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Meredith's New Orleans Cuisine ~ Manalapan

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Stopped by with Tapas52 for dinner tonight and had a really good time. The place was pretty slow as it was a Sunday night during the middle of the holiday season. Was given menus by Susan our server and served a sliced baguette as well as a couple pieces of cornbread (note: cornbread was not sweet and the ample ramekin of butter was soft, not rock hard).

Orders were taken and we had time to discuss our preferences when it came to spiciness of the dishes. They offer a scale of 1 to 5 but offer an addition of their dried spices to add as well as bottles of Tabasco. I ordered the Gumbo and Tapas ordered the special chili with cheese that was being offered. Both were spot-on, with the seasoning really well done. I appreciated the fact that the Gumbo was not overwhelmed with rice as has happened elsewhere.

Entrees were Jambalaya chosen by Tapas and a special of Pork Loin Roullade served with a cornbread& pecan stuffing and roasted butternut squash. The Jambalaya was served super spicy as requested, and the Pork Loin was tender and the stuffing was a nice contrast. The squash could have used a bit more seasoning, maybe some cinnamon & black pepper, but all in all was quite tasty.

Tapas went for the Bananas Foster dessert which was prepared table side by Susan, who cooked the dessert while describing the ingredients and preparations involved.

During the meal both Meredith and the chef Cliff stopped by the table to chat and it was obvious that they were both interested in how we had come across their place and talked in general about the local food scene and trying to attract a following in a rather nondescript commercial plaza off Rt.9.

The meal was really good and the folks working there are obviously intent on providing an authentic NOLA dining experience. They are BYOB but share the space with a bar that offers drinks within a few steps as well as packaged goods to enjoy during the meal.

Meredith's deserves a visit, as there is a lack of places that offer a true taste of NOLA in the Monmouth County area.

Website: http://www.meredithsrestaurant.com/

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  1. Excellent report, =Mark. I'm glad you've started a thread expressly for Meredith's. We've had two terrific meals there -- dinner and lunch -- which I've commented on elsewhere on this board (in a general area thread). It's obvious that Meredith and Cliff, who was the chef on duty during both our meals, want to be sure that guests enjoy the experience of dining there. And they are doing a great job in that regard.

    Considering the dearth of decent places to eat in the very immediate vicinity, we're actually ecstatic to have Meredith's so nearby, a mere 5-minute drive from our house.

    I'm including links to the two sets of photos from our meals at Meredith's here:

    Dinner: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

    Lunch: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

    1. sounds like i may need to drive over from Middletown!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Mr. Bingley

        Meredith's is not in Middletown. It's in Manalapan.

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        1. re: RGR

          ...which is why I said I'd "drive over" from Middletown ;)

          1. re: Mr. Bingley

            Oops! Sorry, Mr. B. Brain didn't completely engage. :(

            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

            1. re: RGR

              no worries! :)

      2. I've been to Meredith's, and all I can say is I must have caught them on a really bad night. I went to Merediths based on recomendations from folks here on Chowhound who's opinions I respect. I also find it uncanny that today two more respected posters went, and enjoyed it. Here's the full report of my experience.

        First off the greeting - the folks were friendly enough, maybe a little too friendly, in kind of a weird way. We met the owner - very nice, but I think our server was new to the place. She was very unsure of herself & the menu, she even commented a few times on dishes in an unusual way. One example was the bbq shrimp dish - she asked if we wanted more bread for the sauce, and commented on how she thinks it's strange they only give you two pieces of bread with it. She made unusual comments like that at least three times, but about the food: We ordered the gumbo, the bbq shrimp, hushpuppies, and the crawfish pie. They were out of the crawfish pie, which was fine, but aside from the hushpuppies, which were winners, everything else was disapointing. The gumbo wasn't hot. Now I don't mean spicy, I mean it was luke warm. It wasn't spicy either, but I didn't ask for it to be, so that could be on me. I wasn't aware though, that I would have to ask for salt, or flavor, the gumbo had none of either. It was a decent size portion, with an ok ammount of chicken & sausage, just very thin, and flavorless. The bbq shrimp was afflicted with the same malady that the gumbo suffered from, lack of flavor. It also consisted of 8 or so very small shrimp, that seamed to almost appear transparent. If they weren't solid I would've thought they were raw. Getting backto our servers comment about bread, we would have taken her up on the offer if the sauce was worth the effort of bread dunking. Entrees didn't fare much better. The shrimp & grits was a disaster - not withstanding the 'now available' debate - they weren't even in the same league as the rendidtion already available in keyport. It consisted of 9 'clear' shrimp, a loose pool of cheesy grits, and about a tablespoon of onuions & peppers on top. This dish was asked for spicy, and I could definately taste a little hot sauce, but not much else. The crawfish lasagne was good, though it got a little pasty towards the end as it cooled a little. The entrees were served hot from the kitchen, unlike the appetizers. Onto dessert: 2 were ordered, Mississippi mud pie (orwas it Tennessee?), and the bread pudding. The bread pudding was excellent, a nice big heaping bowl with pecans & cinnamon, topped off with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream - the hitt of the night. The mud pie however was dry and hard. It didn't taste stale, but it did fly off of the plate when my fork finally was able to penetrate the dry, hard chocolate crust.

        Maybe I'm being a little rough on the place, because it is so new, but despite the accolades from so many regular & respected (by me) 'Hounds, I think I'll look elsewhere for my NOLA fix, to bad I won't be able to write about it!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Herm

          I agree. I dont think the food is bad but I wasn't impressed.

          I enjoyed fried green tomatoes and the gumbo was decent. But nothing blew me out of the
          Water, and the pulled pork sandwich was so poorly seasoned and entirely overwhelmed by
          Cinnamon.

          The owners and staff seem nice and well intentioned - but passing it off as traditional NOLA cuisine may be a stretch...

          1. re: Herm

            That's really interesting about your experience with the gumbo. Ours was both spicy and hot temperature-wise. There is no excuse for them to have sent it out lukewarm, but if that had happened to us, we would have immediately sent it back to be heated up because one thing my husband and I never stand for or accept is hot soup that is not served hot.

            With the exception of the mud pie, we did not have any of the other dishes you had, so I obviously can't comment. Mr. R. ordered the mud pie. I only took a small a taste and honestly can't recall much about it. Based on what you say about the bread pudding, I will definitely try it the next time we go.

            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

            1. re: Herm

              I too am confused by the differing opinions of "respected" Hounds. I guess we can at least chalk it up to the inconsistency of this restaurant. As to equal_Mark's comment about NOLA food in Monmouth County, I must agree that while there are many pretenders only one "TRUE" contender comes to mind.

            2. Hi Everyone ......to add to what =Mark already said in his review, I will say this.... The restaurant was very nice, clean and modern looking...The Giant game was on in the adjoining bar that was loaded with G men hopefuls that were disappointing with another loss screaming wildly ...but Meredith herself toned down the noise by closing the French doors that separate the restaurant from the bar....she also was a friendly owner who chatted with us also as did the Chef for a few minutes also…. Our very friendly server Susan was very informative suggesting different dishes and was very attentive to our needs…now to the food.. let me start by correcting my good friend =Mark if I’m not mistaken his Pork Roulade` dish had a “Chestnut stuffing” which was delicious, btw, the Gumbo was excellent, it had a real nice smoky flavor, nice spice level which they were very accommodating to adjust to our liking and also leave some special spice blend on the table for us also… Bread was nice and warm…. cornbread just a tad dry for my liking…. I ordered the Special Chili overall good, nice heat and very tasty, but the beans were a bit undercooked, my main course Jambalaya was a mixed bag…I ordered a top rating of 5 on the heat level, which didn’t disappoint…Nice sausage & shrimp but the overall dish was a bit light & dry for my taste…I have friends in Shreveport Louisiana and have dined there many times so I guess I’m judging by what I have there at places like “Ernest’s Orleans” http://www.ernestsorleans.com/
              I also think there should have been a few more real authentic NOLA choices on the menu like Etouffee that I enjoy & relayed that to the chef also..
              For desert I had the bananas foster prepared table side & was quite good and refreshing also….I could sense they are really trying to improve day by day as they really have shown they care about making the restaurant a success and I wish them much luck in doing so …..There is also a nice outside eating area café style in warmer weather too……

              Thank you

              1. Chiming in on a thread with some of my favorite local hounds makes for a pleasurable Sunday morning.

                Right to the point, I go with inconsistent. Meaning I will go back and give them another try, but...

                The cornbead had good flavor but was too dry. Dryness being a recurring theme of the evening. The bbq shrimp appy was certainly not dry and that was it's main problem. I understand not serving the shrimp in shell since that might freak some people out, but at least sear them on a hot surface rather than drop them into the sauce to boil. I found the maybe too sweet sauce extremely edible and soaked it up with not only the bread that came with the dish, but a slice or two of the excellent crusty loaf or warm bread they also gave us.

                My son's burger was overcooked with no mention of any house policy against serving medium rare meat mentioned aforehand. And my wife's salmon with corn salsa was just plain. Not plain in a good way like the barely grilled salmon at Nemo, but perhaps the quintessential middle of the road piece of fish. A quickly proferred serving of the mustard sauce for the fish didn't help either. And how does a mustard sauce not even hint at mustard flavor? It was more of a thick russian sour cream type thing. I had the gumbo, which was not bad. But not like when I allow myself a few bowls at Jose Tejas much less The Gumbo Shop or any of a hundfred other spots in NOLA. Instead it was just barely better than what I might make at home.

                The best thing we ate all night was the bread pudding for dessert. the only thing wrong with what would have been a perfect dish was there was not enough ice cream. I am however sure that we could have remedied that with a word to the very attentive owner.

                So, we will be back. But so far they are, in my eyes, not a contender for best local NOLA cuisine, just the closest to my house.

                17 Replies
                1. re: seal

                  House policy against m/r? This is baffling.

                  1. re: tommy

                    You've never been to a restaurant that tells you up front that becuase of health standards they refuse to cook beef anything less than medium?

                    1. re: seal

                      Only chains.

                      What "health standards?"

                      1. re: tommy

                        There are places, like the entire State of North Carolina, that mandate cooking burgers to at least 155. See e.g., http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_col...

                        1. re: MGZ

                          Not in NJ.

                          1. re: tommy

                            Really, tommy, as sophisticated a food fan as you are, you have never encountered this issue before? Or, perhaps, you are making a more subtle point?

                            1. re: MGZ

                              I've rarely and cannot recall the last time an independently owned in NJ has had this ridiculous policy.

                              I stand by my opinion that I find it baffling that a) an independently owned restaurant in NJ would have such a backwards-*ss policy b) no one seems surprised or thinks this fact makes their entire operation suspect (they don't trust their own product??) and c) my opinion of such a policy is being challenged.

                              1. re: tommy

                                No one has challenged your opinion. In fact, most 'hound share it. That doesn't change the fact that the policy exists. And yes, it is the equivalent of a restaurant admitting that it leaves pre-ground beef laying around for long periods of time.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  Hold on, I think I see the confusion.

                                  I had (mis)read Seal's comment as a statement of fact that they have a house policy to not cook hamburgers less than medium at this restaurant. Reviewing the comment again, it sounds like that might not be the case.

                                  So, would I be surprised that an independently owned restaurant in NJ has such a policy? Absolutely. Am I aware that such policies exist at some places? Of course.

                                  1. re: tommy

                                    Here is an interesting fact...having just recently had a Board of Health inspection. ...NJ states..If a customer requests a food item a certain way..ie.."I'll have the chicken rare"...the restaurant may serve it to them. The restaurant does take responsiblity however. But I was told as long as the menu items is being prepared ala minute "to serve immiediately" that the chef can honor any request. So bizarre...

                            2. re: tommy

                              I want my runny egg yolks!

                    2. re: seal

                      Seal – Thank you for the excellent review. It seems that you have confirmed my earlier assessment (based on the above mixed reviews) that the restaurant is inconsistent. If the restaurant was closer I would be interested in trying it out. However, if I have to drive the distance, I would rather try that other place where I'm pretty much guaranteed to have an excellent meal. I would be interested to read your review following your next visit.

                      1. re: bgut1

                        b., I fully understand your reluctance to make the shlep to eat there. Reading seal's and the other less-than-positive reviews, it's as though there are two Meredith's: the one we, =Mark and Tapas have been to where the food was uniformly good vs. the other Meredith's where the food's been almost uniformly not so good.

                        seal,

                        To be honest, if we had had your experience, I would most likely have written Meredith's off even thogh it's so close to us. Since you are obviously a lot more forgiving that I am, I do hope your next experience is a good one. In fact, the next time you feel like going there, give us a shout and if we're available, we'll join you.

                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                      2. re: seal

                        The fact that the BBQ shrimp are peeled before cooking makes them as far from New Orleans food as possible. THe only way to prepare and present them is to cook them shell on, including heads in the sauce. And then they should be presented at the table that way.

                        1. re: roro1831

                          That's your barometer? The realities of running a restaurant outside of Nola, perhaps especially in NJ, might dictate a slightly modified approach, if one wants to serve the desires of the customers and be profitable.

                          I see nothing on their website claiming a high level of some sort of authenticity. Rather, just some folks wanting to share the love. Bravo, I say.

                          1. re: tommy

                            Yes, because the depth of flavor is not there when they are prepared without the heads. Luckily I go home about three times a year so I can get my fix or cook them myself.

                            1. re: roro1831

                              Maybe they could use the heads in a bouquet garni style bag and then remove them before they get to the table to add the flavor you are seeking, but as tommy alludes they're ain't enough people around joisey who want to deal with heads and shells (or have the 'experience') to keep a restaurant profitable.

                      3. Based upon all the positive reviews I have seen on Chowhound, my Wife and I tried Meredith's this past Friday night, as we finally had some time without our kids.

                        We started with Hushpuppies, but we had to return the order as they were undercooked. The middles were just raw batter.

                        My wife order the night 'trio' special with small portions of lobster mac & cheese, shrimp & grits, and a catfish slider. She enjoyed all of them, but nothing was hot (temp).

                        I had the Jambalaya, which was just horrible. It didn't even look like Jambalaya, it resembled fried rice. Everything about the dish was dry, even the sausage, and the dish itself was so dark. I am far from an expert on Jambalaya, but this was not what I expected. Only the shrimp was really edible. I should have sent it back, not sure why I did not.

                        We did try the bread pudding for dessert, and I thought it was the best thing we ate the entire evening.

                        The restaurant was empty, only 1 table was full when we were there (7:30pm on a Friday night), and based on what we overhead, they were the owners. Later on, around 8:30pm, two more tables filled up.

                        There is no excuse for the raw hushpuppies or the extreme dryness of my dish. Especially with an empty restaurant. My theory is that the kitchen started the entrees before we returned the raw hushuppies, so they had to hold the food until we were done, and that resulted in my wifes cold dinner and my dry dinner (maybe kept food in pot far too long).

                        Meredith who introduced herself to us when we sat down has a lot to learn. She seemed to be either BSing forever with a customer or outside the bar smoking and drinking (which she was when we arrived). Not once during the entire night did I see her go into the kitchen. She should be either chef(as she insists she is) or hostess and should be checking on the kitchen regularly. I would have told her this as we left, but she was busy BSing with one of the tables that came in later (for at least 20 mins when we left.

                        I doubt it will still be open at the end of the year.

                        Joe

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: joestein

                          RGR - I just looked at the pictures of your food from Meredith's.. My Jambalaya looked nothing like yours, nor did my hushpuppies.

                          The hushpuppies I had were round balls, that reminded me of Arthur Treachers, not bad, but not good.

                          More reason why Meredith needs to run her restaurant.

                          1. re: joestein

                            Joe, I'm sorry to hear that you had such a poor meal. Based on what has been posted on this board, it seems the food at Meredith's is very inconsistent. Not a good thing. We haven't been there since our lunch in November. To be honest, despite the fact that the food we had both times was excellent, I'm a bit leery about going again given that getting a good meal appears to be a crap shoot.

                            As far as Meredith is concerned, I don't think she is doing any of the cooking. Acc. to the website, the executive chef is Lois Gullace. But both times we've been there, our meal was prepared by Cliff, who I presume is the sous chef. In any case, I agree with you that as the owner, Meredith should be paying much closer attention to what is coming out of the kitchen rather than spending her time smoking, drinking, and schmoozing.

                            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                        2. Found this in the New York Times:

                          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/nyr...

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: wench31

                            do you think that this is a paid review or a legit review?

                            1. re: joestein

                              This a legit review from editor Karla Cook of The New York Times

                              1. re: suzyq21967

                                Per their facebook page Meredith's is now closed.
                                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meredi...

                                1. re: skantor

                                  And it appears to be permanent, based on their answering machine message.