Lahiere's - Princeton, NJ
Lahiere’s is well-known as the grande dame of Princeton dining. The last time Mrs MercerChow and I ate there was perhaps 15 years ago. Our memories of mediocre food and high prices had kept us away until recently, but after picking up numerous hints (including here) that things had improved, we decided to give it another try.
It was Freshman Parents Weekend at Princeton, but we managed to get a reservation without any trouble; tables for two were not that much in demand, I guess.
Nothing discourages the spirit like an overpriced wine list. I’m sorry, but $28 for a routine 2005 Beaujolais-Villages is over the top. On the other hand, I doubt that the usual Lahiere’s clientele ever goes so low. (We certainly didn’t, treating ourselves to the Courcel Pommard.) In fairness, as well, the markups on the higher-priced bottles were not as egregious.
The good news is that the food was better than we remembered. I started with the sliced, seared yellowfin tuna with wakame, ginger, wasabi, and cilantro-soy dipping sauce – a sort of value-added sashimi. Quite good, but the soy-wasabi-ginger thing in that dining room (with chopsticks!) took some getting used to - should have thought twice about the Pommard. Mrs MercerChow enjoyed the Caesar salad of red and green romaine with shaved Reggiano and croutons. Since her stated goal is to sample every Caesar salad on offer in NJ, I have no further comment.
I very much liked my sauteed medallions of veal tenderloin, Montrachet and heirloom tomato risotto, fiddlehead ferns, and veal ragout. The veal was done perfectly. Mrs MC had the pan-roasted organic breast of chicken with sweet potato puree, snap peas, criminis, and natural sauce. She thought the chicken a bit dry, but the slabs she offered me were fine.
We finished with a “selection of artisanal cheeses,” somewhat mislabeled as the cheeses on offer were pedestrian brie, cheddar, and manchego. And a glass of the Blandy's Malmsey Madeira. Yum.
So, the bottom line. The food was better than we remember, and the dining room not as stuffy. But the prices were still pretty stiff. Mrs MC put it succinctly: “We’ll try it again in another 15 years.”