I have to say that it has been years since I have been to the Ferry House, so since my good pal John from my home roots in Illinois was in the area, I met up with him in Princeton, and we ventured to The Ferry House. I have had a restaurants.com gift certificate for their from Christmas of 2011, and have been meaning to use it, so tonight was the night.
We arrived at the Ferry House, and walked in to see just 2 tables seated. The host was setting up a 6 top on the right hand side of the restaurant, and we waited for nearly 10 minutes to be greeted. Another gentleman was waiting as well, and this was his table being set up. We asked him how long he had been waiting, and he had stated just a few minutes. In the meantime, a waitress came over and asked if we had been helped, and we had sad that he was getting a table ready for us. He finally came back, and seated us. What he was doing in the meantime is beyond me as there were only 3 tables sat, and all the tables were set up. Very odd.
I looked over the menu as our waitress came over and read off the 3 additions to the menu. In past visits, I had always gone with one of the specials, but tonight nothing sounded interesting. Specials included their "signature" crab cocktail appetizer served in a martini glass, a Dover sole, a pork tenderloin, and I forget what else. Nothing overly innovative or interesting. The table next to us actually ordered the crab appetizer, and I was shocked that it wasn't even jumbo lump crab meat, not to mention the fact that it was served in what looked like a rocks glass, versus a martini glass....which really isn't a bad thing considering that was played out 10 years ago.
Poor John was having some stomach issues, and only ordered soup for dinner tonight. I started off with an appetizer of calamari, which came out in a large bowl. The calamari was breaded and fried, with a soy glaze, sweet peppers, and a pesto drizzle. The rings were nicely breaded in an Italian breadcrumb of sorts, and I am guessing that these are purchased pre-breaded and frozen. While they were tasty, there is much better calamari out there, though that doesn't say a whole lot. Calamari is calamari, and there is nothing innovative about it. Unless of course you go to Chef Luis in New Canaan, CT.
While we were waiting for my entrée and his soup to come out, we shot the bull as a few more tables filtered in. One thing I noticed was the fruit flies in the restaurant. Where are these things coming from...in January nonetheless. We both were swatting them away, and this is a bit disheartening. Is the restaurant dirty? Why are there so many of them? It's cold outside, and this seems odd to me. I actually saw this mentioned in a thread on Chowhound recently and I didn't believe it. I can however say that this is a factual statement.
At one point here, our busboy came around behind me, grabbed the ice bucket sitting next to my chair on a pedestal, filled it with ice, and proceeded to grab the bottle of cabernet off the table and put it in the bucket. I politely told him that it was fine on the table and didn't need to be chilled, and he just looked at me and said "really?" I do appreciate the fact that he was trying to be helpful, but someone needs to give this young chap a lesson on wine...a lesson on good wine! This wasn't no Yellow Tail! ;-)
For my entrée tonight, I chose the filet mignon. When we used to frequent the Ferry House years ago, their steaks were always amazing, so I figured why not. This came out glistening and smothered in a reduction of sorts, served over a bed of mashed potatoes, 2 spears of asparagus, and topped with a tomato chutney of sorts.
The first thing I noticed was the size of the filet. For $35, I definitely expected more. As I put my knife on the filet, I noticed the rock hard crust, that was possibly from a high heat sear, or quite possible from a mediocre cut. As I cut into the steak, I could see that it was overcooked as I had ordered it medium. I probably should have sent it back, but I didn't as I was using a gift certificate, and I never like to cause a scene. While it was closer to well done, there was a small pink middle on one end of the steak.
The steak itself was tough, dry, and lacking flavor. The reduction on the steak did seem to help some, as did smearing it in the mashed potatoes. Overall, this was very disappointing, and for $11 less, I would much rather go to The Farnsworth House in Bordentown for the twin filet medallions wrapped in bacon and topped with jumbo lump crab meat, but that is just me.
Overall, it was a great night out with a good friend from back home, but the food at The Ferry House has definitely gone downhill over the years. Maybe Chef Trigg is losing motivation, or maybe Chef Trigg wasn't even there tonight. I know that his sous-chef has been with him for well over a decade, and I would definitely expect more.
In short, the highlight of the night for me was the 2008 Stefania Crimson Clover cabernet sauvignon that I popped and poured. What an absolutely stunning wine, and I cannot believe how "open for business" this wine is at such a young age. This was truly the best bottle of Stefania that I have had to date, and I look forward to many more of these.
As for The Ferry House, cross it off of my go to list in Princeton. The menu seems stale, and the restaurant needs a makeover. Call in Gordon Ramsay, and turn this back into the Princeton staple it once was! Cheers!
The Ferry House
32 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
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