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JL Ivy - Princeton Junction - anyone tried?

This new one just popped up - open about a month. Off Alexander Road near the train station. A bistro with a sushi bar? Website here:


Anyone tried it?

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  1. Their website says it's Alexander STREET in Princeton, which places it near the old Rusty Scupper. I haven't noticed it. Nice menu, though.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cranrob

      Good catch, cranrob.

      Will have to make a site visit. Their Opentable profile says "Road" and gives Roszel Road as the cross street, which would point to Princeton Junction.

      That said, I recall seeing renovations underway at the former Rusty Scupper premises, so something is happening there in any event.

      1. re: MercerChow

        It's actually IN the old Rusty Scupper. They really shouldn't tell people it's near Roszel, because it really isn't! In fact, that's across Rt 1, for cryin' out loud. In any case, i'll be interested to hear what people think. I am a bit put off by a sign that advertises both sushi and steak--make up your minds, people, is it a steakhouse, a sushi place, or just trying to make everyone happy? And that's fine...but generally, I have found that it's hard to get it all right...

    2. My husband and I have been 2x since it opened a few weeks ago and are going back tomorrow. The ambiance is like no other place in the area - they've definitely stepped it up. Food was very good too. Don't fear the sushi and steak claim - they bring both very well, as it actually does fall into the theme you will see. I also love the outdoor seating option and the numerous different areas upstairs and down. They have a location out in the Hamptons that this location reminds me of... but without the attitude :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: heatherjill

        Went there last night for an early dinner. While we did enjoy the outdoor dining, that's pretty much where it ended. The service was over bearing and less than knowledgable about the food. Since I assumed their strength was French "bistro" fare, the asian type dishes were better. I had the pate then the steak au poivre. While the steak tasted good it came out med well, I asked for rare, and I stressed "RARE". It was ok, the server saw the mistake and quickly fixed the problem before I had a chance to speak. Dessert never made it out to the table, but that was fine, it wasn't on the check either!
        I'm not going to completley write them off, but I will wait before going back. What I will say is that the prices were reasonable.

      2. We tried it and it was just plain awful. Loud, thumping music gave us headaches. Food overcooked and tasteless. Staff didn't have a clue about anything. Overpriced and pretentious. I would avoid like the plague. This place used to be a Rusty Scupper and we were better off then!

        1. Two thumbs down for dinner at JL Ivy (old Rusty Scupper). My GF and I ate here last night and were unimpressed. Frankly it's another very mediocre restaurant for Princeton, so it fits right in!

          This place suffers from conceptual/culinary schizophrenia!

          It bills itself in various press outlets as "sushi", "steak", "french bistro", "tiger bar", "Hamptons in Princeton", etc. My suggestion to Jean Luc (JL) is to pick one concept and nail it.

          For our dinner, we started with orders of the Pate' and Mussels, then Halibut and Steak Frites for entrees.

          The pate' was a very generous portion served with a selection of accompaniments and was the best plate of the evening. One minor point is the toast points were actually whole slices of bread (sans crust) toasted and simply cut in half. The bread should have been at least quartered.

          The mussels were not good. They came out and upon inspection, nearly half the shells were closed tight. The floor manager noticed the situation (pile of unopened shells on the side plate) and immediately said the order would be replaced. Good points for proactive attention. The replacement order came out quickly. My GF was not keen on the broth as it had a dark color (grayish brown) that was not visually appetizing.

          The halibut was was served with a thin coating of crab (breaded with a herb crust). Overall the portion was generous but my GF was not raving about the dish. We've had much better fish at Blue Point Grill in town.

          The steak frites was disappointing. I ordered the 10oz serving medium rare. The menu billed it as being prepared in a cracked pepper cream sauce (le steak au poivre). What was served was a dry pan seared steak, a heaping mound of fries, a metal ramekin of au jus (tasted like it was fresh from the Sysco can) and some wilted greens with a small dab (teaspoon) of cream sauce on the greens . The steak, while fairly tender was dry. If one is going to pan sear a steak, it's helpful to add some liquid to the pan (butter for instance). What I received was leathery on the outside. The dish may have been saved if the steak was topped with a generous amount of the pepper cream sauce.

          Service was friendly and efficient. The background music (at 7pm) was subdued and fitting for a bistro (think 1940's french female lounge singer). The renovations to the old Scupper are for the most part well done.

          Overall, we realized going in that the place has just opened and had set our expectations accordingly. But at the same time, bistro standards (mussels & steak frites) should be bullet proof.

          We'll go back in a few weeks to see how things progress and to sample more of the menu (sushi looked great on adjacent tables).

          6 Replies
          1. re: Foody4life

            I just took a quick look at the online menu - confusing, but it looks like it's Steak Frites *or* Steak Au Poivre. Sounds like you ordered the Steak Frites. Also, "dessert" is spelled wrong on the menu, but hey...

            1. re: cranrob

              Great catch cranrob!

              I indeed overlooked the "OR" in the title and instead focused on the description. This duplication of preparations on one item only reinforces my description of culinary schizophrenia.

              Either way, the steak needed some help!

              1. re: Foody4life

                Sounds like you had the same experience I did. And you are right some of the dishes at a bistro especially from a chef named Jean Luc, should be bulletproof!!!!!!!

                1. re: avidcook

                  A little background: Jean Luc is the owner, no mention who's the executive chef.

                  From a write up for his previous place (Jean-Luc) in NYC on the upper west side: "Ed 'Jean-Luc' Kleefield is a New Yorker with a French soul—hence his nickname, and his menu..."

                  His namesake NYC restaurant Jean-Luc was very successful and lead to the opening of outposts in the Hamptons. Jean-Luc closed in 2006 but the Hamptons locations remain.

                  1. re: Foody4life

                    So he is fauxrench?????????? That explains it. Just what we need, another mediocre restaurant with a half-assed frenchman.

            2. re: Foody4life

              Follow up report - how things can change is a week!

              My GF and I had dinner again here last night. This time, it was 100% improved from our experience last week.

              For starters we had the Blue Claw Crab cocktail and the Sushi platter with the Seared Yellow fin Tuna and Lamb Chops for entrees.

              The crab cocktail was a large portion of lump crab served on a bed of shredded lettuce atop crushed ice in a martini glass. A side of traditional cocktail sauce is provided. Overall, a very straightforward presentation that we would order again.

              The sushi platter consisted of (3) pieces each of Tuna, Salmon and (?) can't remember! The sushi was of excellent, melt in your mouth quality. Even though it's called a platter, it's a great size for one person to enjoy as a first course. Overall, the sushi list is fairly limited and pedestrian in selections, with not many specialties rolls. However, as business picks up, I expect the list to grow. Freshness is key and absolutely no complaints with what was served.

              The Seared Yellow fin Tuna was a vast improvement over the Halibut from last week. The tuna looked to be sushi grade and was cooked perfectly with about a quarter inch sear on both sides and a bright red center in the thick steak. The wasabi crust was not needed due to the quality of the fish, yet did not detract from the dish. The accompanying rice was perfectly cooked and the mango salsa gave the dish a great finish.

              I ordered the lamb chops to compare to my KC Prime benchmark (best in the world?!). The lamb chops at JL Ivy were lean, of above average size and very well done. Two double cut chops were cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with a panca chili bbq glaze atop mashed potatoes. The plate was then dressed with a natural lamb jus that was excellent, not too thin and with a lot of natural flavor. Overall, the lamb chop here are one double cut chop short of the KC Prime portion and those at KC Prime are simply grilled. I'll rate JL Ivy's a close second for now and would not hesitate to order again.

              Things to like about JL Ivy include a large seating capacity that offers no reservation / no wait tables, at least during the week. Dining al fresco in a courtyard area that's now enhanced with a recently installed fence. The fence blocks the view to the rear parking lot and looks great (for a fence that is). Efficient service, fair prices and a kitchen that looks to be working thru the start up pains.

              We need more "fresh" dining options in the local area as the current Princeton batch is relatively long in the tooth! Let's hope JL Ivy continues to improve.

            3. My husband and I had dinner there last night and absolutely loved it. The food was very good! We were seated on the outdoor patio which was lovely and the staff was very attentive. We plan to return.

              1. My fiance and I dined there a month or so ago and the food was so awful we still talk about it! How the medium fillet mignon ended up so dry and leathery is truly a mystery (especially since we always do a much better job with fillets from Wegmans ourselves). The reluctance to prepare the scallop and shrimp dish with only shrimp made me suspect they used pre-made items (particularly since it was nothing fancy - just shrimp and scallop with garlic butter). The waiter was terribly pushy and annoying. All in all, this place is far too pompous for the standard of their fare!

                With regard to the sushi - my expectations were high once the waiter declared their sushi the best in Princeton. While the sushi we ordered did not meet those expectations, if we ever bother going back, it would only be to give the sushi another go. It was good enough to be better than everything else Princeton has to offer as long as one ignores Ajihei.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pjds

                  There's a review in Princeton Packet online.

                2. Last night, I ate at JL Ivy with extended family. I wasn't sure what to expect, based on the Chowhound reviews. I have to say that my experience was probably worse than some of the most negative reviews posted here. For an appetizer, I ordered the shrimp cocktail off the raw bar menu. I'll never know how it was because I was informed 10mins after I ordered it that they were "out of shrimp". Instead, I ordered the crabmeat cocktail. The cocktail sauce was good with a nize zing, but the crabmeat tasted like it had been frozen. It was somewhat flavorless with a less than firm texture. I've had better lump crabmeat out of a jar from Wegman's. All appetizers took an hour to come out. Most of the other appetizers were mediocre, with the exception of the spicy tuna roll, which was very good.
                  An hour and a half into service, with a 3 year oid getting antsy, we received our entrees. I ordered the mussels, forgetting reviews on Chowhound suggesting that I stay away from them. They were overcooked, with the insides shriveled and falling out from the shells (no unopened shells, though). The sauce was tasty, but was hard to reach at the bottom of the pot. I would recommend a larger pot. The sauce also seemed to be butter-less. Although the description did not mention butter, it is typically present in French white wine mussel sauce. The sauce was brown, as Foodly4life mentioned, which did not bother me. Overall, I would rate the dish slightly below average. I did eat it all, as I was revenous from waiting so long for my food.
                  DH had the skirt steak. It came out med-rare, as ordered. However, the steaked was over peppered and the juice was very, very salty. This resulted in some bites that tasted like pepper and others that tasted like salt. Not a very good steak experience. We suspect that the over seasoning may have been done purposely to hide the quality of the steak (salt tenderizes, pepper hides the taste).
                  The $38 dry aged sirlion, ordered med rare, came out med well. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to send this back since the waiter did not come to ask about the food until it was all ready consumed.*** When we told him that it was overcooked, and showed him a piece of the brown meat, he apologized, and walked away. He then ignored our table until we asked for the check. No manager, no offer to take it off the check, not even an offer for a replacement steak or dessert! Unbeliveable.***
                  The total bill for eight people, plus a 3 year old child was $450. When we confronted the manager on the way out about the food and service, he offered to "take care" of us next time with drinks. NEXT TIME?!? Instead, he took $150 off the bill. It seemed a fair solution, but we won't be back.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: njchowgal

                    nj- thanks for the report.

                    Were you there the recent night that 80-100 people walked out during dinner service? Evidently, the kitchen was deep in the weeds, people were waiting for 2hr+ to be served and it got so bad that at least one diner went into the kitchen to confront the chef! Yikes! Would be interested to hear if any of the local chowhound contributors experienced this.

                    We haven't been back since a third dinner visit in August. We ate outside and had just an OK experience. Food was not memorable. They practically pushed us out at 9:50pm as we were finishing our bottle of wine. They were making it obvious they were done for the evening & had places to go.

                    1. re: Foody4life

                      foody- that's funny and sad at the same time. i guess i will count myself as lucky and move on. out of curiosity, how do you know so many people walked out? it wasn't the night i was there.
                      also, being pushed out before 10? that's a really, really bad sign. how many days does this place have left?

                      1. re: njchowgal

                        Have you guys tried Eno Terra? I quite like it. I was researching this restaurant as my friend likes sushi, but after these reviews I won't even bring it up. I was looking for a place for us to go on a night out, but she can try it with her husband w/o us!

                        I went for lunch and wasn't impressed. Can the staff be any more sullen and unresponsive?

                  2. The sign on the door says "Closed Until Further Notice." Anybody know what happened?

                    7 Replies
                      1. re: njchowgal

                        Closed due to "serious fiscal mismanagement". What a shame. There's a lot of money that was just lost in that venture!


                      2. re: pjbthree

                        I just read that Za Restaurant in Pennington will honor (sort of) gift certificates to JL Ivy. It's not the best deal in the world but it's better than nothing.



                        1. re: ambrose

                          An interesting and potentially brilliant marketing idea ... They attract people (potentially new customers) who would be part of their normal clientele at a rather doubtful time in the economy. Is this a common practice by restaurants and are any others doing something similar at this time?

                          1. re: Heatherb

                            I do know that Docs in Sparta honored gift certificates from The Ryland Inn, which closed about two years ago. This was presumably part of the deal when Craig Shelton, chef/owner at the Inn, went to Docs.


                          2. re: ambrose

                            Hopewell Valley Vineyards also has a deal with Za: do a tasting and purchase some wine on Sunday, dine at Za the same day, and you'll receive a $25 gift certificate towards a future visit.

                            Has anyone actually eaten at Za?

                            Za Restaurant
                            147 West Delaware Avenue, Pennington, NJ

                            1. re: Caralien

                              yeah - the food was pretty good, but my friends and I decided that it was a lil pricey considering you can get even better food at Blue Bottle Cafe. We haven't been back, but not because we had a bad experience - we've just had even better experiences elsewhere.

                        2. Here's the latest update on the infamous 'Jean Luc', owner/manager, AKA Ed Kleefield. Sounds like a real charmer!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mschow

                            what is it with Central NJ restauranteurs lately? Between this and the Moustache dude....