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Jul 29, 2008 07:21 AM

Bistro Soleil in Hightstown, NJ

Owner and chef Jim Hayes has just opened his new place, Bistro Soleil, at 173 Mercer Street in Hightstown, NJ, off of Rt 130. And it is indeed a ray of sunshine in this little burg in central NJ, not far from Trenton, Princeton, and New Brunswick.

A group of us trekked from New Brunswick on Saturday night and enjoyed the food and friendly service.

In particular, I enjoyed:
- the calamari
- the fish chowder
- the pork loin entree
- and the delicious chocolate desserts

My wife had the risotto and raved about it.

It's a "bring your own" place. There is seating outside, so plan to you go on a pleasant Summer evening.

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  1. I had recently heard about this place, we hope to go soon, maybe this Friday.
    Its only about 8 miles or so from our house.
    Thanks for your comments.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tom246

      Glad to hear it, Tom. Jim (who once did a stint as pastry chef at the late-great Ryland Inn) just opened the place last week, I believe. So try em out. I hope you enjoy it!

      1. re: thseamon

        What did you think of the service? Everything from the servers, to the buser, to the host. I've seen that place a few times driving by and it looks very intriguing. I may give it a try.

      2. re: tom246

        We tried it last night and was very disappointed. The menu reads well which is the main reason we tried it. Our meat was overcooked and very dry. The salmon was a thin fillet with absolutely no taste. The side vegetables were poorly prepared and tasteless. The waitress seemed harassed and was not attentive but the place was not busy. Burger King would have been an improvement.

        1. re: JACKKAYE

          I go to Bistro Soleil every Tuesday for their NJ Fresh menu, and I have to disagree w/ your comment about Burger King. Tho, our weekly trips are not always excellent, I would much rather eat there than some lame fast food place. I do think the chef/owner needs to start reading chow tho.


      3. My friend and I just ate at Bistro Soliel on Thursday evening. Since we used to go there often when it was Genovese's, we were curious as to the new place.

        The decor, in keeping with its name, has numerous sun-in-splendor plaques on the deep yellow upper walls. I would have loved to have seen a different color on the bottom walls other than sh*t brown. Reminded me of the old "Fruit of the Loom" joke. I liked the crisp white tablecloths and linens.

        We were promptly greeted and seated. Our server read off the specials of the day, and left us to peruse the menu. We were impressed with the variety of offerings. Not too many, but something for everyone. Fairly standard "bistro" fare, meant in a good way.

        My friend had the tomato stuffed with goat cheese and said it was divine. I order the caprese and it was just okay. Although the menu indicated "jersey" tomatoes, the ones I got were small and not ripe at all. Definitely not what I was expecting.

        We both had French Onion Soup. I asked for mine "well done" (i.e., cheese browned), but it was far from it. It was a very mild flavored soup, which I enjoyed.

        For dinner, my friend had the Cobb Salad. She said it was "nothing special." Lots of lettuce with bits of pieces here and there.

        I ordered the Chicken Papardelle (sp?) which was supposed to be "paper thin chicken breast with sun dried tomatos and fresh mozzarella on foccacia bread" with seasoned fries. I was informed they had no fries and were substituting mashed potatoes instead. The chicken was done well, except it was hardly "paper thin". The other ingredients were plenty. I enjoyed the chicken dish very much, but I suspect the mashed potatoes were instant, as they had that odd flavor.

        I had the lemon tart for dessert. A nice refreshing treat of lemon curd in a shortbread like tartlet crust, topped with sliced strawberries. My friend decided on some ice cream.

        Service was attentive but not over-bearing.

        We put this on our "will try again" list and will probably go back soon.

        1. As a long-time Hightstown/East Windsor resident, I am always happy to see a new business come into our downtown area. My husband, mother and son went to Bistro Soleil this evening for dinner. We were very pleased with the food and the service and we will definitely be back again.

          We all had pasta dishes. My husband had the meat lasagna which was the special lasagna of the day. The bread and herb olive oil that started us out was very delicious. We each ordered a salad to start and it was the perfect size for an appetizer. The entree portions were very large and we each had leftovers to bring home. We didn't have any room for dessert so we will wait to try that next time. The servers and staff were extra friendly and went out of their way to make my 2 year-old son comfortable and entertained.

          I hope that this restaurant makes it in Hightstown as it will be nice to be able to walk to a wonderful meal.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. I have a new favorite restaurant in our area.

              We came with my parents for an early dinner on Friday night. The bright decor, high ceilings, and generously spaced tables gives this place a very open feeling. It's a nice place, not at all stuffy, rather casual yet sophisticated.

              The food: We started with an order of Calamari. Fresh, tender, assertively seasoned rings in a crunchy crust, dressed with a sprinkling of finely chopped green and red bell peppers, thinly sliced shallots, and a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar. This was a very good dish. The flavors and textures were extremely well balanced and played well off each other.

              My mother ordered Gazpacho, which was also very good. The freshness and quality of the ingredients definitely came though.

              For mains, I had a Shrimp and Pea Risotto, which I really liked. The rice was cooked perfectly (creamy yet toothsome), deeply flavored and well seasoned. The shrimp were of excellent quality. Dad had lamb chops, also well seasoned and cooked perfectly, nicely browned on the outside, rare on the inside, with a hint of rosemary and garlic. Other dishes were equally as good.

              We shared a warm chocolate ganache cake for dessert, which was top notch.

              The service: Some problems. I think it was just our waiter, who seemed to be a bit nervous and confused, but the other waitresses backed him up. All-in-all though, a very friendly staff, and overall service in the restaurant seemed to be excellent. The chef came out to check on us toward the end of our meal, and we had a nice chat.

              This is definitely my kind of restaurant. It's about quality ingredients, well prepared by a chef that understands the strengths of the ingredients and brings them out in his cooking. They bill themselves as an "American Bistro", and they definitely hit the nail on the head. This *is* like a good Bistro you'd find in France. Casual, comfortable, great food that doesn't try to be "froofy", over-handled, or overly extravagant. By they way, this place is a relative bargain based on the quality of the food. If they keep the quality up, we will come here on a regular basis. Also, my 3-year-old daughter befriended the chef's children (who are delightful), and now she can't wait to go back either.

              My advice is to come here before Karla Cook reviews it and it becomes a tough reservation.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cranrob

                cranrob, that is great to hear, nice report. We have yet to get there but will soon.
                Hopefully Bistro Soleil will do well. The overall area is not running over with quality restaurants.