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Review of Route 130 South American Grill and Sushi Restaurant

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My wife, son and I dined at Route 130 South American Grill and Sushi restaurant last evening. Unfortunately, it was a somewhat disappointing and expensive evening.

We arrived at our scheduled reservation time of 6:00 PM and were promptly seated in an almost empty dining room. The room and the interior in general are very nicely decorated and comfortable. After being seated, a young lady approached our table and asked if we would like water, which we did and were subsequently served. We assumed that she would be back in a minute or two with menus and ready to take our cocktail orders. After waiting fifteen or twenty minutes, it became apparent that this was not the case. Finally, I saw her, got her attention, and asked if we could order drinks. She informed us that she would get our waitress. After a few minutes, another young lady arrived and apologized for the delay indicating that there had been a mix-up in table assignments. I thought okay, no big deal, but this was a bad omen and preview of things to come. We ordered drinks which were good, and perused the menu.

We started with appetizers. My son had the crab cake that he thought was very good. My wife had the lobster bisque in lieu of an appetizer and also thought it was excellent. I had the baked oysters with crab meat and saffron mayonnaise. This had the potential to be outstanding but unfortunately arrived at room temperature. The four oysters topped with crab meat and mayonnaise were still good but could have been great had they arrived bubbling hot.

The salads that came with the entrees were nondescript, mainly chopped iceberg lettuce, and only available with Italian dressing.

My son and I both had the “8 + 8 Surf and Turf”, an eight oz. filet mignon and same weight lobster tail. I should have known better and asked what kind of lobster was being served. I expected a cold water Atlantic type and received what I believe was a S. American species. They’re not bad but nowhere near as tasty as a “Maine” lobster. The filet was okay but nothing like what you would expect to get at a good steak house. The potato wedges were virtually inedible. They were extremely overcooked and completely dried out on the inside. I can only conclude that they were reheated a number of times. The asparagus was okay but nothing special. My wife had the rack of lamb. She ordered it medium, expecting a warm pink center. It arrived extremely well done, almost the texture and doneness of pot roast. She indicated that otherwise, it was excellent lamb and probably would have been great if cooked properly. Her roasted potatoes were also dried out and overcooked. The tomato ratatouille was okay but nothing special.

For dessert, I had a Grand Marnier soufflé that was delicious. My son had a banana cake that he enjoyed. My wife passed. We finished things off with espresso and Sambuca. The espresso was okay, but didn’t have the creamy head of a really good brew. My son and I ordered doubles. They arrived in standard demitasse cups, not the larger “double” cup. When queried, our waitress assured us they were doubles. Not wanting to argue, we drank up asked for and paid the bill and then left.

I guess my main complaint had to be the service. Our waitress was a lovely and personable young lady who didn’t have a clue on how to be a professional server. Looking around, most of the wait staff seemed to be high school or college kids. Nothing wrong with that if they were trained properly, but apparently they weren’t, at least not our server. She couldn’t answer any questions regarding how some of the entrees or sides were prepared. We had to ask for a number of things that should have been standard with our order, e.g., steak knives, drawn butter for the lobster, a glass for a beer that I ordered!, a lemon peel for the espresso, et al. All of these omissions delayed our meal.

I hope this review doesn’t sound overly critical or petty. The service and food preparation would probably have been okay in a casual bar and grill type of place, but our expectations were that we were going to an upscale destination restaurant. It was certainly priced as such. I doubt that we’d go back any time soon. I might try it in six months or a year if the word of mouth from friends and published reviews were good. It certainly has the potential to be a great restaurant.

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  1. Any restaurant that is called South American and does sushi on the side as well has got to be look at rather skeptically. The only thing that I don't undersatnd is why you
    would go back there again. Your review was to kind. My wife and I would have been out the door before the 20 min wait for service occurred.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bjsimmons

      "Any restaurant that is called South American and does sushi on the side..."

      <g> Yeah, that was my first thought, too. Actually, the restaurant is called "130 South - American Grill and Sushi" and is *on* the southbound side of Route 130 in Hamilton, NJ (for all of those wondering) and is located on the well-known roadside landmark "lighthouse" property. http://www.130south.com/

      1. re: JessKidden

        You're right. The name does call for a coma or dash. I cut and pasted the name from the contacts page on the website. It didn't contain either and I didn't notice the omission until you pointed it out.

      2. re: bjsimmons

        I live down the street from 130 south, and my boyfriend and I go there frequently. Although they are a little on the expensive side they have delicious food. We are both lovers of sushi though so that is always what we order. The sushi is always fresh and always delicious, I do agree that the service is not up to standard they should have highly trained staff for such a fancy place. I would suggest trying it again and if you are a fan of sushi i would suggest ordering that instead and also try sitting at the sushi bar, you will not be disapointed.

      3. Since my review of Route 130 South was rather critical of their food preparation and service, I think it only fair to point out that I forwarded the review to the restaurant’s owners and have since had a response from one of them.

        I’ll paraphrase, but essentially she read my review and shared it with their management team and staff. She also thanked me for bringing to their attention the food and service shortcomings, which she agreed needed to be addressed. She assured me that they were working to correct these circumstances presently. She also indicated that they have recently had a management change for the better, and if we did come back soon we would be sure to notice a difference.

        The owner seemed very sincere in her appreciation of the critique, both the positive and the negative. Only time will tell whether or not they’ll be able to reach the level of excellence that they profess to be striving for. I’ll certainly give them another shot in maybe a month or two. But I think I’ll try lunch or maybe the Tapas bar before I try dinner again.

        1. We decided to go to 130 South for the Thanksgiving buffet. It had to be the best Thanksgiving we had in years. The food was delicious, the waiter John, was extremely attentive, and the owners came by to greet us. We sampled almost every dish in the buffet but did not feel like any heavy desserts. We asked our waiter for something lighter and he came back with 2 huge goblets filled with fresh berries! We have already made our decision to go back next year. We also decided that whenever we are in town, we will make it a point to visit this establishment. Great job Chuck and Kathy.

          1. I dunno, I went to this place a few months ago. I like steak, and while it was more than satisfactory, it didn't rock my world. For those prices, it should rock my world. If I go someplace like Lambertville or New Hope, I can get a little more for my buck with a lot more atmosphere. I've heard the sushi is good, but I'm not into sushi...

            1. Has this place closed? I drove by about 12:30 PM yesterday (Tuesday) and saw NO cars in the lot.

              4 Replies
              1. re: carl555

                They’re not open for lunch except for brunch on Sundays, but I do keep hearing rumors that they’re being sold or closing, etc.

                1. re: TomDel

                  I was similarly unimpressed from my one dining experience there. The steak was good, but I expected something a little more spectacular for those prices. It made me miss the incarnation of the Yardville Inn just down the street that was run by a relative of the Good-Time Charley's owners a few years ago. Great food and personal attention from the chef made that place exceptional. I think the location at the back of the bar killed it. I really miss that place.

                  1. re: Heatherb

                    Are you referring to the Egyptian, Mohammed who had the kitchen up until about five years ago? It was my understanding that he was the brother or cousin of Jimmy Kamies, who owns Amici Milano in Trenton. He was a really good cook and the prices were reasonable. The last I heard he was working at a place in Pennington.

                    You’re right about the bar, not a very nice crowd if you wanted to have a drink either before or after dinner. Unfortunately, he couldn’t control that as he just leased the kitchen and had no control or input on the bar’s policies or prices. The Chesterfield Inn is somewhat like that in that they seem to be trying to run an upscale restaurant with a shot and beer bar.

                    1. re: TomDel

                      Well that guy had it when it was an Italian restaurant - and it was really good. I liked it a lot. But I was talking about the incarnation after that. The chef was the son of one of the Good-Time Charley's owners. He had a nice, tasty menu (great steaks!) and he was always excited to have someone try new foods. It was always fun eating there. All my family and friends loved the place. But that location is horrible. The bar really doesn't fit with the dining environment, and the location at the back of the building makes for a not so lovely setting.