I agree on how superb the food is. I ate there only once with my husband and it was well worth every penny! The lot is so close to the building. I do not think they need a valet at all. The dishes were served at such a nice pace as well. There was no rush rush in this place. I cannot wait to go back!
I agree with both of you. It is a destination dining experience for NJ, and the parking is literally around the corner. I don't think there's much of a danger, however we were lucky enough to snag one of the few street spots right in front of the restaurant.
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner - most likely will be back for my birthday in a month. Waiting for the menu to change to reflect the season.
I beg to differ greatly. I live in SP and have been there many times, with DD as the chef and with out and Stage House is not a destination restaurant any longer. I wrote up a very large review here about a year ago, had a very disappointing experience there.
Having the same chef "at one time" does not mean the restaurant is still excellent. In fact, it has declined since his leaving. I don't know why people keep bothering to point this fact out, he's been away from there for a long time now and the new management is not doing such a good job IMHO.
I won't go into the specifics again but suffice it to say that it is ok, nowhere near excellent. It is just another nice restaurant riding on it's history. Many of the dishes they serve can be had next door in the Tavern so there is nothing particulaly special about eating in Stagehouse any longer.
The food is uneven. We've had some dishes which were downright poorly prepared, and others which were good, but not remarkable.
However, for us and for many others we know, it is not the place we go any longer to celebrate special occassions. When DD left, the new management revamped how they were going to run the establishment and took away a lot of the cache of the place - and this is what we miss.
We can get the same type of nice average meal in a lot of other places around Union County, with better food, better service, and better ambience. There is NO comparison to be had to David Drake at all. Totally different category of dining.
Just my 2 cents as they say.