Sirena (Long Branch) - nice view. not much else
Made the fatal error of trying this place on Saturday night. While still early in the rush (5:45 !), the staff, from hostess to bussers, was visibly overwhelmed.
Seated at a corner table with a lovely view of dusk on the ocean as well as a middle-aged woman passed out in a drunken stupor on the boardwalk (us, politely to waiter after 20 minutes of observing said woman: "do you know if that woman's alright?" - well-intentioned waiter "She's probably drunk.").
Ordered selection of antipasti, fat cerignola olives, proscuitto, soppressata, grana padano, and bresaola. Also ordered the mozzarella in carrozza. Both arrived after 40 minutes. (friendly Inquiry to still well-intentioned server after 25 mins: "how's our first courses?" - flummoxed waiter: "Saturday night is busy for us. Many orders come into the kitchen.")
Appetizers arrive. Maddeningly ordinary. Salumi are sliced well in advance of being plated for patrons. This is clear in the way the rounds of bresaola have curled at the edges while sitting in the heat of the kitchen. Grana padano hunks are supermarket grade and have big regions of inedible rind. Moreover, 4 dollars for 5 olives would make even the most touristy of Little Italy places blush. Mozzarella in carrozza was goopy, oversauced and lukewarm.
Entrees: Margherita Pizzete -- decent crust, but not a margherita. It had tomato rounds rather than milled san marzanos. Penne Zingara (raved about in the NY Times review) is a mish mash of tomatoes and olives with noodles suspended in a good inch of soupy sauce at the bottom of the bowl. Chicken scarpiello - hunks of banquet quality chicken breast aggressively dredged in flour (resulting in a gummy, flavorless exterior on the chicken) unceremoniously plopped on some all-purpose brocolli rabe that was no doubt being employed as the foundation for countless other entrees leaving the kitchen. Adorned with a nondescript watery sauce and hunks of (very cold) sausage, this dish was sent back.
"Would you like something else?"
"Just the check please."
Central Jersey 'hounds: have a drink at Sirena's nice bar, order a pizzete, and leave with your expectations modestly met.
Hounds could have saved you the trouble. Nobody has had anything positive to say about McLoone's. And the other restaurants in the Pier Village complex aren't much better. Rooney's, not in the Village but which has a spectacular ocean view, sadly, is not a good alternative food-wise either.
The thing is I didn't go searching for any reviews of the place because it was a spontaneous decision to dine there. We had originally meant to go to Rooney's, but decided to check out Pier Village since we had not been there. So, on a whim, we popped in McLoone's. Since our experience was not so good we felt the need to write about it, and did so without even reading any other review. Now I'm seeing all kinds of less than stellar reviews of the place on-line. It's good to know that it wasn't just an "off-night", that we shouldn't waste our time (or money!) trying it again. :)
Thanks for this detailed report, millefeuille. Your experience tracks with that of most Hounds who have tried it recently. Early reports were positive, but it seems there's been a precipitous downhill slide. A few weeks ago, David Corcoran in the "NYTimes" reviewed Sirena and rated it "Very Good." I usually find him pretty much on target. But in this case, he parts company with the consesus on this board.
Here's Corcoran's review: http://events.nytimes.com/2007/05/27/...
We've been there 4 times...twice for dinner, twice for lunch. I'll never go back again. The only reason I kept giving it another chance was because of the beach. I love eating by the ocean. Such a peaceful feeling. But their food and service is just not worth it anymore.
So sorry to hear of your poor experience, millefeuille. I'm afraid it was not unexpected.
It's tragic really when one thinks that there were 300 business requests for Pier Village and the owner chose these 40 as tenants.