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Jan 13, 2008 06:26 PM

Casa Solar - Belmar

Me and and the Mrs. finally made it over to Casa Solar on Saturday. The restaurant had come recommended by several friends so we were looking forward to see what everyone was talking about. We made a reservation for 7:30 PM hoping to avoid the weekend entertainment (which interestingly never occured). We arrived to find the restaurant slightly over half full and we were somewhat disappointed to be seated in a very small two topper against the wall. From there on (until the end of the meal) everything went pretty well. We were delivered a nice basket of warm bread with a dip containing olive oil, vinegar, fried garlic and sun dried tomatoes. So far so good. We then presented our server with a bottle of red we had brought along and asked for them to make sangria for us. Shortly thereafter a carafe containing the sangria with diced fruit was presented at no charge. The sangria was excellent save for the omission of ice which took several requests of the server to obtain. This service issue was a portent of service issues to come in the evening. Here is were I am conflicted about this restaurant. The food was excellent however the service left a lot to be desired. This was especially true after we just finished our entrees and the restaurant started to fill up. It was clear that the staff was "in the weeds" and couldn't handle the influx of patrons. This was sad as we had truly enjoyed our meal. I was looking forward to dessert but the waiter took at least 25 minutes to return to our table from the time of removing our entree plates (more like I flagged him - who knows how long I would have waited otherwise). Upon confronting our server (who I believe may have been the manager), the gentlemen quickly recited the desserts instead of handing us a list. Feeling a bit uncomfortable at that point we declined coffee and dessert and left (we subsequently left and enjoyed both at the bar at Nicholas). Our general feeling once we left was the food was very good however we would never again return on a weekend night, especially during the summer. Oh I almost forgot the meal. We started with an excellent beet and goat cheese salad with green beens. Think very thick slices of freshly prepared beets along with nice chunks of goat cheese. While I would've appreciated the kitchen splitting the plate we really enjoyed this one. Next, we tried the guava glazed ribs (truly to die for as the menu notes - falling off the bone good) and the tuna ceviche (excellent although it could've used a bit of salt). For entrees I had the rack of lamb while the DW had the Churrasco (sliced flank steak with thick cut sweet potato fries). While my lamb was perfect my DW thought her steak had a bit too much garlic (a fact I confirmed). I was also a little disappointed in the portion of the steak provided in comparison to the generous serving of lamb. As I noted above, all in all the foood was very good however the service could've been much more improved. Total cost for the above was $92 exclusive of gratuity. Good Luck.

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  1. We have only been once, a mid-week (Wed.?) around 6:30 or 7:00. We also found the service to be painfully slow. It seemed like there was one server for the entire place and he found it impossible to bring more than one plate per trip to the dining room (so my wife's app arrived long before mine...). The food (especially the apps of the tuna ceviche and black bean soup) were very good. (btw, I don't actually blame the server for the slowness; I assume the kitchen was overwhelmed by the three tables that were there at the time???)

    We are going back for a second try on Wed. If we encounter the same issue, I will probably mention it to the manager/owner and not return.

    10 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      Although tasty, I'd agree about the painfully slow service. We were one of the few tables in the place and it still took quite some time for our food to show up. But once it did, we really enjoyed it.

      Another negative, the corking fee. I understand that it is a shame that more liquor licenses are not issued in our town, however I refuse to pay a $5 corking fee becuase "the cost of recycling has increased". I'd be happy to walk the 2 blocks home, throw the bottle in my recycling bin, and wait for the town to come and pick up (for free!) on Wednesday morning.

      1. re: Carvelli007

        Corking fee? What corking fee? I did'n t pay any corking fee last month. Heck, I don't think my really cheap bottle of wine (it was perfect for the sangria however) even cost me more than $5!! Trust me - I wouldn't have been happy with that charge if it appeared on my bill.

        1. re: Carvelli007

          Whoa! Isn't Casa Solar a BYO? If so, it is against NJ law for them to be charging a corkage fee.

 (See #4.)

          1. re: RGR

            As usually, a great point by RGR. Maybe they are charging to make the sangria. I noticed a coupon on their website for the free sangria if you bring the wine. In my case however I wasn't charged even though I didn't have one.

            1. re: bgut1

              In responding to *you*, bgut, this seems to me a bit like that coals to Newcastle thingy. lol But here goes.

              The law is quite specific about the corkage but says nothing about using the wine to make mixed drinks, such as sangria. Since the restaurant is using their own ingredients to make the sangria, I guess it would probably be legal for them to charge for those. But not for opening the bottle or for the glasses or for disposing of the empty wine bottle.

              Thus if Casa Solar is charging corkage in the guise of a fee for recycling, they should be reported to the local authorities.

              1. re: RGR

                We just drank wine and didn't have any sangria. The first page of the menu was dedicated to the "corking fee" rule.... **HOWEVER** my dining is dated, and for that I strongly apologize to Casa Solar for any bad press on the matter.We were there at least 4 mos ago. The food is so good that now that they don't have this insane charge, I'll be happy to give them another shot.

                1. re: RGR


                  410 Bank Street in Cape May charged me $5.00/2.50pp for the ice bucket......literally a old sour cream container they put on the floor.

                  This was in the early 90's. My GF and I went there under the recommendation of others. The GF was saddled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so she did not drink any alcohol, but wanted to enjoy the experience of something different, so I suggeested she try a non -alcoholic wine for the evening. I ran down a few blocks to the nearest wine shop and purchased some really bad grape juice, and brought it back. When they first brought the plastic bucket I laughed. I proceeded to order for the two of us,,,,,four appetizers to sample, soup for me, two salads, two entrees, some sides, two desserts and one coffee and one tea. It was dinner aqnd research for me, but I tend to always over order anyway. Much to my surprise when I received the bill, I saw the charge as "ice". I questioned it, but they maintained they charge the fee to everyone. I did not protest, but I simply stated if they wanted the $5 so bad they could have it, but I would tell every one I know this story and to any one who tells me in my presence they are intending to vacation in Cape May. I am still relaying this story like I am here about word of mouth......btw, my pre-tip pre-tax bill was over $175, which was an outrageous price in itself for the 90's.

                  1. re: fourunder


                    Did *you* have wine? If so, and you asked for a bucket of ice to keep your bottle chilled, the law specifically states that the restaurant cannot charge you for it. (Click on the link in my previous post and read the law for yourself.)

                    If the ice was only for the grape juice, then I suppose they could gouge you -- immoral but not illegal -- though they should only have charged $2.50 since only your gf was using it to keep her liquid refreshment cold.

                    We've never been to a BYO that has charged us anything, and I think just about all of them adhere to the law. If they don't, they run the risk of (a) being reported to the authorities and/or (b), almost worse, as in the case of your post, being "outed" on a major food forum. lol

                    1. re: RGR


                      The ice bucket was for the non-alcoholic bottle of wine, which I characterized as "bad grape juice", for the both of us. It was a petty policy on 410 Bank's part to gouge. I knew at the time it was an illegal practice, but I did not want to create a scene. I did tell the manager/owner if they insisted on leaving the charge on the bill, I would personally warn everyone I know of his illegal act.......and I do have some, not all, loyal friends who no longer go to the restaurant, out of respect for me which is .......nice.

                      I have traveled to Cape May many times since this incident and it has been suggested to go to 410 Bank for dinner, but I always voice opposition and we end up elsewhere. I have even been to CM vacationing with friends and when they ultimately decide to go to 410 Bank, because they have never been, I politely decline and again go some where else. I have my principles and I will no add to their bottom's an easy decision for me on two counts........first there are many other fine restaurants to go to and second, I hear 410 is not as good as it used to be for food and service.

             I did not stiff the staff or reduce the gratuity any.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        I'm with you, fourunder. No matter how good a restaurant's food may be, when we receive treatment that we find totally unacceptable, we cross the place off our list.

        2. Bgut1--About a month ago we went there with another couple and had the same problem. It was a Saturday night. The table they put us at was soooo tight I could not even breath comfortably!! The person in back of me had way too much room and I was squished. The service was really slow, we were in the resto for long time. I had the tuna seviche and it was so much spicier than I remember it being. I think I had fish and really liked it. I would go back but on a Friday or much earlier on Saturday.

          1. bgut,

            Is there really ever such a thing as too much garlic? lol

            As you know, we don't do much Shore dining though we used to go to Belmar occasionally for lunch mid-week during the summer when Thompson's Fish 'n' Chips was there. And we loved the gelato at the now defunct Cold Cream.

            Since, as you know, quality cuisine comes first with us, I might consider trying Casa Solar sometime when the weather warms up though the service problems described by you, bnemes, and Barbaraella are off-putting. Also, in doing a search on this board in the vain effort to come up with a website (Googling didn't turn up anything either), I came across a post by stack_c back in March where he mentioned a "marathon" 3-1/2-hour dinner due to "SLOW SERVICE!" Hmmm....

            Anyone know if they serve lunch?

            3 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              They serve lunch.


              The menu I saw this weekend was a little different (more choices).

              1. re: RGR

                RGR - I agree that too much garlic is not a bad thing unless the garlic is chopped so finely that it's pungent as was the case with the steak. With regard to your lunch question, while the website notes a lunch menu, the it lists the hours of operation as commencing at 5 PM. I therefore assume that lunch is only served during the summer. Here is the site for your own leisurely perusal

                1. re: bgut1

                  Thanks for the link, white light and bgut. Ooh, sweet potato fries! I'm so there!! :-))

              2. Hey.... I was there the same time Saturday night as well!

                It was the second time we're been there. The first (probably two summers ago), the service was straight up bad. This time seemed a lot better, but it wouldn't win any awards for it. Nothing terrible, but having to ask for the water glasses to be refilled, the wine open, etc. It is SLOW, so I wouldn't go if you have plans set afterwards. We knew this going in (even huge fans of the place warn of this) so it wasn't too bad plus we were with family we don't see enough of so it was nice. I think dinner was around the 3 hour mark though for apps/main/dessert.

                The bread and oil was very good. Nice and warm and there was a different type in each basket. I started with the clams, mussels and chorizo. It was a bit on the spicy side, but was really great. Glad I still had some bread to sop up some of the sauce. the shellfish was cooked perfectly.... nice and tender. I also had a taste of a shrimp app, something with duck, and the empanadas filled with fillet mignon. All were very good though I was expecting more from the empanadas (a little dry).

                For the entree I had the Churrasco. It was very good, but I agree with bgut1 that the sauce was pretty powerful. I did enjoy it though. The sweet potato fries were a hit... I had to fend off the people I was dining with from eating them all. Everyone else seemed very happy with there main course, though my fiancee thought her tuna was a little on the boring side.

                We got 4 desserts, all of which were good, 2 being exceptional. I don't remember what they were, like mentioned above there was no dessert menu and when our server told the table what the choices were I couldn't hear very well (I didn't order them).

                Enjoyed the ambiance a lot. We had plenty of room and were comfortable. Pretty much in agreement with the OP. Food was good but the service could be a bit better (it was much better than the first time I was there though). Would probably go again to try some other dishes. Just make sure you are not in a rush!

                2 Replies
                1. re: white light

                  Hey white light - were you that large group against the wall that came in around 8:30? I have to agree that the sweet potato fries served with the Churrasco were excellent. With regard to the dessert, I wanted to try a chocolate one that was recited. However, I was truly taken aback by the lack of a list and the speed at which it was presented. A true end of the meal turn off if you ask me. Like I said before, I will return but on a slower night. Either way the restaurant should invest in more staff to alleviate the weekend crush (or space out their reservations a lot better).

                  1. re: bgut1

                    Nope, not us. We came in around 7pm (table of 6 towards the back a bit). I saw that large group come in as well. I wonder if the size of that threw the service off any.

                    We all thought the lack of dessert menu was bizarre too. But they were pretty delicious none the less.


                2. OK let me put this corking fee to rest - YES they did actually charge one last summer for several months but have since dropped it. NOW for the real news my wife and I went there last Saturday. This was maybe our 10/12 th visit and we were really turned off. The place has changed and not for the best. Our dishes were real mediorce. The white linen table cloths were replaced with paper place mats, the room temprature was cold and Juan was nowhere to be found, additionally the place was empty. I guess the word is getting out. Go at your own risk...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bjsimmons

                    bj - That is too bad. Aside from the service issues, I thought the place had a bit of promise. Can anyone confirm that this is a trend as opposed to a one night blip. Either way, this gives me reason enough to try Vivas in Belmar. Thanks for the report bj.

                    1. re: bgut1


                      We have eaten at Vivas about 1/6 dozen times and each meal has been excellent. The food, servie and ambiance are top notch. Will Vivas is off to another great start. Hope you enjoy it...

                    2. re: bjsimmons

                      Aha! I now recall that there was a post on the food forum about a BYO charging a corkage fee. I posted there about that being illegal. Obviously, the restaurant in question was Casa Solar.

                      We've never tried the place. Sounds as though we don't have to bother.