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ryland inn or cafe nicholas

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special occasion, one meal. which restaurant? any help?

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  1. I assume you mean Restaurant Nicholas in Middletown. Between the two I would defintely choose Nicholas. Good luck and let us know which one you chose and how it was.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bgut1

      bgut1 - Not questioning your choice, but what are your reasons for Nicholas over Ryland? Living in Somerset County, I've been to Ryland in the past (still paying off the home equity loan I took out to pay for the dinner) but not to Nicholas, and looking for a reason to trek to Nicholas.

      1. re: fpatrick

        Obviously, I'm not bgut1, but this is what I wrote in answer to your post on the Tri-State board:

        "A correction. The formal name is Restaurant Nicholas though it's mostly referred to as just "Nicholas." I highly recommend it over Ryland Inn. In my estimation, Nicholas has far superior food, in addition to a superb wine list, first rate service (not a hint of stuffiness or attitude), and wonderful ambiance."

        I'll add here that Craig Shelton's food has always left me wondering what all the hoopla is about. I've never had a "Wow!" moment at the Ryland Inn, while at Nicholas, the "Wow!"s just keep on coming whether you eat in the dining room or at the bar. Furthermore, the service at Nicholas has a warmth (in addition to its polished professionalism) that I found lacking at RI.

        Since you've already been to the Ryland Inn, I urge you to go to Nicholas and compare for yourself. Have a pre-dinner drink in the beautiful bar room, then on to dinner in the dining room with its soothing contemporary decor, well-spaced tables, and oh-so-comfortable seats. Enjoy what will be one of the best meals anywhere along with pampering service. Nicholas, himself, or his wife Melissa, (both with sommelier credentials) will help you choose your wine.

        If you make the trek, I feel absolutelly certain you won't be sorry.

        Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

    2. Besides, isn't the Ryland Inn for sale? This would alone make me wonder if it were worth going to at this time. I've been hearing some not-so-nice comments about it around the area lately, about it sliding downhill.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sivyaleah

        I remember reading that RI was being put up for sale, but that was quite some time ago. I've heard nothing about it since, so I wonder if it's still on the market.

        In an attempt to appeal to less affluent diners -- and, I presume, to boost the bottom line -- RI created a less costly bistro menu which, I believe, is served in their bar area. Have no idea how well that's gone over. In contrast, the menu of "small plates" that Nicholas serves in their bar area is taken directly from their regular menu but priced in such a way that even if you construct a full meal (approximating a tasting menu), it can end up costing you decidedly less than dining more formally.

      2. Funny, I was just thinking about going back to Nicholas ...

        I have not even considered going back to RI.

        Nicholas is a top tier, manhattan level restaurant.

        RI is a nice spot set in a nice location.

        Only way to tell for yourself is to try it.

        1. I have only been the Ryland Inn once, that was enough for me. Compared to Nicholas, there is no question in my mind. Nicholas always serves up truely tasteful dishes. For some reason, even items I do not care for, somehow I begin to love them after dining at Nicholas. i.e. Lemongrass. I was never a fan of it, but it was recently in a dish I had here and I loved it!

          By all the responses on Nicholas, I would presume you will be choosing this restaurant.

          Enjoy your meal.

          1. I'm sorry it took me so long to respond to your post. While I haven't dined at Ryland in quite some time I recall not being impressed with the food. On the other hand, the food at Nicholas is top notch and is equal to in all respects to a 3 star NYC restaurant. Having just dined in the Chef's Table at Nicholas this past weekend, I was blown away by the quality of food and service at this restaurant. Exemplary in all aspects of fine dining.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bgut1

              Please give details about the Chef's Table. How did the meal differ from ordering off the menu? Cost? Thanks.

            2. One of the reasons dining at Nicholas is comparable to dining in an upscale NYC restaurants is that both Nicholas and Melissa honed their skills at two of NYC's best: Jean Georges and Tabla. The vision they had for Nicholas from the very outset was to bring to their restaurant the same superb quality of cuisine, service, and ambiance. There's not any doubt that they've succeeded.

              1. Here is part of my post from egullet: "Nicholas was probably the best meal of my life (and also the most expensive btw - my fault due to wine ordered). By way of background, my wife and I have been dining at Nicholas since it opened (maybe twice to three times a year). For my 40th Birthday, I had thought to go to Per Se and actually had a reservation for this past weekend. Due to a cancellation of another couple and the hesitation to spend big $ for a NY hotel for the night we decided to stay in NJ. I had read a few months back at NJO restaurant forums that Nicholas was constructing a chef's table and inquired during a recent visit. I was happy to find out that in fact the table would probably be available for this weekend and we would be the first to dine in the kitchen (later found out we were the 2nd couple to do so). I was also advised that the table is available every evening except Saturday (as Nicholas is on the floor that night) at 7 PM at a cost of $150 p.p. which includes a 6 course Grand Tasting Menu with a glass of Nicholas Cuvee Champagne. I emailed Nicholas my wife's likes and dislikes (I enjoy everything). We showed up promptly at 7 pm and were escorted to the bar to have a glass of champagne. Several minutes later we were escorted downstairs into the kitchen. We were quite embarrassed to find out that the entire wait and kitchen staff were lining the stairs welcoming us into the kitchen for our dinner (think receiving line). The kitchen was dark and once we were seated the lights turned on and the orders started flying. Very theatrical and quite impressive. The table sits in an alcove literally feet away from the action. The table seats a maximum of four. The circular booth seating is an orange fabric while the alcove wall is lined by black tile and the lighting is a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. The kitchen is spotless and they operated like a well oiled machine. Very little talking except for Nicholas expediting. Nicholas presented us with two amuses: the watermelon sashimi and the fried cod cake. Next we were presented with custom menus autographed by Nicholas, Melissa and the entire kitchen staff. The entire meal took 3 and half hours and was exceptional. When I have more time I will go into more detail on the menu as some items were brand new."

                1. so we went to nicholas, if anyone is interested, and i thought that the meal was good, but not $320 good. six of us, five had the seasonal chef's menu, one had the garden. five people had the wine tastings with dinner. the food contained some true high notes, the sweetbreads, scallops, desserts, but i am told that the wine was only so-so. great, great service. but i would rather go to new york where this much money might be better spent. thanks

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: stevenpol

                    $320 for 6 sounds like a deal to me, but I suspect I'm mis-reading this.

                    1. re: fpatrick

                      I had exactly the same read as you and still can't figure it out.

                      1. re: Deb Van D

                        Make that three. At first, I read it that way but immediately realized it's impossible since even if all 6 had the 3-course $55 prix-fixe without wine, that amount would not cover it. Stevenpol said that 5 of them had the "seasonal chef's menu." Perhaps, he meant the tasting menu, which costs $75. And he said 5 had wine pairings. Cost = $45pp. So, if he and his dining partner (wife?) both had the tasting menu + wine pairings, when you add tax (recently raised to 7%) & tip (25%?), you get something in the vicinity of $320 for 2.

                        1. re: RGR

                          to all concerned, it was $320 per couple. sorry.

                          1. re: RGR

                            to everyone confused, sorry it took so long to get back, but it was 320 for 2 people. mystery solved.

                    2. I went to the Ryland Inn many years ago, once for dinner and twice for lunch, and really enjoyed the food, service and atmosphere. I dont know what it is like now. Last summer I went to Nicholas with my daughter and we sat in the bar area and had two drinks and two teeny tiny appetizers. One was gnocchi..this plate consisted of 5 small pieces the size of my thumbnail. I dont remember what the second one was. Two drinks , two appetizers..$75 dollars later, we left disappointed and headed to Barnacle Bills for twin lobsters. They were rancid...even the waitress couldnt stand the smell after we returned them. Very, very bad night.

                      1. Sorry to bring back an old post but Karins raises an excellent point about the Nicholas Bar Menu. It does take quite a few dishes (small plates) to make a decent meal. Clealry, the $55 prix fix is a much better bargain as far as the amount food is concerned. Add the ability to get a seat at the bar without a reservation and being able to wear casual clothes and its a toss up (at least to me). What do you think?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bgut1

                          I don't agree that the $55 prix-fixe is necessarily the better bargain.

                          We've found that we can eat very well at the bar and end up spending less than when we eat in the dining room. When we eat at the bar, we each compose our own tasting menu. Looking at a print-out of one of our meals there, we had 8 plates, and the cost was $96 -- $14 less than two 3-course prix-fixes. Not a huge difference, but still... Note, also, that some portions in the bar are actually the same size as what is served in the dining room. This is especially the case with all the desserts.

                          Another major reason our bills when eating at the bar are substantially less is that my husband, the wine drinker, almost always does wine pairings in the dining room, but in the bar, he sticks with just one glass or sometimes just orders a bottle of Pellegrino. Needless to say, that makes an enormous difference in the bottom line.

                        2. someone recently posted Ryland Inn closed due to flood.