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Aug 2, 2007 07:08 PM

Changes at New Brunswick Restaurants

I was in New Brunswick recently and was surprised to see that La Fontana, long a mainstay of the dining scene there, is closed for renovations. The place has been gutted and will presumably morph into something quite different. There is also a sign saying that a new menu will be introduced in August (even though the restaurant is supposedly going to be closed until at least September). Anyone know more?

Farther downtown, it seems Catherine Lombardi has suspended lunch service until after Labor Day. A fellow next to me said he thought it was because business falls off when the university is not in session but I'm not sure I buy this. I seriously doubt that Catherine Lombardi is a destination for students at any time and I also doubt that many faculty pop over for lunch on a weekday. Furthermore, with a new luxury hotel right across the street from CL, you'd think they would pick up business from people staying there.

And finally, I read that about a year ago The Frog and The Peach, one of my favorite restaurants in New Brunswick, introduced a bistro menu in an attempt to attract more patrons with lower prices. The Ryland Inn tried the same thing, apparently without success.

I don't see any of these developments as positive, but then maybe I'm just paranoid! :-))

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  1. I ordered a main course once from The F&P's bistro menu. Though less refined than preparations on the regular menu, the food was quite tasty. We most often go there for their 3-course lunch prix-fixe, now up to $21.50, but have not done so recently. Once in a while, they make that a 2 for 1 offer -- a really good deal! :-)

    12 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Last time I ate dinner at the Peach I felt the quality of the food and service had gone downhill. Ever since, I like RGR, have only dined there for the prix-fixe lunch (still a good bargain). Great minds think alike right RGR. Ambrose, with regard to your observations, while I find them disheartening, I believe they are indicative of the state of fine dining througout the state of NJ.

      1. re: bgut1

        It is amazing, bgut, how often you and I are on the same gustatory wave length. :-) I have to say, though, we've never had any service issues. But, then, we don't go there on a Friday or Saturday night.

        We're intending to do The Frog's 3rd Annual Festival of Peaches 6-course tasting menu. We did it two years ago, and it was delicious. We didn't do it last year because the menu didn't appeal to us. But this year's sounds totally yummy! In case you didn't receive the e-mail announcement (it's not on the website), I'm appending it here:

        Grilled Peach and Halloumi Skewer
        Sour Cream, Port, Crispy Prosciutto

        Peach "Carpaccio"
        Crispy Duck Confit, Prosecco Vinaigrette, Spiced Almonds
        Prosecco 'Rustico', Nino Franco, Veneto, Italy NV

        Rice Flake Crusted NJ Flounder
        Heart of Palm, Snow Peas, Pickled Ginger, Peach Beurre Blanc
        Franciscan Chardonnay, 'Cuvee Sauvage', Carneros, California, 2004
        BBQ Peach Glazed Griggstown Poussin
        Basmati and Wild Rice, Peaches, Almonds
        Mahoney Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, 2004

        Aged Dutch Gouda
        Lemon Peach Caramel, Hazelnut Rye Bread
        Ash Hollow, (Cabernet/Merlot/Cabernet Franc), Columbia Valley, Washington, 2004

        Peach Granita

        Rice Pudding-Peach "Sushi"
        White Chocolate, Ginger Peach Dipping Sauce, Shortbread
        PMC Riesling Beerenauslese, Munzenreider, Bergenland, Austria, 2004

        $60 without wine pairings; $110 with wine pairings
        (Price does not include tax or gratuity.)

        1. re: RGR

          I like the look of that menu, when are they doing this special dinner?

          1. re: BeeZee

            It started at the end of July and continues until mid-September.

          2. re: RGR

            RGR - Looks good to me ,,, too bad some of the the items are not to Mrs. bgut1's liking (can't order tasting menus with her) :(

            1. re: bgut1

              You're not alone with that problem, b. I'm much pickier than my husband, so there have been occasions when he would like to have ordered the tasting menu, but there were dishes on it that I wouldn't eat. And I'm usually hesitant about having a tasting menu where the chef "surprises" you though I have done that once in a while (most recently, last week, at Blue Hill @ Stone Barns), and, luckily, it's always managed to turn out fine.

              Btw, you do know that at Nicholas, the entire table does not have to order the tasting menu. So, if you like what's on it, but Mrs. b. doesn't, you can still have it while she can stick with the regular menu. It's the only restaurant I know of that allows that.

              1. re: RGR

                Try ordering at the French Laundry. A great story to tell you if we ever meet. As far as Nicholas is concerned, I was aware of the ability to order the tasting menu and we in fact had tried doing that once. The only problem I found was that due to the number of courses I would have food and she wouldn't. I guess easily solved by ordering more ala carte items.

                1. re: bgut1

                  I'd love to meet you and Mrs. b. :-)

                  Although, technically, there is no a la carte on Nicholas' dining room menu, I'm sure they'd be very happy to have you order additional dishes a la carte. They could be bar menu-sized "small plates." So, in essence, Mrs. b. would be assembling her own tasting menu. :-)

                  I've never been to the French Laundry, nor Per Se. But from what I've read, at least about Per Se, they're very accommodating about making substitutions if a person dislikes or is allergic to certain dishes on the menu. However, we have no desire to go to either restaurant.

                  We finally went to Blue Hill Stone Barns for the first time last week, and with regard to the Farmer's Feast tasting menu, they specifically asked about likes, dislikes, and allergies. I was able to indicate a few things that would turn me off, and both of us requested lamb. My daughter's b.f. has certain dietary restrictions, and when they were there in June and ordered the Farmer's Feast, the kitchen did an excellent job of meeting his needs. Btw, our meal there was absolutely stunning!

                  1. re: RGR

                    RGR - You are correct about Nicholas not having an a la carte menu. What I meant, was that they permit you to order additional items from the $55 prix fixe menu as additional courses. You really should try TFT or PS at least once.

                    1. re: bgut1

                      Hey, b., For now, I will pass on the discussion of why there is next to no chance we will ever try either restaurant. I'm in the midst of packing for a 5-day stay at the White Barn Inn, in Kennebunkport. Great dining, of course! :-) We studiously avoid computers when we go away -- what our daughter likes to call our vacation from our vacation, i.e., retirement lol -- so I'll talk to you when we get back. :-)

                      1. re: RGR

                        Enjoy the trip and don't forget to keep good notes. :)

            2. re: RGR

              RGR, thanks for posting this. I wonder why the info. is not on the web site.

              I'm surprised, however, that they are not offering the spawn cocktail, the one and only starter offered at the original Frog and Peach restaurant, which, as I'm sure you remember, was located in a bog in the heart of Dartmoor (ample parking available). Nor are they serving the original signature dishes (actually the only two dishes offered at the original restaurant), namely frog a la peche, and peche a la frog. The latter dish was apparently "most disgusting".

              (In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, The Frog and The Peach in New Brunswick derived its name from a restaurant invented by two brilliant British comedians - Peter Cook and Dudley Moore - in a skit in the mid '60s. I don't think an audio file exists on-line, which is a shame, but here's the text. Just read it aloud with a veddy British accent!)


        2. I believe that the reason no one goes to lunch at Ctherine Lombardi's ( and I wonder how many people are going for dinner) is that it is overpriced. A Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich for $ 15.95, is not going to attract many people.

          Also, I am glad La Fontana closed it had supercilious service with mediocre food,. I am amazed how it lasted so long.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BigGeorge

            Finally someone that agrees w/ me on LaFontana. Was very disappointed there. Food was ok, veal not great. Veal is superb at Il Castello in Woodbridge. Also service at LF sucked, unless you were the larger table of 6 next to us. Our $ was just as green. I really was disappointed there, did NOT go back.