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Jan 1, 2012 04:13 PM

Review- Aqua Blue Toms River New Year's Eve 2011

Let me start off by stating that we are a couple in our late 30's and the other couple we went with is early 40's. We decided to pick Aqua Blue for New Year’s Eve after looking extensively at other local restaurants. This year we wanted to stay local (instead of our usual AC New Year’s). A couple of the area hotels were hosting parties with great prices/packages ($85 for 5 hour dinner & open bar or $113.00 with a room included!) but we figured we would choose the new restaurant.

The other couple we were with initially made reservations for 9:00 dinner for us, but I wanted to see if they had any packages as well. From the very first phone call, things we very disorganized. I called mid-December to get the information for their New Year’s Eve offerings. When the woman answered the phone, it was extremely loud in the background. When I asked her for the info, she asked me if I could call back tomorrow because she didn't know what was going on and that she couldn't hear me anyway! I was shocked by this. A brand new restaurant with this kind of reception?! So, I called back the following day. I was told they were taking regular reservations up until 9:00 or from 9:30-1:30am you could pay $110.00 for 4 hour open bar plus a buffet with a raw bar. I happen to be passing by a week ago, and decided to stop in a check out the restaurant. It is beautifully decorated, definitely one of the nicest looking in the area, so we decided to make the reservation for the 4 hour gala.

We arrived to a very nice valet attendant. We planned on calling for a ride home to be safe. He was very nice, understood and said to just let him know when we leave and he will give us the keys. This was the best service we received the entire night!

We walked in and we were directed to the reservation area, and then re-directed to the bartenders behind the bar. Now there are many people standing around asking what is going on, where do you go to pay, are we in line, etc. There was no organization to help direct people. We now overhear people saying that it is $140.00 per person! At first we thought maybe it is maybe for a better wine selection/package or something like that. The buzz of people talking is getting worse, people are very confused. The couple we are with are ahead of us and is told $280.00. The female bartender says the charge is for tax and gratuity! Not one time throughout the reservation phone calls or when I stopped in was I told about the extra charges. I explain this to her and she says she undersatnds and agrees with me, but what was she supposed to do? She just works there.

I and my boyfriend are now standing there not knowing what to do. This is now a matter of principle. You cannot do this to people on a holiday once they are in your doors. I couldn’t believe a brand new restaurant would even try to pull this. At this point I am talking to the people behind me. They are now very angry and cannot believe this either. They were there the night before and were never told about this either. The couple we are with and my boyfriend pay the $280.00 per couple (What do you do? It’s 9:30pm on NYE). I then go to the front reception desk where there are 3 women, one of which is the owner. I told her that everyone standing there is very angry because of the money situation. One of the people I was talking to came over at the same time. He was with a group of 14 that were ready to leave! She immediately says OK, I don’t want people upset. She then goes to the bar area and rightfully refunds everyone who paid the $60.00 overcharge. From that point on everyone was charged $110.00. Ok, problem solved or so I thought.

We get our wristbands and go into the small banquet room. Oddly arranged. DJ at one end with a narrow rectangular dance floor up the middle, All but 1 table was decorated nicely (looked like they ran out of candles/party hats at that one table). We picked a table to sit at and went for a drink (had to go out to the bar). No bottled beer. Drinks served in plastic cups. Later in the night got served champagne out of a can! Maybe this is a new trend I am not aware of, but I have never seen champagne come out of what looked like a pineapple juice can!

We go to the buffet. Raw bar of oysters (sandy) & clams, cold antipasto, meats, cheeses, fruits and salad (way over dressed). As we were eating, literally eating our meal, the female owner comes to our table and VERY rudely says this table was supposed to be for a party of 10 coming. We were never told which table to sit at. She told us we had to move to-guess which table! Yup! You guessed it! We didn’t move. We were all shocked. (BTW... The party of 10 never arrived.) Another couple we didn’t know came and sat at our table. The girl went to the bar for a drink and witnessed the owner and what we guessed as the other male owner, yelling about the people at the party need to stay in the room, not by the bar area. They should have set up a bar in the banquet room if this is where they wanted people to stay. I’m not sure if she said the owner slammed her hands on the bar or maybe her plate. Something slammed! LOL. Great first impression.

Now to the “carving station”. This was the grossest food presentation I have ever seen. The chef held the prime rib with his hand while he carved it like a Neanderthal. He then served it to you right from his hand onto your plate!!! The chafing dishes were fingerling potatoes & carrots, extremely dry pasta with sauce, a piece of fish, and broccoli rabe. Unimpressed.

While I was getting my food, the woman owner came over to cut the fish into smaller serving pieces. I stood there for approximately 2 minutes waiting to get served. She was so rude to not only me, but to other customers the entire night. We were made to feel like we should be luck we are there. Not that they are thankful they have new LOCAL customers. Everyone we spoke to lived in the area. We are the ones that help keep the doors open ALL YEAR. The other couple we were with at the table turned out to be a manager and server at another local restaurant. She said they have never felt so unwanted at a restaurant in their lives. We all agreed.

At the stroke of midnight, the balloons on the ceiling were supposed to fall onto everyone dancing. The net didn’t open. So now a man comes over and starts pulling on the net violently. He was clearly angry. He then took what was left in the net the out the side door and started stomping on the balloons outside. This made for great entertainment!

We went and helped ourselves to our jackets in coat check. No one to be found. Upon leaving, valet was great once again. Maybe he should be promoted to general manager. He was the only one with great customer service.

I truly hate to write a review like this. I have never posted a negative review for a restaurant online in my life. This experience was so awful that I felt compelled to do so. Regardless of the food quality, if the service continues like this, they will never survive. We will be sure to share our experience with our friends, family and co-workers when asked how our New Year's Eve was. We were actually really looking forward to finding a nice new local restaurant to frequent.

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  1. Wow, jg, that's a clasic case of some very inhospitable people going into business in the 'hospitality industry'. Not like NYE was a surprise on the calendar. I always kept an eye on that great location because many years ago (as a teen) the former steakhouse offered ten cent beers on Monday nights,

    1. And this is why I never go out for pre-fix new years eve parties any more. I stayed home, invited some friends, and took the money I would have spent and went nuts at home instead.

      I roasted up some perfectly medium rare strip roast, (slow roasted at 150, same doneness all the way through), with some U-6 shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon platter, pike caviar, and liverwurst dip. Yum yum!

      6 Replies
      1. re: joonjoon

        We stayed in too. Where did you get U-6 shrimp? I was only able to get U-12 at Costco.

        1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

          Costco! (Ocean Twp) Reasonably priced at 13 bucks a lb.

          1. re: joonjoon

            Was that in the fresh seafood area, or in the frozen case?

            1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

              The "Seafood roadshow" booth, y'know, where they sell lobster tails and king/dungie crabs and clams and mussels. But it was off to the side in prepackaged bags.

              1. re: joonjoon

                Gotcha. Checking it out tonight. Hopefully they are still there!

                1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                  I feel your pain, jersey girl. 45 minutes composing a detailed description of a horror show, and all you get is "where the shrimp at?".

      2. Thank you Jerseygirl! We were thinking about trying this place for a special occasion. I think we go elsewhere and just see what happens over the next few months.

        1. LOL, I was just about to enter a post asking if anyone has tried Aqua.....thanks for saving me the trouble. I'm so sorry you had that experience!! I can't believe it....especially when times are so tough!! They should have been bending over backwards for you guys....$140 a head...are you kidding me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Mary72182

            Glad to be of help! I know... Trying to asking that price was absurd.

          2. I haven't been there yet but a friend of mine has visited it and said the food was not very good and very expensive.

            There aren't many great restaurants in this area which is why we usually just stay home and I cook. For special occasions for which I don't want to do the work, we go to Il Giardinello. Otherwise, I just cook for everyone myself.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Njchicaa

              I cook a lot too. We enjoy take out from Brasas on Fischer Blvd. They are closed for the winter, but Ohana Grill in Lavalette is pretty good. We really enjoy their tuna and filet.