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Restaurant Nicholas Disappoints and Under-Delivers

You can't imagine (or maybe you can) my excitement at the prospect of dinner at Nicholas this past week on my birthday. Being from the area, I have followed, from afar, the quick ascension of this restaurant into the ranks of the elite. For the last year I have read about the coveted "Nicholas Experience" and finally, it was my time. I am a Nicholas virgin no more.
I called twice to make sure of the dress code. I respect this restaurant very much, and I wanted to wear the appropriate attire - whatever it is they require. I was told at 5pm that night that the suggested dress code for gentlemen is jacket and tie. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and surveyed the sparsely filled dining room (at 7:45) and only one of the 6 gentleman had a jacket and tie on. The others ranged from polo shirt, to designer tee, to oxford. I should have been tipped off by the casually-attired valet in his monogrammed polo shirt, khaki pants and white sneakers. This was disappointing.
We were greeted by a very nice, young hostess. We started in the bar. We seated ourselves at a small table in the bar and were greeted immediately by a server (bartender?). We ordered a round of drinks and then the server recognized me. The server then let fly a diatribe of issues with the restaurant, its management and specifically the dining room (expletives included). Turns out, though, this person is happier in the bar. Not the start I was looking for in my Nicholas dining experience. When our table was ready and the hostess came and got us I began to struggle to pay the check (out of habit). The server let me know the check would be transferred. I think thats a nice touch, most places will fight to have you pay in the bar so they get their tip. I left a tip and followed into the dining room.
As I mentioned earlier, the dining room was mostly empty, it was now 8:15. There was a table of 6 in the middle of the room, a table of two straight ahead, a table of three right next to us(paying) and another table of 2 on the right side of the room. There was a business meeting in the semi-private room to the right with a slide projector (which struck me as odd in this fine-dining setting.
The server (Wendy) was nothing short of perfect. The right mix of pleasant and professional and helpful all the way. We ordered a bottle of wine and I was really pleased with how she kept up with the wine service all night. I think far too many restaurants allow the wine to go empty in the glass, and servers seem wishy-washy about pouring it. Wendy did this perfectly. She walked us through the menu and its options and my wife and I (had already) decided on the tasting menu. We ordered one of each course, as we wanted to be adventurous. The Highlights (and lowlights):

The Beet salad was the wrong way to start my culinary adventure. This dish was in desparate need of some kind of flavor hijacking. The menu promised goat cheese with it, but this was not delivered. It was, truly, cubed beets and not a hint of anything else.
Seared Sea Scallops were very good, but the presentation was uninteresting, at best.
The gnocchi was average.
The Halibut was very good.
As each course came and went I was left feeling that the kitchen was having so much fun with the different plates and the designs thereon, they forgot about making the food great.
I must admit, I was really disappointed until the mains
The suckling pig was excellent. It had, I believe, a nice smokey flavor. The best of the night to that point.
. The sliced duck breast was very good. Cooked to a perfect medium rare and tender and succulent.
The Cheese tasting was not to my liking. The cheeses seemed to require a more refined palate - an acquired taste. I like smoother, less bitter cheese and something sweet like honey to go with it. There was no such relief in the figs provided.
The dessert was great. Each of the four offerings were delicous, although I couldn't summon too much of an appetite to finish it. In addition, an extra dessert was sent out and a very nice "Happy Birthday" along with it, as well as a candle and (thankfully) no singing.
As I dined I was taken aback by the lack of professionalism exhibited by a couple of the waitstaff. I was sitting with my back to the service hallway and twice overheard staff cursing from behind me. Another time a server, Chris, was yucking it up with that table of 6, regulars I guess by their casual attire and his demeanor with them was very unimpressive and brought down the by several notches the seriousness of the dining room. I expected more.
Also, I don't like overlooking a sidestreet, a few houses and route 35. Give me a view, something! I know they can't help this, but as my wife kept saying to me, we always go to scenic restaurants for special occasions. Judging by the room that night, and the weather was beautiful, most people are like us! I don't know what kind of business Nicholas does during the week, but to say I was unimpressed with the turnout is an understatement.
The bill came to $325 including tip. Wendy did her part in giving that experience a sense of value, but it ended there. I'm glad I went, I won't rush back. I got the sense that it was a place to be, that its reputation was carrying the day. We'll see.
I went in ready to be wowed. I left underwhelmed. Perhaps my expectations were just too high after reading this board. Or, maybe, its just not my cup of tea. The food can be argued to taste, the inconsistencies and unprofessionalism in the front of the house is unnacceptable

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  1. hot - First and foremost I want to thank you for your detailed review. I must admit however that I'm a bit puzzled by several of your comments. First, considering that you never dined at Nicholas before, how did the Bar server recognize you? Are you in the business?

    By my count, you enjoyed most of your dishes (including all the mains and the desserts) and found your waitperson's service to be "nothing short of perfect" yet you where still disappointed with your meal and felt that the restaurant under delivered. Can you elaborate why?

    With regard to some of your service observations, while I don't doubt your account, I must add that I've been dining at Nicholas continually since it opened and have never experienced any inappropriate language or conduct by its waitstaff. The service at Nicholas is nothing short of exemplary and on par with the best restaurants in NYC.

    Lastly, I must apologize for being unable to respond to your criticism of the lack of view or the location of the restaurant as well as your disappointment that the restaurant wasn't full for a summer weeknight service. I am truly at a lose for words. Again I am sorry you had a disappointing evening.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bgut1

      *I don't want to go into the way that I know the Server, just as I have not specified the day, so that I don't identify the server and get the server in trouble.
      *I was disappointed because I have heard so many raves that I truly thought the food would be inspired. It was not.
      *I thank you for not doubting my account. It was, at times, painful to get through. I truly expected more. I would think that Nicholas takes seriously its role as a "special occasion" restaurant and I think that the owners would be very discouraged at what took place. To my mind, they clearly were not there that evening, and some staff took advantage of that.
      *Please don't apologize for being unable to respond to my criticisms or disappointments. I'm sure I'm not the first guy who dined at Nicholas and left disappointed, and I'm sure I won't be the last. The vast majority of people who leave Nicholas do so happily and with smiles, and their longevity and success bears that out. I had a bad experience, and life goes on. You shouldn't burden yourself with feeling the need to be an apologist for Nicholas.
      *If my surprise at the sparse dining room came across as disappointment, it was not. I simply had the opinion that it was a busier restaurant - hell, I was thrilled to have the place to myself!
      Thanks.

      1. re: hotfoodhot

        hot - Please know that I do not in any way feel that I carry the burden of "being an apologist for Nicholas." I feel however that since myself and many posters on this board recommend the restaurant, I am saddened that it didn't meet expectations.

        1. re: bgut1

          hot food- that was surely a detailed review. Obviously your post goes against the norm of chow hound, especially as detailed in bgut's response. Every restaurant has it's bad night and obviously you were there for this one. I would give it another try.

    2. hot food - Thank you for your review. It is actually good to know that even this highly coveted establishment has it's faults. Apparently, they too are mortal. I have not yet had the opportunity to try Nicholas since, for our wallets, it's price tag warrants a special occasion. However, you bring up a good point about the view. Although my DH and I enjoy good food, we also are very concious of the ambiance around us and feel it is part of the total experiance so I thank you for bringing that point up. I will keep it in mind before I choose this for special occasion.

      1. Like bgut, I'm sorry that Nicholas fell short of your expectations.

        To be honest, when I go for the first time to a restaurant that receives as much high praise as this one does, I severely contain my expectations, which generally helps me not be too disappointed if the experience turns out to be less than perfect. It may very well be that, when it comes to our many experiences at Nicholas -- in both the dining and bar rooms -- we've just been lucky to have never hit any glitches.

        What really puzzles me are the comments by you (and sunsetterdottie) about the view -- more precisely, the lack thereof. While it would be nice to have a pleasing exterior view, what's most important, at least to me, is the *interior* ambiance. In that regard, Nicholas is tops, i.e., very attractive contemporary decor; capacious tables, nicely spaced; and a conversation-friendly noise level. This ambiance is the equal of the best restaurants in NYC. As I like to say, Nicholas is a NYC restaurant that just happens to be located on a highway in NJ. Lucky us!

        13 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          As usual I agree with my good friend RGR. IMHO, the interior is so well designed that I never have had occasion to notice the exterior of the restaurant (I assume it was designed intentionally to do so). Further, to continue with RGR's NYC restaurant analogy, if an exterior view was a paramount consideration for most diners, many in NYC would fail for being located along busy thoroughfares as well.

          1. re: bgut1

            Hey, b.,

            I actually thought of what you said about the location of many NYC restaurants but didn't include it in my post.

            Even spaces that, imo, are far from stellar don't seem to deter NYC diners. I'm thinking specifically of Le Bernardin. Not only is there no exterior "view," but the restaurant is located in the lobby of an office building and despite all the attempts at camouflage, when we had dinner there (only once, years ago), I could never shake the feeling that I was dining in a lobby. And Le Bern is a "NY Times" 4-star and Michelin 3-star restaurant! lol

            1. re: RGR

              RGR - Great minds think alike. I was thinking of Le Bern as well. I wasn't too impressed by its interior design.

              1. re: bgut1

                Went last Saturday for our anniversary. A little background on me - I’ve been cooking in kitchens for 25 years (now just part time for a friend when needed). I’ve been to quite a few good places including Jean Georges, Nobu, Lutece, Daniel and The Strip House just to name a few. While I’m no expert I do consider myself a foodie. I was impressed that I didn’t find any negative reviews about Nicholas in Red Bank NJ, all great and “gotta go” reviews. I have to say – I’m incredibly disappointed. Nothing impressed me; nothing made me say “Wow! What was that?” Well, the bill did. Nicholas did not surprise or tantalize my taste buds as other top restaurants have done in the past. It seemed boring and lack luster, the staff and the dishes. We each had the 7 course so we had a chance to sample a good amount of their offerings, not one, repeat, not one impressed. For 388.00 (including tip) I’m going to the city next time, maybe Bouley. Save your money, I wish I did.

                1. re: Roombo

                  Roombo,

                  I see that you are brand new to Chowhound. Welcome!

                  I'm sorry that you had a disappointing experience at Nicholas. I, too, have dined in many of NYC's finest restaurants (including all the current 4-stars except Masa), as well as those in other cities and countries. We have been to Nicholas many times times since it opened about 10 years ago, both in the dining room and at the bar, and the cuisine is always superb. As far as the cost goes, I think $79 for the 6-course tasting menu is extremely reasonable for food this high caliber, as is $45 for wine pairings. Of course, if you choose wine bottles with hefty prices, the bill will go up significantly.

                  I would be interested to know what exactly it was about specific dishes that you found "boring and lackluster."

                  1. re: RGR

                    Thanks for the interest. Here I Go. I’d like to say that this is first time I’ve ever written a review for a restaurant. I was so disappointed at Nicholas I felt I had to tell someone. We did in fact do the pairing, getting an extra glass or two of them because they were so good. As far as the dishes - all were boring in my humble opinion. My Cobia (sp) was perhaps the worst fish dish I’ve ever had. No salt, no flavor and lukewarm - nothing to set it apart from Red Lobster. The suckling pig was merely ok, I’ve tasted much better smoke complex and texture in local places down in North Carolina. The Watermelon Sashimi, nice textures and sweet and salt combo was good but again.. Nothing ground breaking. I thought I’d be given something I’ve never had before; unusual flavor combos that I would never think of, nothing came close, nothing sparked interest, nothing was special and everything was under seasoned. I hate to sound so negative, as a formed cook I’m in love the chefs Cinderella story and wish the place the very best (as if it needs it). Side note: After sampling a wine I asked the waiter if he could write down the name, in an almost condescending tone he say “yes, sir, of course after the meal”. Well, we were never asked “will that be all” before the check arrived (table turnover I’m sure), had to ask for the wine and the “gift” from the pastry chef that I was promised when I made the reservations. Mind you he forgot… the check was signed when I asked. People forget, I understand (that’s why I didn’t mention it in my first post), it was just a bad end to a disappointing night. It is simply not in the same league as Jean-George and likes in (once again) my humble opinion.

                    1. re: Roombo

                      Roombo - I am sorry about your disappointing meal. Like my good friend RGR, I too have dined at many of the NYT's 4 star restaurants and can attest to the quality of food and service at Nicholas over the past 10 years. You mention having the Watermelon Sashimi, the Cobia, and the Suckling Pig. What about the other items (dessert and cheese course)? Does the menu online reflect what you had that evening? https://www.restaurantnicholas.com/me...
                      As far as the Suckling Pig, it is one of Nicholas' signature dishes that has been on the menu since day one (or soon thereafter). It's a stellar dish and has never disappointed. As far as the service, I have always found it unobstusive and anticipatory, right out of the Danny Meyer hospitality handbook. You might want to write to Nicholas and express your disappointment.

                      1. re: Roombo

                        Roombo,

                        Your opinion is appreciated here. Even the mighty Nicholas is susceptible to dissapointment.

                        1. re: Nicholasfan

                          I was expecting hate mail judging by the following this place has . It’s a fact that ones dinning experience is based on many things, perhaps I was having a bad day coupled with them being a little off. I will go back one day, just not soon. thanks

                          1. re: Roombo

                            Roombo,

                            I haven't had the dishes you mentioned, so I can't comment on them.

                            Each of us can only judge a restaurant by the our own experience. Though many of us can argue, based on our meals at Nicholas, that the restaurant is capable of putting out stellar food and providing excellent service, restaurants are run by human beings, not robots, and thus, it is possible for even the best restaurants to provide a less-than-perfect experience. Or, perhaps, the style of cuisine just doesn't appeal.

                            I generally hold to the theory that a restaurant has only one chance to make a first impression. If that impression is negative in what is to me is the most important aspect, i.e., the food, I usually do not go back. That said, here's a little story.

                            Years ago, we went to Le Bernardin, which everyone -- critics and laymen alike -- insisted was the sine qua non of French seafood. I, however, came away less than enthusiastic. Not only wasn't the food to my liking, but I found the service very icy. Plus, I thought the room was ugly. I vowed never to go back. Fast forward ten years, my palate had become more "eudcated," and I became friends with a foodie whose opinion I value very highly. What was one of his favorite restaurants? You guessed it! Le Bernardin. He convinced me to give it another chance, so I finally went back a few months ago. This time, I loved the food, and the service was much more pleasant. The room, however, still sucks. But I'd now go back to Le Bernardin in a NY second.

                            So, even though your first experience at Nicholas left you disappointed, I'm pleased that you would consider giving it another try. My suggestion would be that you do so at the bar. It's mainly a small plates menu, so you can do as much sampling as you wish, it's more relaxed than the dining room, and the bar tenders are always friendly.

                            1. re: RGR

                              This is OT but I had the pleasure of going to Le Bernardin for my birthday a few weeks ago. Got the tasting menu+pairing and it was gloooorious! But for some reason somewhere in the back of my head I kept wishing I went to Per Se instead for the money.

                              I usually feel the same way about Nicholas. Whenever I go to a restaurant in our area that costs 50-70$ I find myself wondering why I didn't just go to Nicholas instead. :)

                        2. re: Roombo

                          We only tried Nicholas once, and like you were let down. The suckling pig was dry, nothing really shined, for the money we left rather disappointed, I never posted on our experience for fear of the chow gods. I am somewhat reieved that I am not the only one that was not Wowed. I must say our service was excellent.

                          1. re: Roombo

                            Mistakes happen. A good restaurant will fix your mistake and then some. You should have returned that cobia to the kitchen!!!!

              2. Hotfood: I have to agree with you. I'm from the Red Bank-Middletown area and I have eaten at Nicholas twice. On each occassion I found the food to be of good quality but lacking pizazz. Everything tasted "better than ok" but nothing stood out. All of the dishes seemed to be a re-hash of a meal that I've eaten somewhere else (and in some instances better at the other restaurants). I enjoyed each meal but I wanted the experience to be special, and it wasn't.

                In my opinion Nicholas is four star dining at the Jersey Shore...which is very good, but this should not be confused with the star ratings applied to NYC restaurants. This place is two light years short of Daniel's or Le Bernardin. Within the general vicinity of Nicholas, superior food can be found at the "Copper Canyon" in the Atlantic Highlands, "Bay Avenue Trattoria" in the Highlands, "Drew's Bayshore Bistro" in Keyport, and "David Burke's Fromagerie" in Rumson. However, it should be noted that only Burke's offers superior food with the ambiance of fine dining.

                There's certainly a place for Nicholas, as a special occassion destination at the Shore, but I'd hold back on a little of what I see as misplaced praise. I remember when Nicholas first opened to great expectations...I think the kitchen has become complacent.

                9 Replies
                1. re: familyguy13

                  familyguy - You obviously are entitled to your own opinion, however, to proclaim that the food at such restaurants as Copper Canyon and Bay Avenue Trattoria is "superior" to Nicholas is quite a statement. Respectfully, I must disagree. None of those restaurants, save for the Fromagerie, even try to compete with the type of food and service offered at Nicholas and in my mind is like comparing apples to oranges. With regard to the Fromagerie, while I've never had a full meal there, I have dined at David Burke and Donatella and I can comfortably say that there is no comparison between the two. A search of this board will evidence that my sentiments are shared by many on this board.

                  1. re: bgut1

                    Bgut: You are correct that Copper Canyon, Bay Avenue Trattoria and Drew's Bayshore Bistro do not offer the same type of food and service as Nicholas. My comment of "superior" was intended to be limited to the preparation of specific dishes (ie, I prefer the short ribs at Copper Canyon and the pulled pork as Drew's). Your comment that comparing these restaurants to Nicholas is like comparing apples to oranges was a fair one. It is obvious that you and RGR love this restaurant as a dining experience. Of the twenty three replys to the original post of dissapointment, you and RGR account for eleven of them and are hereby declared the defenders of the flame (and the Nicholas name). Frankly, you both help keep this string interesting, and I enjoyed the feedback. Nothing wrong with supporting a place that you truely enjoy.

                    I have re-discovered that I am less involved with the whole dining experience and more interested in taste (to the exclusion of other factors). I will re-evaluate my earlier comments, but to you and RGR. I stand by the fact that the seared foie gras at Daniel's is superior to that served at Nicholas (and to RGR may I recommend the chocolate souffle at Chez Napolean-50 th St, NYC, at half the price served by waitresses that are truly from France, but without white gloves).

                    1. re: familyguy13

                      familyguy13,

                      Since Nicholas is considered one of the best -- if not *the* best -- restaurants in the state, it hardly needs to be defended by me or my good friend bgut.

                      Why do you presume that I don't consider taste the most important factor when judging a restaurant? The fact is that, for me, the quality of the food is *always* numero uno, and if it falls short in that regard, the best service and a plethora of fancy-schmancy accountrements will never get me to go back. Since the cuisine at Nicholas is, in my view, of the highest quality, I would still eat there even if the service fell somewhat short and the ambiance was less appealing. However, since the service and ambiance are of a caliber equal to the cuisine, I happily accept them as the proveribal icing on the cake.

                      I've had seared foie gras at Daniel (note that there is no 's in the name), and it was of excellent caliber, but imo, not superior to the foie at Nicholas or, for that matter, at the many other high end restaurants where I have had seared foie gras.
                      Furthermore, the last time we dined at Daniel, there were several very serious service problems, inexcusable for a 4-star restaurant. That has never happend at Nicholas.

                      We have been to Chef Napoleon once for dinner. I don't recall having the soufflé, but the food was tasty and, as you said, it was served by a pleasant French waitress. For what it was, unfancy bistro fare in cute surroundings, the price was right.

                      Along the same lines, one of our favorites in NYC is La Petite Auberge. We have been going there with some regularity since it opened more than 30 years ago. The interior resembles a little inn in Britanny, which is where the owners came from. The food is dependably well-prepared and delicious, they also offer first-rate soufflés, and prices are very reasonable.

                      http://www.lapetiteaubergeny.com

                      1. re: RGR

                        Thank you for the spelling lesson. Oh, by the way it is Chez Napoleon, not Chef Napoleon, and if you found the French waitresses to be "pleasant" then you were at the wrong french restaurant. We have a difference of opinion as to the appropriate rating of Nicholas, with all of its accountrements. Obviously there are fans of this restaurant, but it is also obvious that a number of the contributors to this Board have been disappointed for one reason or another. I do not presume that you have no taste, but only an investor or owner would put Nicholas on par with Daniel.

                        1. re: familyguy13

                          Not really a spelling lesson. Just pointing out the restaurant's correct name. And touché! I really should proofread more carefully. :)

                          1. re: RGR

                            You are a good sport. I will go back to Nicholas one more time with an open mind and report back

                            1. re: familyguy13

                              High marks to you for being willing to give Nicholas yet one more try after *two* less than enthusiastic exeriences. Frankly, if that had happened to me the *first* time, there would not have been a second, as I generally adhere to the maxim, a restaurant has only one chance to make a first impression.

                  2. re: familyguy13

                    While I'm a huge fan of Drew and think his food is delicious. I'm sure even he would agree that comparing his food to the haute cuisine being served at Nicholas is totally ludicrous. And as for Burke's Fromagerie, while it is supposed to be on the same level as Nicholas, based on my one dinner there, the food doesn't come close to the level at Nicholas.

                    I don't agree that Nicholas is just for special occasions, though we have certainly had had our share of celebratory meals in the dining room over the years. However, dining at the bar is much more casual and relaxed, i.e., no reservations needed and you can dress in jeans, if you wish. It's not inexpensive, but you get what you pay for.

                    This past Sunday, Mr. R. was out of town (actually, way out of town, in Hong Kong with a foodie friend of ours, enjoying fabulous Chinese food), so I took myself to Nicholas to have dinner in the bar room. By the time I got there just before 9 p.m., the crowds had left, and it gave true meaning to the term "dining solo", i.e., I was the only one there. Bill, the bartender, made for a pleasant "companion."

                    I'm a foie gras addict, so I started with perfectly seared foie gras, which turned out to be the size of a small steak! For me, heaven on a plate! It was accompanied by a very tasty blintz filled with mascarpone and cherries. Yum! I then had a lobster dish: a very generous portion of impeccably prepared lobster (tail and claw), accompanied by a delicious potato fritter, and enhanced by a butter-based sauce. Sublime! (Note: These were listed as "small" plates!) I ended the meal with a first-rate coffee soufflé, accompanied by excellent passion fruit ice cream and two of the best macadamia nut shortbread cookies I've ever tasted.

                    Regulars here know that Mr. R. and I dine out a lot in NYC. Thus, I can say without hesitation that the cuisine at Nicholas, as evidenced by the meal I just described, stands up very well against what is served in many of the finest high-end restaurants there. Nicholas's kitchen "complacent"? In a pig's eye!

                    1. re: RGR

                      I love dining at the bar there!

                  3. My main issue with Nicholas is the service. When I dine out I want friendly, competent and observant service. I can do without the choreographed Busby Berkley floor show. Add to that, the strong pressure to turn the table after 2 hours is more than a detraction.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: equal_Mark

                      when nicholas first opened the service was too intrusive, without a doubt. i never got the feeling they wanted us out of there but i sure wished they'd left us alone for a minute. but the last few times i've been i thought the service was excellent. we had a large party there around christmas and never felt in the slightest way rushed.

                      1. re: equal_Mark

                        equal_Mark,

                        We have never felt the slightest bit of pressure to vacate our table at Nicholas. In fact, I have always found the kitchen's timing to be impeccable. As for the style of service, it is the common method in upscale restaurants. I don't consider it a "floor show," but if it bothers you, all I can say is, chacun à son goût! :)

                        1. re: RGR

                          I've been to pretty much all the upscale restaurants in NYC and DC, and have rarely experienced such studied pomposity. When Nicholas first opened one of the selling points was that a party could have a table for the evening. In this day and age, with this economy I can understand the desire to maximize customer turnover. The last couple times we ate there we were seated at 6pm, and shortly after 8pm the "Thank you very much, please go away" vibes were palpable. This detracted from the whole experience. It's not like we were chatting over empty cups of coffee for 3+ hours...

                          1. re: equal_Mark

                            I like RGR have never experienced these type of service issues at Nicholas. That being said, I haven't dined in the main room in over a year as I eat mostly at the bar. If in fact I did experience such pressure to turnover my table, at a minimum I would make my displeasure known.

                            1. re: equal_Mark

                              I have always found the staff to be very cordial and not in any way pompous, studied or otherwise. The last two times we ate in the dining room, we had the same captain, David, who couldn't have been nicer. Now, if you're talking about Nicholas, himself... ;) Though I do think he's mellowed somewhat.

                              1. re: equal_Mark

                                Were you seated at the time of your reservation? If so the person with the 8pm reservation would like their table at 8pm. If you want to sit at a table all night I know Sawa doesn't mind. Make my Saturday night reservations easier to get lol

                                1. re: moopsi

                                  So it seems that a few people had some inconsistency issues with Nicholas, isn't that the trademark of a good place? Last time I was there it definitely seemed like an older crowd dining there, I'm in my early 20's, I did eat in the bar anticipating a little younger vibe.

                                  So if has Nicholas issues with inconsistency, where are there places in the NJ who are up and coming?

                                  1. re: rikitikitembo

                                    I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of Nicholas, i.e., inconsistency, since for the majority of diners, like me, the food has been "consistent* in its excellence. Can even the best restaurants misfire very occasionally? Certainly. But I wouldn't then describe that restaurant as inconsistent. Also, there is the fact that there are some diners whose disappointing experience is due to just not liking the style of the cuisine.

                                    When it comes to the age of Nicholas diners, I have seen a fairly wide range, though I would probably agree with you that it does not attract a lot of 20-something, even in the bar.

                                    The best fairly new restaurant we've been to is elements, in Princeton, which has been open for about a year. Since Princeton is a college town, you might find more people your age hanging out in the bar area, though I'm don't know if they serve food there.

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      I have been glued to this thread as My wife and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary at Nicholas next Friday. If not for RGR's and BGUT1's well respected opinion, I might have canceled my reservation after reading the OP. Looking forward to it.

                                      1. re: angelo04

                                        angelo,

                                        Thanks for the kind words. I sincerely hope that you and your wife have a wonderful dinner at Nicholas. Please report back

                                        Happy 10th Anniversary and Bon Appetit!

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          Angelo - My best wishes for your 10th Anniversary celebration. You could not have picked a better restaurant. I'm sure you will have a grand time. Please let us know how it went.

                                        2. re: angelo04

                                          . Please let us know how it went, I too went on my 10. I'm also the one that dragged this post out again due to my disappointment. I think people are relying very heavily on the term “best quality”. You can take the best chicken wing and boil it, it’s still just a chicken wing if the preparation is boring. Side note: the best foie gras I ever had was at the Strip House in NYC, 17.00 and incredible.

                                          1. re: Roombo

                                            So I did make one change to my reservation. We will feast at the Chef's table. I have not told my wife yet and probably won't. I'll let her be surprised. I will certainly let you know how it goes, one week to go. Can't wait!

                                            1. re: angelo04

                                              Angelo - It's a nice show and I'm sure you will enjoy it. In fact, the wife and I were one of the first people to dine at the chef's table when it opened in September of 2006. Although things may have changed since then, I'd be happy to answer any questions. Good Luck and Happy Anniversary.

                                        3. re: RGR

                                          elements does serve food at the bar, and if you are lucky enough to have Mattias behind the bar, he is a delight to chat with!