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Apr 2, 2007 09:29 AM

Thyme Square- Red Bank

My DW and I were lucky enough to get a babysitter last night so we decided to try Drew's in Keyport. The problem was however that Drew's was closed for vacation. That was a major disappointment as we had been looking forward to dining there for a while. Drew's not being available we had trouble deciding between two on the "List": Bay Avenue Trattoria and Thyme Square. Bay Avenue made it easy as it closes early on Sunday (8 PM) so it was off to Thyme Square. We went there with pretty low expectations in light of the recent reviews on this board. But for a few hiccups the meal went very well. We arrived at 8:30 to find the restaurant slightly less than half full. Perfect for me as far as far as I was concerned. This was a decent sized space decorated in earth tones with beige paint, chair railing and several crystal chandeliers (while interesting, there something about drop ceiling tiles and chandeliers that are somewhat incongruous). Our waiter was friendly but not intrusive. He was refreshingly honest about the dishes to try (and avoid for our tastes) on the menu. This was very helpful because we had a little difficulty ordering. We choose the salt roasted beet salad to share, the tartare, crudo, ceviche trio and stuffed zucchini flowers for apps, the braised short ribs and sliced skirt steak for entrees and for dessert, the chocolate espresso cake and the salt caramel ice cream sandwich. While I could nit pick about a few of the items, as a whole, everything was excellent. As a nice touch, the salad was split and plated like the full size version. This was a perfect salad. The combination of the bitter baby argula with the sourness of the grapefruit and the saltiness of the goat cheese and beets was delightful. Another nod to how well the salad was dressed. While each leaf was coated with the dressing, there was no extra dressing on the bottom of the plate. Over dressing usually ruins a salad for me. The first hiccup of the night was the failure to deliver bread. An easy oversight so I can’t really kill them for that one. Easily remedied. Bread was nice with the fruity EVOO left on the table. Next came the apps. The raw fish trio was tuna tartare, scallop with citrus of some sort and halibut with miso. All were excellent – especially the tartare. My only complaint was the size of each tasting, barely a forkful. I would have been happier with a little more for $10. The zucchini flower app was also quite good. The menu described it as being stuffed with lump crabmeat and cream cheese along with a chili sauce. We were given three stuffed flowers. The size of the app was OK and it tasted very good however I couldn’t discern any crabmeat in the stuffing just cream cheese. I know this sounds crazy but to me they tasted like a high-class jalapeno popper. The entrees were the showstopper of the evening. I had the skirt steak while the DW had the short ribs. Both were divine. I ordered the skirt steak medium rare and subbed polenta fries for the fingerling potatoes. The steak was perfectly cooked and served with a reduction of some sort that made the dish. My DW’s short ribs were also perfect with horseradish crema that tasted of yogurt. Nice and tender. My one complaint about the short ribs was that along the bottoms of each rib was meat that had dried out presumably from being overcooked. To be honest I didn’t have much objection to this as I love nawing at bones. I’m sure my DW was horrified however. Next came the desserts. Both were very good especially mine. I had the salt caramel ice cream sandwich. This dessert really did it for me. If you love salty and sweet together (think popcorn with chocolate) this is the one to get. The salty caramel ice cream sat atop a shortbread cookie with crumbled cookie on top. Two small nit picks about the dessert however. This was evidently taken directly from the freezer so the ice cream was delivered rock hard (nothing a few seconds in the microwave wouldn’t fix) and the sandwich moved along the plate like a hockey puck. Something should have been put on the plate to keep the sandwich from moving about. Again small nit picks which didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of this dessert. My wife’s chocolate espresso cake was very standard but good. Exactly what she was looking for in a dessert. Exclusive of gratuity the meal cost $100. I will definitely return and would not hesitate to recommend the place. Good Luck.

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  1. Hey, bgut1, Thanks for the very detailed report. Despite the few "glitches," it's good to know that most of the food was well-prepared and tasty. I will now put it back on my "to go" list.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      RGR - Your welcome. I hope you were able to understand the review as I wrote it pretty quickly. Please do try Thyme Square as I would be interested to know what you thought. I am, however, pretty confidant you will enjoy it. Good Luck.

    2. Thanks for the review. They are always appreciated.

      I am surprised when restos close early on Sunday. We go out on Sundays and always find them crowded. People do go out Sundays.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tom porc

        Hello tom - I guess there are not enough of us Sunday diners :)!

        1. re: tom porc

          Most restaurants in our area of N.J. close early every day except Saturday and, perhaps, Friday. This sometimes puts my husband and me into a pickle because we mainly dine out during the week. We often like to eat late, but finding places with good food that remain open past 9 p.m. isn't easy. And if you show up at, say, 8:30, it's a good bet the place will be empty or nearly so. Yes, I know there are diners, but aside from the fact that the ones in our area are barely mediocre, in general, having dinner in a diner doesn't appeal to us.

        2. Just punched in Thyme Square to see what you all thought about it. We're going there tonight. We were there once before in the winter. But this was before I jloined this site.

          22 Replies
          1. re: Pink Pepper

            Hello Pink - Please let us know how it went.

            1. re: bgut1

              It was just perfect for me. You really shouldn't go by me this time because I'm on Jenny Craig, so I've been eating everything plain. I had the mixed green salad, dressing on the side. The greens were so fresh and tasty. Hit the spot. Hubby had the calamari with cannellini beans for an appetizer. He said it was excellent. I had the grilled halibut and asked them to put it over broccoli rabe. They said it wasn't a problem and they prepared it to my liking. Hubby had the skirt steak with a teriyaki/ginger sauce over potatoes. He said it was delicious! The waiter recommended that...said it was bursting with flavor.
              All in all a great night out.
              I'll go back soon. They had so many tempting things on the menu. The salad with the walnuts and gorgonzola cheese was calling my name.

              1. re: Pink Pepper

                I was thinking of going here tonight. Sounds great by bgut's review and pink pepper. It;s between this place or:

                Shipwreck Grill (love this place)

                or Piccola Italia (since we don't have any Italian restuarants by us. ha ha)

                1. re: Angelina

                  You can't go wrong with any of those Angelina. Good Luck wherever you go and please let us know.

                  1. re: bgut1

                    Thanks. We winded up at Piccola Italia in ocean last night. HUGE dissappointment. I have not been there since the summer. As much as I rave about this place. I must say now, I was very unhappy. Service was great, but the food was severly lacking.

                    Strange too was the fact that at 8:30 on a Friday night the place was empty!!! I won't be going back anythime soon.

                    I WISH I tried Thyme Square instead.

                    1. re: Angelina

                      Sorry about your experience Angelina. It must have been an off night.

                      1. re: bgut1

                        Thanks, bgut1. No time soon am I going to be going back. I wait to hear another review by someone trusted on this board.

                        1. re: Angelina

                          Hey, Angelina,

                          I'm surprised you didn't decide to try Thyme Square since it was the one you hadn't been to yet. Plus, bgut gave it a positive review, and you know how hard he is to please! lol

                          We haven't been to Piccola Italia in a very long time -- not since the original chef left. There was a post a while back from another Hound detailing how awful things went with a celebration dinner -- not so much with the food itself but with the ridiculously long time it took for them to be served. So much so that the birthday girl had to leave just as the food was coming out. Reading about that situation, I started to have doubts about ever going back. Now, your less than satisfactory experience with the food cements it. You'll not be getting a review from me because it's off my list.

                          If I were willing to settle for mediocre Italian food (no surprise to anyone here that I'm not), I certainly don't have to shlep all the way to Ocean to get some since, sadly, there are a boatload of mediocre possibilities within a very short radius of our house. :-(

                          We haven't been to Valentino's, which has received some positive reviews here. Another relatively new Italian is Dellasolla, in Freehold Boro, the restaurant that's in the space formerly occupied by Citrus. We stopped in one afternoon a couple of months ago to have a look. They've done a nice job refurbishing the interior. We chatted with the owner, and he gave us a copy of the menu, which looks promising. Still, we haven't tried the place. Frankly, I'm never too keen on trying yet another new Italian restaurant because they generally turn out to be so disappointing, and I really don't want to waste a meal. We haven't been into the Boro lately, so I presume it's still open.... Has anyone tried it?

                          1. re: RGR


                            Dellasolla is open. I haven't been (will give it a try eventually) and also haven't seen a review yet.

                            1. re: jsfein

                              Hey, jsfein,

                              I guess, then, Dellasolla must be doing some business. Since there have not been any reviews -- not even any mention of it on this board before now -- I applaud your willingness to take one for the team. :-)

                              1. re: jsfein

                                We've been to Dellasolla about 2 months ago. It's just another average restaurant. Beautiful room, owner started out super friendly, then lost his focus. You can tell he was being spread too thin.So typical of so many other places. I asked for my salad dressing on the side. It came mixed in. Now I'm slightly annoyed. But I let it go. My main course was fish and it was supposed to be over a bed of lentils according to the description. The owner made it sould like a nice and light fish dish. It wasn't exactly like that. They should have called it soup and served it with a spoon. It was soaking in it. My husband wasn't raving about his food either.
                                It's a shame because that room has so much potential for a really great restaurant. Maybe with time it will get better. I'll wait to hear some positive reviews before going back. I'm always willing to give a local place another try.

                                1. re: jsfein

                                  I went to Dellasolla a few weeks ago with 5 other people. It was not very good. First when we called we were told a big party was coming in and we had to make our reservations for 7:30 instead of 7. It was a Thursday. When we got there only two other tables taken, one for 6 and one for 8 people. That should have tipped us off but we forged on. All of the appetizers took forever to arrive and the main courses were awful. I cant even remember what we had. All I can remember is that I kept saying to myself that I wouldnt return. It turns out the chef got sick and the owner had to take him to the hospital. The owner was kind enough to take off the cost of two entrees from our bill and gave us dessert. I'll wait before I ever go back there again to hear if it/the chef has made a miraculous recovery.

                                  1. re: karins

                                    Thanks for those reports, Pepper and karin. Obviously, your experiences have borne out my suspicion stated in my previous post that Dellasolla is just another in the long list of unsatisfactory Italian restaurants in this area.

                                2. re: RGR

                                  Thanks for the post, RGR. My husband and I will not be going to Piccola again. Your so right about having to go all the way to Ocaen for poor food. I saw Dellasolla also, but I can't help but always resort back to El Meson when we are in the boro.

                                  Valentino's we have not been. Probably, and this is bad, but since no restaurant has ever made it there, we steer clear of the place. Not to mention I NEVER see many cars in front of the place.

                                  I definately want to try Thyme Sq. One of those places on my list, but then I can't remember it when we go out for dinner...

                                  Oh well...thanks for everyone's post!

                                  1. re: Angelina

                                    Sorry about Piccola. The original chef left and it went downhill. Maybe the regular chef was on vacation?

                                    I went to Thyme Square for lunch last week but only had soup and panini. Enjoyed it.

                                    1. re: tom porc

                                      I am a member of a small wine tasting group and we held our last meeting at Thyme Square. The theme was Rioja and the chef prepared an outrageous tasting menu to accompany including baked clams over and aromatic sea salt with bing cherries and foie gras, That really was only the tip of the iceberg. All in all the entire experience was superb!!

                                      1. re: grandpoobah

                                        Since it has been some time since we last visited Thyme Square, me and the Mrs. decided to dine there last night. I am happy to report that the food continues to shine save for a few deficiencies. Granted it was a Sunday night of a holiday weekend, but we arrived to find the restaurant deserted save for one other party. Although such a situation makes us feel uncomfortable, we decided to persist. When seated we where presented with a basket of warm bread with a plate of olives and house made ricotta cheese (very good). Interestingly, while a nice bottle of olive oil resided on each table a salt shacker was mysteriously absent. Having dined there once before we were familiar with the menu (which surprisingly has not changed save for a few specials). We ordered as follows: a salt roasted beet salad with arugula, ruby grapefruit tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette (split), a special of rare ahi tuna atop flat bread with hummus and micro greens, the duck and sweet onion stuffed crepe with a porcini fonduta, a wet aged new york strip, miso braised kurbota pork shank atop gorgonzola spaetzle. All of the above were excellent. All dishes were perfectly prepared and offered the perfect complement of flavors and textures. The only faux pas was the failure to provide the promised orzo/risotto which was to accompany the strip. Instead, the chef substituted some spaetzel (not the gorgonzola preparation that came with the pork shank I may add). On the other hand, the kitchen wins points for presenting us with two salads (the second one on the house) instead of splitting the one order. The salad was perfect BTW. A drop off however occurred with dessert. I recall loving the caramel ice cream short bread sandwich the last time there and I was happy to hear it was still on the menu. My criticism of that dessert was that it was obviously just taken out of the freezer and was hard as a hard rock. Now almost a year later the same situation occurred. Although hard to eat, the dessert is a winner. My DW's dessert was also somewhat disappointing. A lover of bread pudding she was happy to find a rendition on the menu. While the bread pudding was good, it missed a wet topping to counterbalance its dryness. A creme anglaise or a caramel sauce would have completed the dish. We finished with a cup of coffee and tea which for some reason was also comped by the house. All in all a very good meal, the cost of which was approx $120 exclusive of gratuity. While leaving my DW made the comment that she hoped this restaurant does a better business as we would be sad to lose it. Interestingly enough while driving through downtown Red Bank we noticed that many restaurants were similarly empty. Hopefully it was just a bad night. Good Luck.

                                        1. re: bgut1

                                          Yet another in a long line of excellent bgut1 reports! :-) I know I've said that often, but if the comment fits.... lol Thyme Square is definitely on my '08 "go to" list.

                                          As regards the emptiness of the restaurant, that doesn't surprise me. It's totally due to the fact that it was the night before a major dining out night -- New Year's Eve. Last year (or maybe it was the year before), we went to Nicholas two days after New Year's Eve, and the dining room was virtually deserted. When we arrived, there was one other table occupied, but they soon left and we had the room to ourselves. It didn't bother us in the least. And, btw, the meal was superb!

                                          The week following the end of the holidays is a notoriously slow time generally for restaurants. People are usually partied and "restaurant-ed" out. So, it can be a good time to snag a table at places that are normally difficult to get into -- though I doubt that applies to Per Se! lol

                                          1. re: RGR

                                            Thanks RGR. The compliment means even more coming from such a respected member of this board such as yourself. Excellent point regarding the slow week. BTW, I also noticed that TS will be closed next week.

                                            1. re: bgut1

                                              Great post, thanks. I've only done lunch at Thyme Square and thought it was good. Wasnt busy either in early December.

                                              In fact, Red Bank hasnt been as hectic as other years. Its much easier to find parking. Maybe ppl are eating at places that serve liquor. Chains, etc.

                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                Thanks Tom. You should definitely give it a try for dinner. I'm sure you will not be disappointed. IMHO, its one of the better restaurants in Monmouth County.

                                              2. re: bgut1

                                                bgut, Another favorite that's closed is Lorena's. Dec. 30 - Jan. 9.

                  2. i've been wanting to try thyme square for dinner, but settled for lunch today. i went with a friend who is a self-admitted "food snob". she had the butternut squash soup -- huge, beautiful portion which she said was really good. i had the endive and watercress salad -- it was good. i was disappointed because the walnuts, which were a big reason for me ordering the salad, were just a few crushed bits as garnish. then we shared a cuban and a turkey sandwich (with avacado, bacon, and tomato). both sandwiches were good- though, we both liked the cuban better. it was toasty warm and had great flavor. both sandwiches came with yummy, salty, fresh tortilla chips and tasty salsa. it wasn't cheap - $41 before tip (we each had coffee too), but it was pretty, the food was good and the service was decent too. they had a delicious looking prix fixe lunch menu for $15 - two courses and coffee. i'll try that next time.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: mfp79

                      mfp79 - I'm happy you enjoyed it.

                      1. re: bgut1

                        Thyme square, perhaps the first of what will be many in '09, has closed its doors for good. The battle will rage in these coming months between good enough to get by, and great enough to withstand a weak economy. Chalk this one up to just not enough staying power. 'Tis better to be regarded in varying degrees by many, than to be highly regarded by a few. So, who's next out there?

                        1. re: Nicholasfan

                          Thanks for the information Nicholasfan. It's a sad day to be sure. While I have had very good meals at TS, I have not dined there of late due to the fact that they had refused to change/update there menu. Otherwise, they will be missed.

                          1. re: Nicholasfan

                            Nicholasfan, your thoughts are timely. It's up to us customers to spend our chow budget carefully... to give our favorites their best chance to weather hard times.

                            As for Thyme Square, I don't like to see anyone go out of business. But I have to say our only meal there was underwhelming. I thought it was overpriced.

                            1. re: Nicholasfan

                              Though we never went to Thyme Square because the reviews were so mixed, I'm sorry to hear that it has closed especially because it means more people added to the unemployment roles.

                              I agree with Val that we should make every effort to give favorite restaurants support during what is certain to be even harsher economic times ahead

                              1. re: RGR

                                Thyme Square closed for good. As of 01.01.2009

                                1. re: NJDolfan

                                  That news has already been posted. (See Nicholasfan's post.)

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    Unfortunately, Table (Little Silver) closed a week earlier. Things are getting rough out there.

                                    1. re: BernieMSY

                                      Not for the great restaurants. They continue to survive, and will thrive as soon as the economy begins to pick up. The restaurants that have demonstrated spotty food quality and service will continue to fold. Drove by Nicholas last night and the parking lot was full!

                                      1. re: Nicholasfan

                                        However, I can't afford Nicholas every time I want to go out for dinner. It's sad to lose some of the routine favorites.

                                        1. re: Papa Bing

                                          Agreed. I just think it unfair to blame these closings on the economy. The restaurants that do the right things consistently and offer a product that appeals to a wide group of consumers will survive this. If these restaurants (Thyme Square, Table, The Shack) were so good, and should be mourned, they wouldn't be going under! Obviously, they had significant flaws.

                                          1. re: Nicholasfan

                                            I agree. I was in Bay Ave Friday and it was packed. It's small but people were still coming in at 9:00. Pick your favorites and support them.

                                            1. re: Nicholasfan

                                              >> I just think it unfair to blame these closings on the economy.
                                              >> The restaurants that do the right things consistently and offer
                                              >> a product that appeals to a wide group of consumers will
                                              >> survive this.

                                              I have to quibble. Quality and service will definitely help to keep a place in business during a bad economy. But there are so many other factors. There may be cash flow issues, investors backing out, or a diminishment in the general location. For instance, all the Red Bank restaurants depend on the health of Red Bank's theater and entertainment trade. If the weekend crowds stop coming to the theater and bars, the restaurants will suffer, regardless of food quality.

                                              Please don't assume that good food and service will keep your favorites in business. We have to spend our dining out budget wisely. A serious and delicious task.

                                              That said... yesterday we enjoyed breakfast and dinner at Flaky Tart and Drew's, respectively. It was a cold snowy Saturday. Flaky was bustling and Drew's was full. Food at both places was great, as usual.

                                              1. re: Nicholasfan

                                                I have to disagree in part... restaurants close for many reasons --- sometimes the least of which is the quality of the food. For starters, there are insurance prices, food costs, salaries, lease/mortgage, equipment purchases & maintenance... throw in a few slow nights weekly and the dark cloud gathers. In some way, I think Nicholas and David Burke Fromagerie (to name just two high-end spots) added a separate bar/tavern menu in an effort to keep people coming in while keeping the prices (and costs) down. The Shack may have closed because they couldn't pay their bills, especially in Sea Bright after the summer season was over. Table and Thyme Square are both in high-rent areas and Red Bank itself is seeing quite a few empty storefronts on Broad Street. Just because a restaurant is good doesn't mean it will be successful.

                                                I, like PapaBing, can't afford Nicholas anymore. Heck, I'm not sure Table would've fit my budget. But if Nicholas closes (gasp!) one day, I doubt it will be because it wasn't good anymore.

                                                1. re: aklein

                                                  Agree that there are many variables to keeping a restaurant going. As Yogi said, " got so crowed no one goes there anymore."

                                                  1. re: Papa Bing

                                                    I disagree. Food is food, service is service. The merits of these can be discussed and argued forever. However, the point of a restaurant is to be profitable and, by extension, stay in business. Of course there are costs, that should go without saying. But those restaurants that do the best job in this climate will stay in business. Period. Those that don't, like Table, however well regarded, will slip quietly into the night. I, for one, will not worry for the likes of Nicholas.

                                                    1. re: Nicholasfan

                                                      Okay, okay... shouldn't have mentioned Nicholas in the same breath as closing (I know that's a raw nerve out here)... but I've been to many restaurants with good food, good service, nice atmosphere that closed for many different reasons.
                                                      High-priced restaurants may do well because they seem to have no shame regarding profit margins (especially the ones with wine). But for the rest of us, keeping them in business is not a priority. I would be curious to hear if Nicholas is feeling the pinch or not these days. I bet many other high end establishments are.
                                                      Anyone remember Tortugas in Belmar? It was run by Tracy from Ragin' Cajun, the food was great and fun and creative, the space was small, they fell over themselves to keep the customers happy... and they went out of business anyway. Now Tortugas was no Nicholas, to be fair, but the point is that they paid attention to detail and offered great service in the face of failure.

                                                      1. re: aklein

                                                        There are many unseen aspects of running a restaurant that can result in a place closing regardless of how good the food and service are. It happens all the time and Nicholas is not immune, especially in the face of an economic downturn, much less a catastrophic economic meltdown. As with any business, but especially with a restaurant, being able to obtain credit in a fluctuating cash flow situation is essential to keep a place running. When the credit dries up, the ability of an establishment to meet payroll, vendor and other overhead costs becomes more difficult. This is true even when a place has excellent cost management abilities, a skill often lacking in a restaurant environment.

                                                        I can think of a number of excellent places that went under after the economic slump after 9-11. The current economic picture is staggeringly worse. Notice all those foreclosure and for sale signs all over th area? All the Wall Street types who lost everything in the last few months? Guess where they lived? I don't mean in regular neighborhoods either, but areas like Rumson and Deal. Those folks aren't going to be dining out at Olive Garden, much less Nicholas or Fromagerie in the foreseeable future.