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Mar 4, 2012 05:59 AM

Brian's Lambertville

Met our good friends early last night in Lambertville. Wanting to try something new we had a reservation at Brian’s, the new restaurant whose space previously housed Number 9.
The first thing you notice is the very large brick oven that dominates the back space which had been a couple extra tables. It has cut down on space but has opened up the menu choices and possibilities.

The menu is broken down several ways. There are appetizers, hand made pasta in app and entrée portions, selection of brick oven pizza as appetizers, entrees and also a 3 course prix fixe menu combining various apps and entrees. Enough already, how was the food. Very happy to say that we ordered a variety of plates and thoroughly enjoyed everything.

Appetizers were mixed lettuces with herbed goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette. Fresh, nice hunk of goat cheese in a tasty vinaigrette. A very earthy and tasty puree of mushroom soup with truffle oil was a treat. An app portion of potato gnocchi with short rib ragu was excellent. Shrimp “cheesecake” with red pepper sauce was a fun dish. Was not quite as cheesecake like as we thought, more like a quiche but still tasty.

Entrees were Roasted organic chicken with truffle leak sauce which was moist and yummy. Braised beef ala mode with horseradish was braised shoulder for several hours, tender and flavorful over mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables. Duck Shepards pie was a casserole filled with duck, veggies and topped with a combination of mashed potatoes, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Hearty and delicious. Crabcake with mustard sauce had a good amount of crab with just a bit of filler to keep it together and was given a thumbs up.
The Shepards pie and crab cake were part of the prix fixe, desserts were included. Fresh berries with a scoop of homemade blueberry ice cream was very good and bread pudding with amaretto sauce hit the mark.

Even on a busy Saturday evening, chef owner Brian Held took the time to visit each table with a friendly greeting and ask how the meal was going. You can sense his desire to have people enjoy their experience.
His reputation at Rouget in Newtown was very positive, he brings the same skills to a more relaxed setting in Lambertville.
Our server Stacy and staff was a joy all evening and was a great help with helping to decide on menu choices. Two bottles of vino, Turley Zinfandel and Apersand Cabernet finished off a nice meal.

If your over in the Lambertville area, Brian’s is worth a visit. Here is a link to the website but the menu is tweaked often so items listed are examples and may not be available.

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  1. They also got a review in the Trenton Times on Friday. Due to difficult times, the paper has its editor visiting only one time. It was the poorly written review for a seemingly great restaurant that I've ever read. Tom, you could easily take over her position. Great info. We hope to get there soon.

    1. We visited Brian's for the first time (largely due to your recommendation) this past weekend. A few remarks:
      --Lambertville on a warm summer evening has become more crowded than you can imagine. It took nearly twenty minutes to find a legal parking spot (thanks, Lambertville P.D. for your now expensive meter rates. A real disincentive to visit Lambertville). Frankly, Lambertville looked a bit like New Hope this weekend. I guess that's good for the town's merchants.
      --Brian's was similarly crowded when we arrived, but the staff did their best to seat us immediately. However, after we were seated, other parties arriving found significant delays in being seated, largely because earlier tables had not finished their meals. That leads us to one minor problem:
      --We were seated at the two-top immediately behind the curtain separating the front door from the dining room. Despite the efforts of the hostess to get guests to wait outside the restaurant, quite a few people insisted on waiting behind the curtain. As a result, the noise level, already a bit of an issue in the dining room on a night when they are full, was more of a problem. A few guests even insisted on pulling back the curtain and snooping at our table.
      Solution: when reserving, insist you NOT be seated at the front two-top.
      --Now the good news: the food here is excellent and plentiful for the price and the service is attentive, even when the restaurant is packed. The spinach raviolis were a wonderful starter and the pan-roasted monkfish was perfectly done. The kitchen was able to accommodate my wife's food issues (gluten and lactose) gracefully, even on a busy night. The prices are very fair for the volume of food and BYO is a real plus.
      --Please be aware that the menu changes frequently and the menu on Brian's web site in no way resembles the current menu.

      Highly recommended, but, perhaps, on a Thursday evening instead of a warm, crowded summer evening.

      4 Replies
      1. re: famdoc

        Nice report Famdoc, we were there when they had first opened so they were just being discovered. Nice people and good food. Was Brian making the rounds in the dining room.

        Been on the left coast for a couple weeks, need some Jersey cuisine :)

        1. re: tom246

          Brian was in kitchen. Much too busy to circulate

        2. re: famdoc

          famdoc, agree with you that the front table behind the curtain is to be avoided. The curtain is too lightweight and it drifts over the table each time the door is opened and someone enters or exits. The couple seated there last night (and next to us) were not thrilled.

          1. re: famdoc

            With regard to the parking in Lambertville, we got a very expensive parking ticket in
            Lambertville this past summer because we apparently made the mistake of parking over the non-existant line that supposedly marked the location of a parking spot - which also happened to be on a stretch of street with no street lights which meant it was pitch dark anyway. I live about 15 minutes outside of Lambertville, my family loves it there and we used to go regularly to shop, dine and just walk around. That ticket put such a bad taste in my mouth that we haven't been back since. I am really tired of all these local governments which have become so desperate in their insatiable need for revenue that they are looking for any way they can to vacuum money out of people's wallets and we've reached the point where we just don't feel like going anywhere any more. It's getting to be too much of a hassle and too expensive on top of it. Not that we NEVER go out anymore, but it's certainly a lot less often than it used to be.

          2. Happened to walk by Brian's this afternoon and noticed that they serve breakfast. Has anyone been?

            1. We had dinner here last night and while the food was really excellent, the overall experience was rather disappointing. Limited menu, cramped and loud room.

              The menu was very limited due to their decision not to use the wood fired oven on busy Friday and Saturday evenings. While we respect their desire to ensure a comfortable dining room by eliminating the ambient heat from the oven, it really takes away from overall experience.

              The wood fired oven is the corner stone of the open kitchen and takes up a lot of valuable real estate. When it's off, it feels like Brian's loses its soul.

              There were no pizza's offered, only two pastas and the apps and entrée selections were scaled back. Excellent herb bread was parceled out as a single serving for the evening (almost felt like a Seinfeld "no more soup for you" moment).

              Seating for couples is limited to adjacent tables along the banquette - leaving one diner with a view of a stark white wall and blackboard for the evening. Given the petite layout and need to maximize covers, I understand the need for this seating arrangement but a few mirrors along the wall could help the diner with their back to the room.

              We enjoyed the mushroom soup (superb), a salad with goat cheese, a beautiful crab cake and dover sole (excellent) served whole, bone in.

              Service was efficient however dropping off a comment / mailing list card on our small table while waiting for our apps was not necessary. The card was propped against the small bud vase in the center of our table. We removed the card and within 5 minutes another was dropped off in it's place. Please Brian's, slip the marketing needs into the check folder.

              We'll return but next time it will be mid week and fall or winter - so that we can ensure the wood fired oven is in use.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Foody4life

                We will certainly return to Brian's, although I think it is better suited to a Thursday evening out, since weekends are packed and a bit loud. We have really grown to like D'Floret, however, and it, along with Hamilton's Grill Room, become our favorite restaurant in Lambertville.

              2. Living Social has a deal today for Brians Lambertville. Pay $25 and get a $50 voucher. Here's a link.

                2 Replies