Friday, January 22, 2010

Manon - Lambertville, NJ

Manon is yet another restaurant that we have been meaning to visit in Lambertville, and once again, I was much impressed.

I called and made us a reservation yesterday for 7:30PM tonight, and on the phone I was reminded that they are cash or check only, and BYOB. This is a nice reminder for someone who is unaware. Had the gentleman not said anything to me, chances are I would not have gotten cash, and would have had to take a quick walk to the ATM. Thankfully that was not the case.

We actually arrived in Lambertville a half hour early, and they were able to seat us before out 7:30 reservation. At the time, there were just two other tables at Manon dining, and this was a bit surprising based on all the positive reviews I have seen and heard. But we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. We were greeted and seated by our server who's name I don't think we were ever told, but she was very pleasant. I immediately moved their stemware aside, and pulled two Riedel glasses out of our carrying bag, along with a 2003 Fiddlehead pinot noir 728. Talk about a great, mature pinot noir at it's peak, but with many years left. Be sure to read my review on this wine soon. After a few minutes looking at the menu, we decided to start with an appetizer, and have the Prince Edward Island mussels in a lobster sauce, with cellar root and a nice broth. The mussels came out, and for $13, this was a heck of a deal. They came out in a large bowl, and if I had to guess, there were 3 dozen there, maybe even 4 dozen. They came out steaming hot, and had a great fresh nose. You could see the celery root garnished all over the mussels, and the brown translucent broth. I will say that the broth itself was not super flavorful, and didn’t add a very dynamic element to the mussels. It was a bit bland, and could have used something to give it a little flavor. I will however say that these were some of the plumpest, most sweet and succulent mussels we have had in the area, and were a real treat. The quality of these mussels definitely made up for the lack of complexity in the broth, but I would order them again just based on the quality and freshness displayed. The portion size made this a bargain as well, and this would make for a great lunch. Some time passed in between finishing our appetizer and our dinner, and we just enjoyed some great conversation and talked about the ambiance. By this point, all but 2 tables in the restaurant were full, and it was amazing to overhear and observe how many people were speaking French in the restaurant. For a French-esq restaurant, I think that it speaks for itself that they are coming here and enjoying their cuisine. We also enjoyed the nice warm colors on the walls, along with the nice décor. From the giant candle hurricanes on the tables, to the huge vase with lilies sitting on a table behind Zelda, to the Van Gogh “Starry Night” theme inspired ceiling. The lighting was dark, the feelings was warm and cozy, and this is just a romantic place to take your sweetie out on a date. I know that I really enjoyed it, and I would go back again just for the warm feeling I got from the dining room. On to dinner, Zelda’s scallops came out, topped with a perfectly cooked piece of puffed pastry. I will try to get her comments on her thought, but my thoughts were that the scallops were perfectly cleaned and cooked. There was no grittiness to them, the rubber like texture, and they were just perfect. One comment that she made was that she wishes they had a bit of caramelization on them from the pan, and as usual she was spot on. The sauce added a nice element, and it was very pleasurable. The size of beans, carrots, and au gratin potatoes were nice as well. My rack of lamb came out steaming hot, and looked gorgeous. There are not many places that I will go for the first time and order rack of lamb. Oliver-A Bistro in Bordentown is usually my go to place for rack of lamb, but the mustard and thyme crust sounded really nice, and I was really in the mood for lamb tonight. Had I know that originally, I would have brought along an ’05 Maybach cabernet sauvignon, but live and learn. They came out perfectly medium rare, with a nice redness to them that almost looked as though it were painted (I mean this is a good way). The outside had a very nice sear on them, but the inside was hot, pink, and juicy! Man were these heaven, and I couldn’t have cooked them better myself. The mustard and thyme added a very nice crusty quality to them, with a little tang, and a little spice, and the crust was not burnt in the least, with some nice color. This paired nicely with the red sauce, which I am assuming was wine based, however I might be incorrect. Regardless, the 6 “lollipops” were the perfect portion, and I could not have been any happier. The quality of the meat was very nice, and they took the time to trim them nicely, so there was next to no fat. Like Zelda’s dish, mine was paired with a nice, cheesy potato gratin, long cut green beans, and carrots with a nice sweet caramelization to them. Needless to say, neither of us saved room for dessert, so we finished the last of the Fiddlehead pinot noir, before heading out. In short, this was a great, romantic evening, filled with pleasurable ambiance, good service, and great cuisine. Total bill came in just under $80, and it was worth every penny. I look forward to our next visit, and I am sure we will be back sometime in the Spring when the weather gets nice. After dinner we ended up spending some time with our good friend, and old neighbor Arounkone, who is lucky enough to now reside in Lambertville. Be sure to check out his venture, Pure Energy Cycling and Java House, and have a cup of coffee while you enjoy browsing the “Ferrari of Bicycles” in his shop! Cheers!

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