A friend of mine wants to take his partner out for a very nice birthday dinner. The partner is a cooking school graduate and a pretty darn good chef, so the food is definitely important. I have suggested the Blue Bottle Cafe and the Brothers Moon in Hopewell, NJ, as possibilities. Also the Fromagerie in Rumson. Are there any others? Rat's was rejected, though I'm not sure why. And I'm thinking the Fromagerie might be the upper boundary as far as price goes (not sure there are any places more expensive in the area, actually). Any ideas within an hour and a half's drive of Trenton?
Restaurant Nicholas in Middletown (right on the Red Bank border). I'm going there myself in a few nights for my birthday dinner and can't wait. The prices at Nicholas are probably no greater than what you'll pay at Fromagerie. $55 for a three course meal at Nicholas is a pretty good bargain for what you get. I considered Fromagerie for this upcoming meal. I was disappointed with my one meal at Fromagerie last year which was before it was bought by David Burke. I'm interested in trying it now, but I'm waiting to read some reviews (favorable or otherwise). I've seen very little posted about Fromagerie since the change in ownership.
There is a less than positive review of Fromagerie under David Burke's ownership by seal on this thread (scroll down):
I've also heard mixed reports from others, all of which have made me hold back on going there, at least right now.
As for the cost of the 3-course prix-fixe at Nicholas, it has not changed since they opened, which I find interesting. And what's also interesting is that other upscale restaurants of the same caliber have brought their 3-course prices in line. At David Drake's, it's $54 (up this year from the opening price of $49), and at Chez Catherine, it's now also $54 (up from $50, which it had been for quite some time). When it comes to tasting menus, Nicholas has maintained it at $75, David Drake's' is the same, and I see on Chez Catherine's website that they now have a tasting menu (something new), at $75. Nicholas is alone in having the small plates option at the bar, which we've done several times. One can eat very well there, and end up spending less.
Lorena's also has superb cuisine but is different in that the menu is a la carte menu. If you add up the cost of a 3-course dinner, it comes in at around $50. And, unlike the other three, it's a BYO.
jsfein, Happy Birthday in advance. Enjoy your dinner at Nicholas and Bon Appetit!
As usual I like RGR's suggestions.
I might also add that, following your distance restrictions, you should also post for suggestions around the Philadelphia area. There are a number of good choices in Philly these days and it is certainly close enough to Trenton for you.
As for David Drake, I like it well enough that the wife and I are going for an early dinner there on New Year's eve. Nice menu then.