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Jan 4, 2008 10:56 AM

*Nicholas* Named In Zagat's Top 10 In the USA

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  1. Well, I hope that doesn't jinx things... My wife and I are going there (for the 1st time) tomorrow for a bday celebration. Top 10 in the USA is almost scary. I think top 100 would be pretty amazing!

    9 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      I'm not sure I give it all that much credibility. The restaurants named all had overall 'ratings' of at least 29 out of 30. But the list doesn't include some stellar standouts, like Le Bernardin, French Laundry, Charlie Trotter's. So . . . . Still, We've been to Nicholas twice and will go back again soon.

      1. re: mmgpsych

        I'm with you on this. I've never found Zagat's to be particularly trustworthy in their ratings. I use the guide mainly to look up addresses and phone numbers. It would be interesting to know why so many of the 'big name' restaurants fell short of the magic 29 out of 30 points.

        That said, I do think that Nicholas is one of the best restaurants in New Jersey. It's quite possibly THE best.

        BTW, the article in question actually lists the top 11 restaurants in the US. I guess Zagat couldn't arrange for exactly 10 restaurants to achieve 29 points.

        1. re: ambrose

          I'm with you on the whole Zagat's thing. I do tend to think that survey respondents in NYC are probably more critical and therefore less inclined to give any restaurants top points.I think Per Se is listed at 28. Other cities have fewer choices and their respondents may be somewhat less critical. I did find it interesting that two of those listed featured the same 2 Chefs. Now THAT"s a huge feather!

      2. re: bnemes3343

        And btw, if it's still on the menu, at least one of you should try the hen's egg ravioli. Prepare to purr.

        1. re: mmgpsych

          I've pretty much decided to stop eating any moment now and partake of the tasting menu with wine pairings tomorrow. My wife can't eat quite as much, but I am going to twist her arm to do the same but with different dishes. I don't think I've seen a single negative review of Nicholas, so while I probably wouldn't give too much credibility to any 'top 10' list, it sounds like the stars may be aligning...

          And being a huge Redskins fan, and seeing that their game starts at 4:30 tomorrow, and that we have a 6:45 reservation, I guess I will have to decide between football and food. Let's see... football, food... football, food... food... food...

          1. re: bnemes3343

            The truth of the matter is, bnemes, there have been some relatively recent posts describing negative situations at Nicholas, including from well-respected Hounds bgut1 and seal. And, in fact, mmgpsych did not have an exactly flawless experience either. If you care, you can do a search....

            You really don't have to give up eating at all in order to manage the tasting dinner since portions are quite controlled and much smaller than if you were to order the same dishes as part of the 3-course prix-fixe. I have never had any difficulty finishing a tasting dinner there and have never gone away feeling overly stuffed.

            Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

            1. re: bnemes3343

              bnemes3343 - I have a solution for you. Before dinner stop in to see Chris at the bar. Order a Cranberry Mojito and ask him to put the game on the flat screen tv. If your seated before the game ends (which you should be since its a 4:30 game) take a couple of breaks from the meal and peak into the bar to see whats happening. Easy :)

              1. re: bgut1

                I had planned on the Crnaberry Mojito; and I figured they had a TV in the bar, so I won't be completely shut off from the game. Just more frequent bathroom breaks.

                1. re: bnemes3343

                  There you go. When you see Chris tell him I said hello. :) Enjoy your night and do yourself a favor and order the beignets and maybe a cheese plate (if your up to it) for dessert. Good Luck.

        2. I am just dying to go back to Nicholas. Haven't been back since June. Time flies. Hubby wants to go to Thyme Square tonight, instead.. Seems to be his favorite, lately. He said he'll take me for Valentine's Day...on or around the actual day. Definitely going to try the cheese plate. I can make a meal of that alone.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Pink Pepper

            Thyme Square is closed for vacation. Now to find a last minute replacement for tonight. I'm on a mission to try a new place. Was thinking of Le Fandy. Keep reading mixed reviews.

            1. re: Pink Pepper

              Pink Pepper,
              Have you tried Drew's Bayshore Bistro? It's a bit more casual, and the food is great. BYO

              1. re: val ann c

                Pink - As you may know, I'm not a big fan of Le Fandy. If I had to choose another restaurant in Red Bank (and to me the pickings are rather thin) I would go to Dish. However, I would seriously consider going instead to the Bar at Nicholas. Our fellow hound Chris is truly fabulous. If you are concerned about casual attire, I usually drop in wearing jeans. And to be quite honest, I would avoid restaurants (including my beloved Nicholas) on Valentine's Day. Like New Years Eve, the selection is rather limited (in order to move the hordes) and usually overpriced. Although maybe not as romantic, I would choose going the night before or after. Just my 2 cents. Good Luck.

                1. re: bgut1

                  I know you're not a fan, Bgut, and this worries me. I usually respect your restaurant opinions. We're saving Nicholas for a more special Valentine's Day. But not the exact Thursday. Probably the Sat after.
                  For tonight it will be an adventure. We're going with another couple. They would like to try it as well. Hopefully, we will be pleased. If not, I can't say I wasn't warned.

                  1. re: Pink Pepper

                    Hey, P.P.,

                    I think you know I have the utmost respect for bgut's opinion and we usually agree, but this is one of those rare occasions when his opinion differs from mine based, obviously, on the fact that his experience there differed from mine.

                    Having been to Le Fandy twice, I can say that Chef Ong is capable of putting out some seriously delicious food since our first meal was superb in every way. The second time was very good though not on a par with the first. It's been a quite some time since we've been there, but I would certainly be willing to go back.

                    Enjoy your "adventure," and I look foward to reading your report.

                    1. re: Pink Pepper

                      Pink - I appreciate the respect you have for my opinion. That being said, experiences are subjective so I recommend you go with an open mind. Please don't get me wrong, I do think that Chef Ong exhibitied some talent on a few of his dishes. In fact I recommend you try the scallop app, it was very good. If you do a search on Le Fandy I'm sure you will find my detailed review. That and the fact that Chef Ong tried to post on this board pumping up his place kind of turned me off. Good Luck and I hope you have a nice meal.

                  2. re: val ann c

                    Thanks, Val Ann. Will try Drew's for sure on another night. Tonight we're in for Le Fandy. Guess we'll give it our own review. That's what happens with mixed reviews. You never know until you try it yourself.

                    1. re: Pink Pepper

                      Good Luck Pink. I'm interested to hear what you think of it.

                      1. re: bgut1

                        One more enthusiastic yes for Le Fandy.

                        So much so that I am going there for my b-day this yr.

                        Do get the fish special, whatever it may be when you go, as the chef has a nice way with fish.

                        1. re: seal

                          I would however stay away from the fish special if its monkfish. That dish was horrible when we had it. On the other hand I've heard the halibut is excellent.

                          1. re: bgut1

                            We're back from Le Fandy and it was a success. Phew! Place is charming. Tiny, but a nice crowd. Two had the lobster bisque, one had the crab tower appetizer, I had the salad. Very good, everyone happy so far.
                            The fish of the day special was sold out and so was the halibut.
                            Two of us had the scallops, two had the veal. I loved my scallops. Done perfectly with very creamy mashed potatoes in the center. Yum!
                            The men had the veal and my friend said it's the best veal he's ever had. Apple tart with ice cream was shared for dessert. was a hit.
                            We are all happy that we tried a new place. It's always a fun experience.
                            Next week, friend wants to try Undici. He said it looks beautiful on the outside. I'll keep you posted.

                            1. re: Pink Pepper

                              So glad to hear you had a great meal at Le Fandy, P.P. But you might want to try talking your friend out of going to Undici since reviews on this board have not been encouraging, i.e., tilted heavily toward the negative.


                              1. re: Pink Pepper

                                Pink - I am happy you enjoyed your meal.

                2. My wife and I dined at Nicholas on Saturday evening for a birthday celebration. This was our first time there and I was curious if the experience would live up to the praise they’ve received from most who have rated it and that Zagat Top-10 ranking. Well, all I can say is that if there are 9 other restaurants as good or better than Nicholas, I intend to visit them all. The experience at Nicholas was one of the best I have ever had dining out. Actually, I can’t think of any dining experience that was better.

                  I'll start with a nod to Chris the Bartender. I had intended to stop and say Hi on the way to our table, but we took a route that bypassed the bar area. No problem; a few minutes later, while enjoying a cranberry mojito, Chris shows up, greets me by name and welcomes me to Nicholas (this, on a busy Saturday night). It was a genuinely nice gesture and indicative of the attitude to their clients that I found everyone at Nicholas to have.

                  To say the service at Nicholas is superb would be understating what they do, because it is really not on the same planet as what one encounters at most places (and this is not to disrespect the hard work and great effort given by most servers at more mortal restaurants). But this place just takes it to another level. Maybe Le Bernardin and the Williamsburg Inn dining room were close.

                  The wait-staff at Nicholas are, of course, numerous. It would be impossible to provide this level of excellence without the sheer numbers. But they operate like a well oiled machine and somehow remain nearly invisible until there is a need to serve a dish, remove a plate, refill a glass of wine. They are warm and friendly and not in the least bit intrusive. And, they are very knowledgeable. They know what they are serving, both food and wine.

                  Oh yes, there was the food too. My wife had the 3 course menu and I went for the tasting menu with the wine pairings (hey, it was my birthday…). If I hadn’t been told in advance by others that they would be willing to even do this, I would have been quite surprised. They managed to serve what amounted to nine dishes and seven different wines without a glitch.

                  I can’t describe every dish, because this would go on forever and I would feel the need to return tonight. But I really felt every dish was up to the level I was hoping for. My wife had the Black Truffle Hen Egg Ravioli (wow), followed by the Roasted Pheasant and a wonderful warm chocolate desert. I started with the Hama Hama Oysters with a little dollop of Crème Fraiche and worked my way through Agnolotti, Cod and the Roasted Veal before the cheese plate and then desert. While everything was outstanding, I have to say I would have been happy, and felt I got my money’s worth, if they had brought nothing but the oysters, the cheese plate and the wines. I thought I had had oysters before, but apparently I was wrong. These were fattest, freshest, creamiest, best oysters I have ever had. And the cheese plate… well, it was definitely the highlight of the evening.

                  Now, Nicholas is not cheap. Including tip, we were at roughly $300 for the two of us. But that is really only about twice what I would expect to spend at any number of nice places for dinner and drinks. And none of these places comes close to the total experience at Nicholas. So, this will probably become a birthday tradition. And maybe an anniversary tradition. Oh, and don’t forget mother’s day, valentines day, maybe the odd Saturday night when we happen to find ourselves driving through Red Bank...

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bnemes3343

                    Glad to hear that Nicholas lived up to your expectations, bnemes. We have always had wonderful experiences there both in the dining room and at the bar.

                    Happy Birthday! :-)

                    1. re: bnemes3343

                      Happy to hear you enjoyed it! And happy birthday!

                      1. re: mmgpsych

                        I too am glad you had a wonderful dinner and BTW - Happy Birthday!

                      2. re: bnemes3343

                        Were you purring when you finished?


                        1. re: tom porc

                          Yes... Thanks to all for the great advice. It was a wonderful experience, and one I hope we will repeat from time to time.

                      3. Is Nicholas still open and if so where is it located
                        A phone number would be great if possible

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Foodtravlers

                          Nicholas is in Middletown, NJ (though its mailing address is Red Bank).

                          Here is the website: