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Bistro Soleil in Hightstown, NJ

t
thseamon Jul 29, 2008 07:21 AM

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.

  1. JerzeyShore Sep 19, 2009 08:19 AM

    Looking to go here tonight - anyone been recently???

    28 Replies
    1. re: JerzeyShore
      Angelina Sep 19, 2009 08:30 AM

      Funny you mention, we were going to go here last night, but instead we chose Blue Point Seafood on Nassau St. in Princeton. Excellent choice! I was so happy with my sole dinner and my little sweety of a husband had the halibut. So good. We spilt an appetizer of grilled calamari. I have 1 piece of sole left over it was so big.

      So, if you decide on fish, go here. Enjoy!

      1. re: Angelina
        t
        tom246 Sep 19, 2009 10:37 AM

        Blue Point Grill is a great place for the freshest fish and they bring out the flavors with such simple preparations. Plus the list of fish offered is quite long. That is usually the toughest part for us. What to choose :)

        1. re: tom246
          Angelina Sep 20, 2009 05:06 AM

          Tom, you are funny! My husband always makes me pick for him because it is always hard like you said! They certainly do offer such fresh and super quality of thier fish. I always forget about this place bacsue we never go into Princeton for anything. So glad I rememebered on friday! I just wish I ordered some of those fabulous looking oysters!!!!

        2. re: Angelina
          JerzeyShore Sep 21, 2009 12:08 PM

          We did go to Bistro Soleil on Saturday and had a delicious meal in this laid back large comfortable space. This was our first visit and it made a very good impression. I had the double cut pork chop and the wife a wonderful halibut dish. We started with an excellent salad that we split and it was more than enough for starters. After the big main course we were to full to sample a desert. Talk about value - excellent food, good service in a nice setting for $46. before tip.

          We will be going back here again and soon. Don't let the drive scare you away, it is a straight shot down Rt 33 in the center of Hightstown.

          1. re: JerzeyShore
            MishyPoo Sep 21, 2009 05:53 PM

            Im so glad you went, this place is a gem. I was worried when the Bistro Soleil thread turned into a Blue Point Grill thread that you might have changed your mind. I went just about every Tuesday this past summer for their Jersey Fresh Menu and most of the time it was excellent! Bistro Soleil is a GREAT value for very, very good food....but the service can be iffy.

            xoxo,
            Michelle

            1. re: MishyPoo
              JerzeyShore Sep 22, 2009 10:43 AM

              Yes, I get what you mean about the service but our waiter was fine, however he had to be prompted several times to deliver a few items. It is not what you call stellar but will do considering the value here with the food, portions and quality.

              1. re: JerzeyShore
                n
                Nursemegg Oct 21, 2009 04:20 AM

                I drove by last night. I don't know if it was the food, the service or the economy but there is a huge "for rent" sign hanging on the outside of the building. The place was dark. Seems as if another local place has gone under.

                1. re: Nursemegg
                  njfoodies Oct 21, 2009 04:53 AM

                  That is a shame! We had many great meals here, and I am sorry to see it go! -mJ

                  1. re: njfoodies
                    n
                    Nursemegg Oct 21, 2009 09:36 AM

                    Even worse for me...we have a gift certificate that we received that I guess we will never be able to use!

                    1. re: Nursemegg
                      r
                      RGR Oct 21, 2009 10:36 AM

                      I have no clue what that sign is all about, but I called Bistro Soleil, and they are still open.

                      1. re: RGR
                        n
                        Nursemegg Oct 22, 2009 07:43 AM

                        really? they were definately closed on Tuesday night...usually their local harvest night, and there was definately a "for rent" sign attached to the front of the building. I'll have to pay extra attention on the way home tonight.

                        1. re: Nursemegg
                          JerzeyShore Oct 22, 2009 04:18 PM

                          Good deal - let us know what you find out ...

              2. re: MishyPoo
                njfoodies Oct 24, 2009 06:33 AM

                I am assuming they are still open as well as I just heard a commercial for them on the radio on WPST. I hope that is the case! -mJ

                1. re: njfoodies
                  n
                  Nursemegg Oct 29, 2009 06:16 AM

                  drove by on Sunday and again on Tuesday night. doors locked. lights off. "for lease" sign on door jam. I'd say they are closed.

                  1. re: Nursemegg
                    r
                    RGR Oct 29, 2009 08:02 AM

                    I just called and spoke to the owner. He confrimed that they are, indeed, closed.

                    1. re: RGR
                      njfoodies Oct 29, 2009 08:35 AM

                      Such a bummer. Thanks for looking into it RGR. Another good restaurant bites the dust.

                      It's truly a shame that the locals are not supporting their local establishments. I see this often at a lot of our restaurants in town, and I think it is such a waste. I read about people visiting our restaurants from over an hour away, yet the locals would rather drive to an Appleby's, TGI Friday's, etc, etc and spend their money there. Why is that? Is it only us Chowhounds that get that we need to stimulate the local economy as well as trying other places that fellow Chowhounds recommend? Bummer! -mJ

                      -----
                      Tgi
                      350 Passaic Ave Ste 103, Fairfield, NJ 07004

                      1. re: njfoodies
                        r
                        RGR Oct 29, 2009 08:54 AM

                        While Bistro Soleil was not exactly "local" to us, it was close enough so that I would have been willing to go there with some regularity if -- and it's a giant IF -- I had had a positive experience there. I generally adhere to the premise that a restaurant has only one chance to make a positive first impression. Unfortunately, when we tried Bistro Soleil, I found the food to be mediocre. Perhaps, my standards are different from those who posted here saying they liked the food. But the impression left on me did not make me want to return.

                        -----
                        Bistro Soleil
                        173 Mercer St, Hightstown, NJ 08520

                        1. re: RGR
                          njfoodies Oct 29, 2009 09:05 AM

                          It wasn't local for us either, but we didn't mind the drive. I can say that the few meals we had there were good for the money, but like any restaurant, inconsistency can kill you.

                          I find our standards to be pretty high when it comes to eating out. We eat out usually only on Friday and Saturday nights, so when we go out, we like to try somewhere knew, unless it is a place that has really wowed us. Unfortunately, we haven't found that place as of late, so we're all about trying new places, and re-visiting places we haven't visisted in quite a while.

                          I know exactly where you are coming from though RGR. I've read some reviews on places on here, tried them, and had an experience nothing like theirs. And I am sure that people will say the same thing about some of my reviews. That is the beauty of having our own palates! Kind of like wine. Some ya love that others love, and some ya don't! Cheers! -mJ

                        2. re: njfoodies
                          y
                          yCf Oct 29, 2009 11:00 AM

                          while the service was quite disastrous the one visit I paid to Bistro Soleil, i do think the quality of their food should be good enough to warrant their survival in this area. Also, their price was very fair IMO.
                          With the closing of numerous restaurants just based on reading this board, I guess the restaurant business is really having a tough especially for the non-chain one.

                          -----
                          Bistro Soleil
                          173 Mercer St, Hightstown, NJ 08520

                          1. re: yCf
                            j
                            jethro Oct 29, 2009 04:17 PM

                            YCF - I drive a lot of miles each day, and can't tell you how many restaurants I see close. Good mom and pop places, some small chain restaurants too. I'd imagine rent for some is a lot of $$$$, so you need to do good business every day. People are struggling a bit, so don't eat out as often. When people do, they tend to buy cheaper items from the menu. Expect many more to close in the next year. Unfortunate, but true. Never got to try Bistro Soleil, but it was on my list.

                            -----
                            Bistro Soleil
                            173 Mercer St, Hightstown, NJ 08520

                            1. re: jethro
                              y
                              yCf Oct 30, 2009 05:41 AM

                              I am seeing the same thing too.
                              IMHO, i think dining out in NJ has always been overpriced. The economic downturn sort of "weed out" a bunch of restaurant that is not dong well. I think we need more lower priced restaurant in this state. I don't think people are willing to pay $20-$30 per head especially they are not sure about the quality of food they are getting.
                              I guess that's the reason why chain restaurant is still doing okay while places like Bistro Soleil are dropping like flies.

                              I think lower-priced, cafeteria styled places is the way to go in this economy.

                              -----
                              Bistro Soleil
                              173 Mercer St, Hightstown, NJ 08520

                              1. re: yCf
                                p
                                Paul N Nov 23, 2009 07:58 AM

                                I wonder if all these closings have something to do with the tough liquor laws for restaurants. BYOBs like Bistro Soleil must have a tough time making ends meet without those big liquor tabs. While I appreciate the money I save bringing my own bottle to a good BYOB like Bistro Soleil, ultimately I think sparsity of restaurants licensed to serve alcohol is a disaster for New Jersey dining. Jersey, after all, is one of the wealthiest and most densely populated states in the country and should be able to support at least as many great restaurants and good cheap eateries as NYC. Instead, our options state-wide seem to be no where near as good.

                                Wouldn't we have a much better food scene if those laws were changed?

                                Anyway, R.I.P. Bistro Soleil.

                                1. re: Paul N
                                  njfoodies Nov 23, 2009 08:20 AM

                                  I tell ya, I got so angy now every time I hear the commercial on WPST for Hightstown where they make a mention of Bistro Soleil still. Such a bummer to see a good restaurant close because of a slum lord!

                                  Paul N: Very hard to say really, but an interesting point of conversation. As people who have a love and passion for wine, I can tell you that Zelda and I often seek out BYO's, just so we can bring our own vino. I'd say that we eat at BYO's 75% of the time when we go out. Nothing worse than paying $10 for a glass of swill that you could have bought at Boyd's pharmacy for $8 a bottle.

                                  I have no idea what a BYO license costs, but there is more to it than the costs I'm sure. I know that a lot of municipalities have a limit to how many liquor licenses they will have in operation at a time. I have heard that in Bordentown a liquor license costs upwards of $250,000, if there is someone willing to sell theirs. Again, that i not factual, but all hearsay.

                                  Does anyone have any factual information regarding liquor licenses in your area? -mJ

                                  1. re: njfoodies
                                    JessKidden Nov 23, 2009 09:48 AM

                                    "I have no idea what a BYO license costs..."

                                    There is no such thing as a "BYO license" in NJ - any restaurant w/o a liquor license can allow "BYOB".

                                    "Unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting it, customers of an unlicensed restaurant may be permitted by the ownership of the restaurant to bring and consume only wine and beer. The restaurant can supply glasses, ice, etc., but may not impose a cover, corkage or service charge."

                                    http://www.state.nj.us/lps/abc/faqs.h...

                                    1. re: njfoodies
                                      n
                                      Nursemegg Nov 23, 2009 11:38 AM

                                      NJ...liquor licenses START at 250K and go up from there. I know in East Windsor the last license that was sold went for close to 750K. Which would explain why it is so much easier to open a restaurant without the license

                                      1. re: Nursemegg
                                        e
                                        eatinman Nov 23, 2009 02:01 PM

                                        yeah....
                                        but all chains always seem to get their liquor licenses. possibly cities should lower there license cost for independent operators to make the playing field a little more even

                                        1. re: eatinman
                                          mschow Nov 24, 2009 05:40 AM

                                          The three most expensive licenses ever sold in NJ were in S. Jersey, in Cherry Hill and Mt. Laurel. This is within the last 4-5 years. Supposedly the highest was $1,75 million in Mt. Laurel. And $1.5 mil was the second highest in Cherry Hill. Of course, these licenses were purchased by chains.

                                          1. re: eatinman
                                            p
                                            Paul N Nov 24, 2009 05:54 AM

                                            I think that's a good idea, eatinman. The current system seems like payola in music - where the big labels thrive and the little guy doesn't stand a chance. Only it's worse in food, because it prevents NJ from having as rich a local dining scene as we should, keeps all of us driving into Manhattan to eat, and prevents us becoming much of a culinary destination (no one's going to visit your town just to go to Fridays.) The policy may end up costing local government more in tax revenue than they make off those expensive liquor licenses.

              3. b
                BLJJC Aug 1, 2009 05:51 PM

                My wife and I visited this evening. This was the 2nd visit for us - we went last year on opening day. The focaccia bread that we started out with was very good. For some reason, the chef does not like salt and pepper on the tables (not understanding this), so we had to wait for the waitress to deliver - I love some pepper in the oil to dip the bread in. Next was the calimari and French Onion soup. The calimari was very tasty - different from most other restaurants and enjoyable. The soup, however, was very bland. I need and expect cheese dripping down the side of the crock. I also need and expect onions in the soup. Amazingly, I did not have either. Not sure how you can have onion soup without any onions. I would never order this again.

                The main course was Steak for the wife and Chicken on focaccia for me (paper thin). My wife said the steak was delicious - juicy, tender and cooked to perfection. My chicken was very good as well. Certainly not paper thin, but this is fine by me. 'Paper thin' implies deli slices to me, and the chicken was definitely not from a deli. It was nice and tender.

                Last was the Tiramisu for dessert. The waitress said that it was not the conventional style of the dessert and she was correct - it was presented in a different way and it was very good. I would not call it Tiramasu, but I would order it again.

                1. c
                  carl555 Nov 28, 2008 12:18 PM

                  See the Trenton Times review here:
                  http://www.nj.com/living/times/index....

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: carl555
                    seal Dec 6, 2008 06:37 PM

                    Finally tried the place tonight. The short of it is - mixed.

                    The appetizers and soups were good. We shared the artichoke dip, short ribs, and all the soups and thought they were all good and that we were on our way to a good meal.

                    We were prepared for a wait between courses and there sure was one, but we drank our wine and talked and enjoyed ourselves. Once the mains arrived, they brought out the two salmon wellingtons and the steak frites and then left without bringing out the lamb or the lasagne. Then, after a few minutes a different server brought out a tray with those two dishes on it and gave them to a couple at a nearby table. I noticed the couple looking at their food strangely so I immediately went over to their table. "I'm sorry to bother you," I began, "but I am told that although the food here is good, the servers tend to get a bit confused. Is that what you ordered? Because we are waiting for those exact dishes."

                    The woman said that the food was theirs and we shared a quick laugh while I excused myself and sat down to wait for our food. Sure enough, about a minute later, two servers rushed out and apologized to both tables saying that they had mistakenly given our food to the other table. Now, the man said that he thought he had an odd steak (of course it was since it was my lamb!).

                    So I was left to watch while my dining companions ate their food. By the way, the salmon wellington was both overcooked and undersauced. Back to my problem, although the servers did apologize, there was not even a hint of anything offered to make up for the mistake - completely unacceptable!

                    And the desserts were also just mediocre. We were expecting great things from the former pastry chef at the ryland inn and we were more than a little let down.

                    Overall:
                    Food C+
                    Atmosphere B
                    Service D

                    They have potential but they have to go a long ways to realize it.

                    1. re: seal
                      bgut1 Dec 7, 2008 05:43 PM

                      eal - Sorry for your disappointing meal but I appreciate your review nonetheless. I had always kept Bistro Soleil in the back of mind if was ever in the area but now I know otherwise. Thanks for saving me the trip and the money.

                      1. re: seal
                        r
                        RGR Dec 7, 2008 09:16 PM

                        seal,

                        Considering the praise that has been heaped on Bistro Soleil by others, I was beginning to feel like something like an ingrate for having criticized the place in my review upthread. Thus, as much as it pains me that you had such a disappointing experience, at least I feel somewhat vindicated for my less than enthusiastic opinion of the food there. It appears that your experience mirrors mine, i.e., apps/soups meriting praise while mains (when you finally got yours and ours came back at the proper temperature) and desserts leave much to be desired. As we've pointed out, the latter is particularly shocking because of the chef's previous experience working as a pastry chef at the Ryland Inn. Like you, I was so looking forward to dessert, and it was such a total let down. I wonder if he feels the clientele in this area would not appreciate that style of dessert.

                        1. re: RGR
                          v
                          vvale08 Dec 9, 2008 05:01 AM

                          My parents came in from NYC this weekend and I was looking for a place to take them out to eat. Eating out is one of their favorite pastimes. I was a little nervous about where to take them since they eat out all over NEW York. After seeing the review in the Trenton Times, I decided to try Bistro Soleil. I am happy to report that I wasn't disappointed in the least bit. We had a fabulous time and my mother did not complain one time which is suprising. She is a bit of a food critic. There was a bit of a wait in between courses but we did not mind. We were having a good time talking and drinking wine. I had the butternut squash soup which needed a little salt but once the salt was added the flavors all seemed to come together. My parents had the spinach & artichoke dip which they enjoyed. Our entrees included the salmon wellington, the lamb, and lasagna. I had the lasagna which was fabulous. The portion was very large. My mother had the salmon wellington which she could not say enough good things about. My father had the lamb and not one piece of food was left on his plate. We were full but still had desserts. My mother and I had the pumpkin cheesecake. Wow, was that good so creamy and flavorful. My father had a piece of maple pecan pie and also ordered a piece to go. So I guess he liked it too. The atmosphere was comfortable. It was what is was. Not too stuffy and not too casual. Somewhere in the middle, which I think is perfect for Hightstown. I will definetly be back. I travel a lot for work and frequently need to take clients out. I found a new favorite spot to take them to.

                          1. re: vvale08
                            p
                            patl123 Dec 19, 2008 07:18 AM

                            My fiancee and I live in Hightstown and we spontaneously checked out this restaurant a couple of weeks ago. We loved everything about the place and can't wait to go back for the Sunday jazz brunch! I had the pumpkin risotto...delicious and comforting on a cold night....the best I've ever had. The service was attentive and discrete...the ambience was quite nice and felt peaceful...no kids that night...what a treat for us! We loved the spacious ambience....so nice to have some proper space between tables....the evening felt luxurious, but the bill was a bargain. Finally, a local restaurant where we can proudly invite our friends to join us!

                            1. re: patl123
                              MishyPoo Mar 15, 2009 07:38 PM

                              Ive been to Bistro Soleil 2 times since my first post. I can understand the negative reviews that have been posted above...especially about the service. I received and email from them recently stating that they are lowering their prices....I will go to BS again, I have not had a bad experience there. My only complaint about this restaurant is that everytime I was there, it seems that the chef was in charge of his children, who are quite young. I dont know how many people are actually cooking in the kitchen, but what Im trying to say is, being there for me is almost like being in their personal house/ kitchen....but not as a very welcomed guest. I hope this makes sense? I have an issue w/ children in restaurants to begin with.....especially when they are running amok...but this will not stop me from returning to BS. I think it is worth the small inconvenience lol.

                              xoxo,
                              Michelle

                              PS...I tell all my friends w/ kids to go there because it seems very family friendly....(Im not tho! LOL)

                              1. re: MishyPoo
                                MishyPoo Apr 7, 2009 06:16 PM

                                Had dinner again tonight at Bistro Soleil. I really think it has improved since my last visit there.

                                The Trout Almondine was exceptionally good!

                                My husband and I never got dessert here before, but tonight we did, to give it a try, and I did find them to be lacking, especially from this chef who used to be the pastry chef at the Ryland Inn. They were just ordinary, nothing special. I will probably not get dessert there again, but I will return.

                                and...they have really good iced tea.

                                xoox,
                                Michelle

                                1. re: MishyPoo
                                  y
                                  yCf Jun 5, 2009 05:44 AM

                                  Went there last night. I am not one that really care about service but last night it was shocking!! There was one waitress in the entire restaurant with the stewardess helping out in bring out drinks and bread... we sat there for 10 minutes before the waitress came by.

                                  There was a prix fixe special last night. $25 for app or soup and salad, entree, and dessert. We were glad to here that. However, the waitress said we can't use coupon with that. We had a $25 restaurant.com gift certificate so when she returns we asked if we can still order the prix fixe speicials with that and she said yes and we proceed to order 2 prix fixe special along with a kid's chicken tender for my 2.5 years old.

                                  We ordered:
                                  App: clams with chirizo - it was okay, clams wasn't overcooked but i thought there were too much wine in the sauce which was too overpowering.
                                  Soup: beef with rice - good flavor and delicious
                                  Salad: Ceasar Salad - fresh and crisp, the dressing is creamy and tasty.
                                  Entrees: Long Island Duck - pan seared duck with an apricot sauce served with brown and wild rice. Duck was juicy and tender but the rice could be cooked a little longer. Overall a nice dish.
                                  Steak Frite - nicely done. ordered medium rare and it came medium rare. One of the better steak i have recently.

                                  Dessert - i had the chocolate souffle, which I ordered along with my entree because I was told it will take a while. I still wait for a good 10 minutes for it after we finished the entrees. It was very good. Nice texture and taste.
                                  My wife had the key lime tart - the tart filling was a little too sour for her taste, yes we know key lime supposed to be sour, but i think there is a tad too much key lime juice. The crust of the tart was tasty but it was too hard. We could not break up the crust with our metal fork and spoon, the only way to eat it was pick it up with your hand and bite it.

                                  So 2 hours or so had past, we are finally finished. The waitress took our gift certificate and we are waiting for the bill. Then she came back and tell us we can't use it because it is considered a coupon. We said, "that was why we brought out the coupon and asked you before we order".. She said sorry, she was confused...yada yada... after another fifteen minutes or so of trying to resolve this, we ended up being charged full price for everything so we could apply the gift cert / "coupon" because that is still cheaper than paying for the two $25 prix fixe.

                                  The food was mostly good, the price was reasonable, service was, again, shocking, ... one waitress for the entire restaurant with no help in a Thursday night... I think the food was good enough that I might consider returning but not anytime soon, though.

                                  1. re: yCf
                                    MishyPoo Jun 5, 2009 08:05 PM

                                    My friend went to Bistro Soleil recently for lunch...She is not a member of chow, but she reported her lunch to me in detail.
                                    Mainly, she could not believe how inexpensive it was for the quality of food she ordered. She and her friend both started w/ a nice sized bowl of soup for $3 each. She had the beef and rice, which she said was delicious and her friend had the red lentil w/ white truffle oil, which her friend loved and stated it was extremely filling. They both ordered one of the pressed sandwhiches for lunch and shared half of each. One was a cubano and the other was a steak sandwich w/ boursin cheese and carmalized onions. Both sandwiches were excellent as stated by my friend, but she ordered the steak medium rare, and it was well done. She never would have thought of ordering a certain temperature for a steak sandwich, but the waitress had asked her..."how do you want that cooked?" So, she assumed having said medium rare, it would come out somewhat pink, but it was quite well done. The whole bill for both of their lunches was around $18 and you just cant beat that for such good quality and pleasant atmosphere. There was only 1 server, but the place was not full for lunch.

                                    Having heard about my friend's experience, I am definitely going to Bistro Soleil for lunch someday soon!

                                    xoox,
                                    Michelle

                                    1. re: MishyPoo
                                      MishyPoo Jun 16, 2009 07:47 PM

                                      Tonight my husband and I dined at Bistro Soleil to try their Jersey Fresh menu http://www.bistrosoleil.com/JerseyFreshMenuPage.html
                                      and I must say, I wasnt blown away but I was quite impressed. I was happy to see that the restaurant was quite full, and the service was acceptable if not very good.

                                      The first course, asparagus wrapped in house smoked bacon was excellent. When you entered the restaurant, the whole place smelled like nicely smoked meat. The soup was amazing. I wasnt 100% pleased w/ the dinner entree, the chicken and ribs had a good smoke flavor, but I dont love meat doused in BBQ sauce, housemade or otherwise. BUT...the sauce was good. The cheese selection w/ the local honey was really nice and the Strawberry Rhubarb tartlet was a great way to end the meal. Not too sweet and not too tart, it was just right.

                                      I urge you all to try this Jersey Fresh menu every Tuesday.
                                      Check the website on Monday to see what the chef will be doing on the following day. The price is right for this caliber of food, do not miss out!
                                      http://www.bistrosoleil.com/index.html

                                      oh...and dont forget how nice my friend said their lunch is and how inexpensive. I really want to try their lunch menu as well.

                                      xoxo,
                                      Michelle

                    2. r
                      RGR Oct 30, 2008 11:07 AM

                      Although I didn't post about it at the time, we had dinner at Bistro Soleil a few months ago. While I wouldn't call it a disaster, there was much about it that was disappointing.

                      The highlights were (1) very good bread -- though we had to ask for butter since they do that oil dipping thingy that I dislike -- and (2) our first course, coconut shrimp, which were expertly deep-fried so that the delicious crust showed no hint of oiliness. Definitely a winner! After that, things went downhill.

                      We both ordered the rack of lamb. According to the menu, it was supposed to have a mint-flavored crust. When the chops arrived and we cut our first piece, we were happy to see that the kitchen had cooked them as we'd requested, i.e., medium rare. However, when we took a bite, we discovered a major problem, i.e., the chops were barely lukewarm. We hailed our waitress, a sweet young woman who apologized and asked if we wanted them to be "heated up." We told her that that would mean the chops would no longer be medium rare, which would not please us, but since we weren't going to eat them cold, we agreed that she should return our plates to the kitchen, and we hoped for the best. When she brought our plates back, the chops were hot and, though more cooked, were at least still pink. That was the "good" news. The bad news was that now we realized there was no crust. Since the lamb's flavor was just o.k., having a flavored crust would have been a decided improvement. And besides, when the menu says there's a "crust," there should be one!

                      Chef/owner Jim Hayes stopped by our table, and when we mentioned he missing crust, he said that he had used a mint-flavored marinade which was brushed on the lamb. We told him we hadn't detected that flavoring at all but, nevertheless, we suggested he change the description on the menu to reflect the actual preparation so that diners would not be expecting a crust.

                      Since Chef Hayes had previously worked as a pastry chef at The Ryland Inn, we were excited to try dessert. Unfortunately, the regular items listed verbally by our waitress (there was no printed dessert menu) sounded mundane. We were going to pass, but when she mentioned that there was a special, an apple crumble, we decided to share one order. When we asked if it came with ice cream or gelato, she said it did not but we could have gelato. We requested vanilla. She left, then came back to inform us that the apple crumble was not quite ready and asked if we minded waiting. Since we were in no hurry, it was not a problem. As it turned out, the wait was not really worth it. From my experience, this sort of dessert is normally served in the ramekin in which it is baked. In this case, the apples were taken out of the cooking pan to be splayed across a plate and had lost much of the crumb topping. The gelato, instead of being placed atop the apples as would normally be the case, was served in a separate bowl and tasted more like ice cream to me. Also, it was almost rock hard. The apple crumble(less) itself was nothing special.

                      Those first course shrimp indicate to me that Chef Hayes is capable of putting out really good food. So, despite the disappointments in our meal, we may consider giving Bistro Soleil another try sometime.

                      P.S. The fact that they don’t have a website is a major negative!

                      1. j
                        JVoo229 Oct 27, 2008 03:08 PM

                        Ok,
                        I have been reading glowing reviews of this restaurant and went recently with my wife.
                        First off, we ordered one appetizer, which took 30 minutes. We chose the Mussels with shallots and butter. Definitely sub par, shallots crunchy and bitter, seasonings were not there, i.e. salt. Usually one of my favorite dishes best for dipping bread in, but this one was left to be desired.
                        After kind of finishing our apps, it took at least 30-45 minutes for our entrees. I don't mind having breather time in between courses, but this took extremely too long. My wife ordered the fried chicken, which our waiter said was very popular. The dish came out, with four large pieces of chicken; breast, 2 drums, and 1 wing, sauced with mystery sauce and sweet potatoes. First off, why fry chicken to beautifully crunchy and just ruin it with sauce. The chicken was sitting around for a while because my wife touched the breading and it just fell right off, just too much breading. The sauce was bland and the sweet potatoes were room temperature, and very very al dente. Not appetizing.
                        My entree, the Hanger steak with green beans and sliced potatoes. I asked the steak for rare, I always do this in a new restaurant because almost always they cook it over to medium. Well not the case here, the hanger steak was sliced and cooked very very over, medium well. My red bliss potatoes which were sliced, were also al dente, very unpleasant. The green beans were done very well, but unfortunately the only highlight of the evening.
                        The service was alright, but 2 hours for a very poor meal was not worth it. So I put this in the never return list.

                        Jim

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: JVoo229
                          l
                          lauren75 Oct 30, 2008 09:16 AM

                          At first I was hesitant to reply since I saw all of the glowing reviews, but since JVoo opened the door...
                          I also went to Bistro Soleil with high hopes (especially since there is not much in the area) and was disappointed. The fried chicken had an awful coating on it and the chicken itself tasted bad. You could have done better at a fast food restaurant. The side of sweet potato fries were almost raw and very greasy. The seafood pot pie that my husband ordered was also not great. The service was very slow which may have been due to some larger parties at the restaurant at the time.
                          It also is on my never return list.

                        2. t
                          tom246 Oct 25, 2008 06:45 AM

                          We finally got a chance to dine at Bistro Soleil last night, had a good dinner and a teriffic value.
                          The restaurant is a very big area, tables are well spaced. Our young server Cara was attentive and helpful with the menu choices.
                          Warm foccasia type bread is served with olive oil as we were seated. The menu has an impressive list of appetizers, soups, salads and entrees and the prices are very attractive.

                          For apps, my wife has a bowl of butternut squash soup which contained some honey, stock and cream and topped with a dollop of creme fraiche. This was rich and flavorful, it only needed a bit of salt and pepper to bring out the flavors.
                          I had the boneless short ribs which were two nice pieces of tender rib glazed with Asian bbq sauce with a side of very spicy Asian cabbage slaw.
                          The meat was delicious and the slaw went well but was overdressed, a bit runny and could have used a lighter touch.

                          Entrees were Fresh Roasted Cod with braised cabbage and Applewood bacon, fingerling potatoes in a light lemon butter sauce. This was an excellent dish, the flavor of the fish and braised cabbage came together nicely with the lightly smoked bacon.
                          The stuffed Pork Tenderloin was another winner. Moist pork stuffed with apples and leeks wrapped with prosciutto and served with roasted root vegetables and a bit of apple butter. This was tasty without being over the top. Each item complimented the other.

                          All the desserts are made in house except for the chocolate ganache cake.. We shared a delicious Maple Pecan Pie with whipped cream with a ring of caramel cream sauce around the pie.
                          The bill for 2 apps, 2 entrees, dessert and coffee came to $52.00 before tax and tip making it one of the best value restaurants around.
                          Enjoyed a 2004 Kosta Browne Pinot with our meals.

                          Bistro Soleil is a solid, quality restaurant without any pretensions. The space gives the appearance of a family type restaurant but the quality is much higher. Our first meal here was a nice experience and we will be back to sample more of the chefs creations.
                          No website but the restaurant is located in the middle of Hightstown at
                          173 Mercer Street
                          Hightstown NJ
                          609-443-9700

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: tom246
                            c
                            cranrob Oct 25, 2008 09:27 AM

                            We were there last night too. They were running a weekend lobster special -- $15 for a (approximately) 1 1/4 lb. lobster, split, with a nice lemon-butter flavor. I had the "surf & turf" which was half a lobster served with half of a hangar steak (my favorite cut), garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. Delicious and a bargain at $20. By the way, the menu has changed to their fall menu. The stuffed pork tenderloin does sound delicious (definitely next time!), as does most of the menu. This place is just great.

                            1. re: cranrob
                              t
                              tom246 Oct 25, 2008 09:35 AM

                              Those lobster specials did catch our eye, they have a tempting menu. With most of the entrees at $14.00-15.00 Bistro Soleil offers great value.

                          2. Angelina Sep 8, 2008 12:59 PM

                            Does this place have a website? I tried to google, but no website came up.

                            All the descriptions sound great!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Angelina
                              MishyPoo Sep 25, 2008 06:10 PM

                              My husband and I went to Bistro Soleil for dinner tonight and I must say we were quite impressed! The food is exceptional at quite a value!
                              We started w/ the goat cheese stuffed tomato....delicious!
                              I then had the sausage and white bean soup, hearty and excellent, great flavor and tons of sausage in every spoonful. My husband had the french onion soup, which he said was good. For my dinner entree I had the cedar plank salmon, which has a maple/cayenne glaze...a great flavor combo and not overpowering. The sides were a potato hash and a simple sauteed summer squash, both were excellent. My husband had the blank and tan london broil, he said it was great. We were so full we skipped dessert, but in all honesty...if the offerings sounded better, I probably would have gotten dessert.

                              We will definitely go back to try their new fall menu which starts on Sept 30.
                              They are also going to start doing Sunday brunch on Oct 5.

                              PS...the service was fine.

                              xoxo,
                              Michelle

                              1. re: MishyPoo
                                c
                                charmel Sep 25, 2008 08:23 PM

                                We also ate at Bistro Soleil a few weeks ago and were as equally impressed. We had the Chrispy Calamari to start and they were wonderfully tender and fresh and not oily and in a very nice balsamic type sauce (not the usual marinara sauce on the side deal). I had the blackened Snapper which was delicious...just the right amount of spice and the fish was moist and flaky. Corn salsa and spanish rice were just perfect as the right complimentary side dishes. My spouse couldn't decide between the Southern Fried Chicken or the London Broil. He went with the London Broil and although he said that the flavoring was great, the meat could have been a little more tender. Our friends had the Flounder and also the Snapper and both enjoyed. We all definitely agreed that we would go back. The owner was very lovely and appropriately greeted our table. The wait staff was very pleasant although they are still learning, but I'm sure they will be fine very soon. I dont think the place has been open that long. Prices were about $15-$20 per entree. Pretty big quarters so it might get a little noisy if it is full and cute interior, but they need a little more artwork on the walls. Who cares....you dont eat the walls!

                            2. c
                              cranrob Sep 6, 2008 06:38 AM

                              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
                                t
                                tom246 Sep 6, 2008 07:00 AM

                                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.

                              2. k
                                katherine52478 Aug 16, 2008 05:27 PM

                                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. Gwendolen Aug 2, 2008 03:24 PM

                                  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. t
                                    tom246 Jul 29, 2008 08:01 AM

                                    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
                                      t
                                      thseamon Jul 29, 2008 08:59 AM

                                      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
                                        a
                                        aj2008 Jul 29, 2008 06:52 PM

                                        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
                                        j
                                        JACKKAYE Aug 27, 2009 05:39 AM

                                        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
                                          MishyPoo Aug 27, 2009 12:15 PM

                                          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.

                                          xoxo,
                                          Michelle

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