Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > New Jersey >
Oct 13, 2007 09:34 PM

Daryl Wine Bar

I went to the Daryl wine bar on Thursady. The food was good, but the portions were small.I expected the small plates to be small, but the large plates were almost as small. To pay $23-28 for 3 oz. of lamb or fish is wrong. However, the room was nice. The service was good. Warning: stay away from the valet parking at the Heldrich. They want $19. This is an exorbitant fee to park in New Brunswick.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I went to Daryl last week as well. I thought the food was great! Loved the atmosphere, as close to a NYish type atmosphere as I've seen here in Jersey. I thought the portions were perfect actually. We stuck to the small plates, tasted 6 different things (which I love to do), a cocktail and my partner had wine, all for under $70. The wine menu is huge! Will definately be going back to sample different wines and dishes. We thought it was great. There were people eating at the bar which looked fun and casual. All in all we really liked it. Would recommend. I parked across the street in the parking garage- $3 for 2hours.
    PS- try the slow cooked egg! very tasty and different!

    1 Reply
    1. re: dineandwine5

      dineandwine5..ill definitely try daryl..thanks for the info..has anyone been to the new sushi place in new brunswick??

    2. Cody Kendall's review in the "Star Ledger":

      She rated it 3-1/2 stars though for some reason I can't fathom, stars are never shown on-line.

      9 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        It was already on my short list. Now it gets bumped up to the top.

        1. re: RGR

          Hey, RGR, if you look at the following link for the same review it clearly says three and a half stars. Very odd.

          If you look at the second paragraph of the link you provided, it does show three tiny asterisks (stars?) at the very end. Weird, though I believe NJ Monthly has the same problem posting half a star on line.

          1. re: ambrose

            I think we should call you "Sherlock Ambrose" for detecting those little asterisks/stars in the second paragraph. lol What a truly odd place to put them!

            1. re: RGR

              I just returned from Daryl and must admit that Cody Kendall was right about this place. After walking through the doors, if I didn't know better I would have thought I was in NYC. The space is beautifully decorated with glass tables and throne like white leather high back chairs. Very chic and classy. The food and service were both top notch. While not your typical David Drake cuisine it was quite modern and innovative. My DW and I shared 4 small plates (ceviche, onion soup, empanadas, and burgers) and two large plates (barramundi and short ribs). All plates big and small are portioned for sharing. For example with the soup it came in two small bowls while with the large plates, the barramundi came with two pieces while the short ribs came in four. Note that the small plates are quite small in size while the big plates are not that sizeable either. Small plates run between $4 and $12 while the average was about $7. Large plates average $20 while desserts are $8 each. Notable among the dishes were the empanadas (the best I've ever had) and the cute little burgers with homemade ketchup. The ceviche (the most expensive small plate @ $12) was the only disappointment (not bad but nothing special either). Both entrees were fabulous with the barramundi being the better of the two but only slightly. The breads however which CK noted as being top notch were not up to snuff (they were a bit hard). Vinophiles will love this place. They had 65 wines by the glass and many more half and whole bottles. We shared a half bottle of Fritz Haag Spatlese Riesling along with a nice Spanish red recommended by the wine steward. All wines on the list are available for sale at the adjoining shop next door for about half off the restaurant price. Interestingly, as noted in CK's report, they have this vacuum dispensing system where you purchase a prepaid smart chip card and you help yourself to the dozen or so wines in the shop. A great concept. I can see myself going back to this place many times especially with a nice size group. A chowhound dinner maybe? The desserts were also excellent as they were handled by DD's resident pastry chef. I had the taste of autumn which consisted of pumpkin crème brulee, a small pecan pie tartlet, and a praline mousse atop a maple leaf shaped cookie (all were excellent) while the DW had the chocolate napoleon (chocolate mousse and ice cream atop a piece of devils food cake (yum). The coffee and tea service was also excellent. A sure winner and highly recommended. Cost for the above excluding gratuity was $172 (of which $59 was for wine). A bit pricey but worth it. Highly recommended. Good Luck. BTW, I was impressed to learn that DD was in the kitchen this night (thinking that he was only consulting this project and was instead spending his time cooking at his flagship in Rahway).

              1. re: bgut1

                BGUT1, I believe that it is the other way around. David Drake is running Daryl and he is consulting at David Drake Rahway, with Carlos J. Silva running the Rahway restaurant and ALEX STOTLER as the chef.

                1. re: BigGeorge

                  BigGeorge - I don't doubt you, but I would be surprised if that was true. I did ask our server about DD, and she advised that during this startup period (since October) DD has been around to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

                  1. re: BigGeorge

                    While it's true that Alex is Chef de Cuisine at David Drake's, there is no way that David is not still hands-on there though, knowing the stickler he is, he's spending time now at Daryl to make sure things get off to an auspcious start -- which, as bgut's excellent, detailed report shows, is exactly what's happening.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Thanks RGR. I knew DD had to still be running the show at his flagship.

                  2. re: bgut1

                    Looks like others agree with us ..New review from the Times: Excellent

                    Anyone know who his Chef de Cuisine is here?

            2. I was there opening night. It was not crowded, but service was "eh". Granted we were walk-in's on opening night. We left, before even ordering a drink, and were pulled back in by the manager who then took care of us and our party of 6...

              We went post dinner, so just drinks and dessert. A little foo-fooey for me, but I love wine. From then on the service was good, and in the end the manager wouldn't let us pay.

              For New Brunswick, this may not last long being so high priced. They are trying to take NB "there" way too fast...but I guess if you are going to plunk down at Frog and Peach, this place is a good before or after place for a drink.

              SoHo at least has good food. With Daryl, 75% of your bill will go to "atmosphere" the rest towards good wine.

              6 Replies
              1. re: RPMcMurphy

                RPMcMurphy - While I appreciate your post, I think it is a bit unfair to say that the food at SoHo is better when all you admittedly had at Daryl was a dessert. Further, what is the basis for your statement that three quarters of the bill go to the atmosphere?

                1. re: bgut1

                  Simply comparing desserts, as that is all I had. We ordered a desert a person, which by the end of it, covered the dessert offerings 2-fold. The portions for dessert were very small and while I'm OK with small portions of dessert, they just weren't that tasty. Which lead to my commend about paying for atmosphere as the desserts were nothing to tell mom about...

                  The wine selection was OK, but again, you're paying for the atmosphere of the ever-so-2007-2008-hip "wine bar" (however, I'm a sucker for a big wine selection, especially flights and by the glass)

                  Again, I disclaim that it was opening night and we just happened to walk by after dinner to stop in. I'm sure the menu has ironed out by now, so I'm likely to give it another chance for food.

                  I actually just went on their website to see the wine list again, and it seems they might have adjusted the menus a little bit, even with wine, as the prices seem quite reasonable. On opening night, I can't remember any glass being under 15$.

                  1. re: RPMcMurphy

                    RP - You should definitely give it another chance. While the portions are small and tab can get expensive (especially if you order a number of plates), I found the food, wine and atmosphere to be excellent. Good Luck.

                2. re: RPMcMurphy

                  I wouldn't worry about price being a deterrent in New Brunswick, especially with Stage Left in the neighborhood.

                    1. re: fpatrick

                      Also, I can't remember, but is Vertigre still open? (I don't frequent NB much) Wasn't that one in the same?

                  1. Went to Daryl on Friday night, and had a truly mediocre experience. I don't know whether the chef has changed, or the management is different, or if DD isn't around to make sure things run smoothly, but it was seriously disappointing. I'm now a Cody Kendall skeptic.

                    Overall, it was a great room and a great concept, but failed to deliver regarding food, service, or even wine.

                    We ordered seven appetizers for the table (for four of us), and everything was poorly seasoned except for the Duck Confit salad, which was excellent. The bouillabaise was good, but not the best ever, and surprisingly small in portion (for two). The barramundi was undercooked and the skin was soft, although the veggies were decent.

                    We ordered 5 wines, and two of them were terrible, one was average, and two were tasty.

                    Our server was abysmal, knew nothing about the wines, and was totally inattentive. It being a wine bar, I expected to try four or five wines on my own, but he was never around, and didn't seem interested in pleasing us. The sommalier came over for some assistance, but didn't speak to us directly, which put us off. The staff needs some *serious* training.

                    We were so unmoved by the experience that we decided to skip dessert and bail instead. Total bill was about $45 a person. I definitely won't go back for a year, if ever.

                    Unhappy, we decided to lift our spirits by going to Stage Left for dessert and after-dinner drinks. As always, amazing amazing amazing. Incredible food, comforting atmosphere and superb treatment at every turn.

                    The night began badly, but at least it ended on a high note.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: goodcoldfun

                      I work in New Brunswick and have been to Daryl's often...each time better than the last. The enomatic wine dispensing systems and the ability to "sample" wines by ordering 2oz at a time make for a fun drinking experience. The manager Felix as well as the sommilier are VERY well versed in the wines they serve and are always willing to offer a recommendation. I usually eat at the bar and find the bartenders very knowlegable in the wines offered. They are purposely offering smaller courses as opposed to the typical large portions of regular restaurants....a way for you to sample food AND wines. I've seen David Drake there a few times but certainly not every time. I was given a tour of the kitchen one Thursday evening and the chef d'cusine was running the kitchen that night. The NY Times rated Daryl's "excellent" and put it as one of their top 10 in NJ for 2007.

                    2. Just paid our first visit to Daryl's and (subject to a couple of caveats below) it was a good experience. Would certainly go back, though not right away.

                      Mrs MercerChow and I started by sharing the cauliflower gratin, the empañadas, and the polenta. The cauliflower was unremarkable but the empañadas were quite good and the polenta excellent - wonderfully creamy yet light.

                      We then moved on to the barramundi and the sweetbreads. These were both terrific - the barramundi with a nicely crisp skin and the sweetbreads done to perfection.

                      Nothing on the dessert menu looked all that compelling so we went back and had the artisanal cheese plate from the starter menu. This turned out to be a great decision. It was a good presentation and two of the six cheeses were spectacular - the house "gotas" and the Pont l'eveque.

                      Various wines were sampled and shared - Prosecco, Vouvray, Albariño, St George, Nebbiolo - all good.

                      Now, the caveats:

                      Service was erratic - slow at first but it picked up as the evening wore on. For example, they brought out the first food order before the first wine order. After being seated, one should not have to wait 10+ minutes for the first sip of wine. We thought we might be able to put together something like a tasting menu experience but the pace of service really did not allow this. Food and wine arrived at random intervals and wine glasses sometimes sat empty.

                      Finally, my pet peeve: wine pricing. Having a wine store adjacent is a nice idea but it does carry its risks as patrons can easily go and figure out the markups. So the restaurant charges $8 for a six-oz glass of the Greek St George. The bottle in the store is $23. This is a reasonable markup. But why, then, does the Langhe Nebbiolo - which sells for $28 in the store - go for $18 for a six-oz glass in the restaurant? Given what they are trying to do, allowing customers to leave scratching their heads over such matters is not good business.

                      So bottom line: Excellent food, less-than-stellar service, questionable pricing.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: MercerChow

                        MercerChow - Thank you for your excellent review. I agree with you on all counts.

                        1. re: bgut1

                          One addendum to the original post: Daryl's reported us to Opentable as "no-shows" - first time this has ever happened in years of Opentable use. One more data point indicating that while the kitchen is ticking over nicely, the front of the room still needs work.

                        2. re: MercerChow

                          I have been to Daryl's on several occassions. Yes the food is great and yes they are working on service.....but remember this is not a "fine dining" establishment". This is not Restaurant David Drake. It is different. It is a fun place with small plates of excellent food meant to share amongst friends.

                          Additionally there is a great selections of wines available.

                          Regarding the questionable is my understanding Daryl charges the "usual" restaurant price and thus mark-up for wines by the glass and bottles at the restaurant. I think the pricing is quite reasonable for what you get.

                          This is different than the pricing structure at the "wine store". Bottles there are priced at the retail level and frankly at very good prices. In fact one would be hard pressed to find some of these wines at the usual retail wine stores.

                          So I can understand the confusion with the restauant it is market the store it is retail, and great retail prices.

                          One cannot compare the two.

                          BTW...the Greek St George is $14 in the store....the Langhe Nebbiolo is $27...I checked ysterday when I was there