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Gift certificate for Asbury in-laws?

My wife and I want to get a gift certificate for a nicer restaurant for my in-laws for Christmas. They live in Asbury Park and are pretty sophisticated eaters (I know they have enjoyed Le Bernardin and the French Laundry and have spent a considerable amount of time in France). They also like the reubens at Kelly's in Neptune, so they are not totally high-end...but that wasn't really what I had in mind for a nice gift!

I thought of Avenue because I remembered the Gourmet review but all the terrible Chowhound reviews have effectively deterred me. We don't know the area -- we live in California. Is there anything in the area that's maybe a little bit new and interesting, but solidly good? Price is not an issue as long as it's worth the money.

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  1. Depending upon how far they will go for a great meal you could go with David Drake in Rahway, one of NJ's best. There is the Fromagerie in Rumson also a top flight restaurant. Also good, but not in the realm of the other two I mentioned, is Matisse in Belmar (not Seacaucus), right on the beach and very nice, it will also be close for them.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Spiritchaser

      stomachofsteel, one year our kids gave us a gc to Fromagerie for brunch and dh & I still talk about it.

      1. re: HillJ

        HillJ - I assume this was pre-David Burke. Right?

          1. re: HillJ

            Sorry HillJ - I thought since you said "one year" it was quite some time ago. Thanks for the clarification.

            1. re: bgut1

              bgut1, I should have typed some time ago...mind & machine often at odds. but, the brunch is the point-gift worthy; just delicious.

    2. I have't been there, but I hear the restaurant Nicholas in Middletown, NJ is very good. Not very far from Asbury Park.
      http://www.restaurantnicholas.com/

      2 Replies
      1. re: cmarie

        I'll second Nicholas and David Drake. I must however have to disagree with Spiritchaser on Matisse. It was horrible the one time I went and would never return. A search on this forum will confirm that my sentiments are shared by many. In addition to the aforementioned two I would add Restaurant Lorena in Maplewood. IMHO the trio represents the best the state has to offer and will most assuredly satisfy any foodie. Good Luck.

        1. re: bgut1

          I second that re: Matisse. We were there in August and we thought it was horrible. Everything had the same soy based flavor and the food was very mediocre. A tremendous ripoff..5 tiny scallops...$30. I sent it back. That was totally unacceptable.

      2. If they are sophisticated diners then they probably have already eaten at all the places mentioned. Have they mentioned to you or your wife any place they enjoyed locally perhaps in casual conversation?
        If not, Nicholas would be a good choice. Moonstruck in Asbury Park. Whispers in Spring Lake.

        1. I have not been here yet, but I want to since all the reviews on this board are glowing...

          Daryl Wine Bar in New Brunswick, NJ. Same owner as David Drake in Rahway.

          The other thought...although a drive for them as well as me and one of my plas on this board, RGR, suggested is Lorena's in Maplewood. The place is great..BYOB. Maybe too far for your inlaws, but here are the links!!

          Happy Holidays!

          http://www.darylwinebar.com/

          http://www.restaurantlorena.com/

          **oops I just realized my other pal, bgut1 suggested Lorena's!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Angelina

            Just a point of clarification for my good friend Angelina. I believe that DD does not own Daryl Wine Bar but only consults. A good recommendation none the less. As for Tom, you would be surprised how many sophisticated diners have yet to try the above treasures. As you know, I eat out a lot and while I've been dining at Nicholas since inception I finally got the chance to try DD last year and Lorena's only a few months back. All were fabulous BTW. While I can't comment on Whispers (as I've never been), I can with regard to Moonstruck (having been to both the Ocean Grove and the Asbury locations). Although the food is solid I must admit that it might make a true foodie yawn.

          2. Nicholas, David Burke's Fromagerie are nice, impressive choices, Moonstruck a second-tier. If it has to be Monmouth County, you could also look at Mr. C's on the Ocean in Allenhurst or McLoone's Riverside (in Sea Bright, NOT the one in LB), Neil's Original Oyster in Highland or Shipwreck in Brielle. Someone menitioned Whispers, which is good, or Black Swan, too (both in Spring Lake).
            There is NOTHING, I REPEAT NOTHING in this area to even mention in the same sentence as French Laundry or Le Bernadin. If in Asbury, send them to Taka (they can walk, if its safe!). Kelly's for reubens works fabulously, too.

            4 Replies
            1. re: aklein

              Agree with aklein. I think the closest to Per Se/Le Bernardin is Nicholas. I would go with that, as the prix-fixe is $75 a person, closest to Le Bernardin's pricing.

              1. re: aacharya

                aklein - I would have to disagree with your contention that nothing in this area comes close to either the French Laundry or Le Bernadin. I've eaten at both (as I assume you have too) and must admit that Nicholas compares nicely (especially with LB). I agree that the French Laundry is a once in a lifetime meal, but I truly believe that the Chef's Table experience at Nicholas is definitely at least in the same ball park and will be most impressive to a foodie. As far as any of the other eateries in this county, I would have to agree with your statement.

              2. re: aklein

                I think you mean Black Trumpet in Spring Lake, not Black Swan

                1. re: charmel

                  you're right, the Black Swan is a great restaurant in an alternate universe!

              3. Restaurant Nicholas in Middletown is the only reasonable contender. I would strongly caution against Avenue. Sirena is nearby, really a very pretty place, but the food is just not very good.

                I think that they would have a memorable experience at Nicholas and that would be a very nice gift indeed.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Deb Van D

                  All -- thanks so much for the suggestions. I have bookmarked the Restaurant Nicholas and Lorena's websites, which look great -- just what I was looking for.

                  Happy Holidays.

                  1. re: stomachofsteel

                    Great choices. Please let us know ultimately where they went and whether they enjoyed their meals.

                    1. re: bgut1

                      Well, this is a bit late, but I just wanted to let you know that we went with Restaurant Nicholas. They had in fact already been there, but were excited to go again. My father-in-law said that he had the best scallops he's ever eaten. Mission accomplished. Thanks Jersey hounds!