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Chef's table at Restaurant Nicholas, Red Bank, NJ (4-star)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
After our horrible experience with David Drakes on Wednesday, we called up Nicholas that evening, at around 10:30pm and inquired about the Chef's table. He said there was an opening for Friday and that the next Friday would be in October. (way to make it sound desirable! haha). They asked what the occasion was (about 4 times!) and we said "we like food?" :lol: Our names and menu preferences. I just mentioned that I'm not the biggest seafood fan, but not against it. They said that's fine they design two different 9 course menu's anyway! price was 150pp.

you can read about the restaurant on it's website.

In any case, Nicholas is our favorite restaurant. It's in NJ and I would put it up against Gramercy Tavern any day. Nicholas (Chef/Owner/Restaurant Name) at age 27 was the Sommelier at Jean-Georges in NYC.

Our experience.

We arrive and are greeted by Nicholas and escorted to the bar, the bartender pours us 2 glasses of great Campaign, compliments of the Chef. Already, I felt important. haha. (doesn't take much I guess) Halfway through our glass, Nicholas comes and escorts us. The kitchen is down 2 sets of stairs. As we are walking down the stairs (in the dim light), every one of the kitchen staff (roughly 15 of them) is there to greet us as we go down. NOW I'm feeling important..we are escorted to our booth table, very small and different compared to most "chef's tables" I've seen. This is a round booth that would fit 4. It was strange, since I've never seen the kitchen there, we were taken back, we thought they just put us in some basement as everything was dark, and well, looked like a basement.....then they turned the lights on!

I can't believe they stopped service, shut down all the lights, just to greet us on a Friday night at 7:30! Soon as the lights went on, it was like grand central station (as busy and as loud), in other words, awesome! It was a lot to take in. This was the main kitchen, what I guess is the prep kitchen/dish washing/walk-in, wine cellar, etc. is also downstairs but down the hall. First thing we noticed was how clean the kitchen was, and how organized, but mainly, so **** clean you could have ate off the floors. Even at the end of the night after service, it was clean....super clean, cleaner than my OCD home kitchen clean. clean.

Here are some pictures, then I will continue with the review.

(yes, she was beautiful)

So, after picking out a bottle of wine from the extensive wine list, (we decided on a pinot noir, 2006 Ayoub Pinot Noir (USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills)) our first course came. It was 7 real courses, with 1 being an amuse, and another being an optional cheese.

The amuse's were amazing, it's strange to watch dishes being plated, thinking wow that looks good, then someone comes and places on our table THAT dish we just watched and oggled over! My amuse was just some what seemed like pickled fruit, Fiances was salmon tartar.

I'll save you a dish play by play and just show you the menu's (they gave them to us after the meal) and just give you some highlights. For me, it was the first time I tried Foix Gras...and. loved. it. The beet and goat cheese dish was awesome. The Suckling pork, was also amazing. by the Filet course, I could barely move/eat!! Fiance mostly got seafood. I'm honest when I say that every peice of every dish I had, was nothing short of amazing. There was nothing I did not LOVE. Fiance tought her lobster was a little too bacony, but still better than any other restaurant. Maybe because we watched every dish being prepared, with the anticipation of wondering if the dish was for us!



So, this was my first experience really seeing a kitchen in action. The chef/cooks seemed to almost forget we were there. On 2 occasions some yo-yo's wanted something super special prepared, and the reaction from the expediter/cooks was rather funny, lot's of explatives. haha. I never knew just how important timing was in a kitchen. At one point someone fired something about 30 seconds too soon, The expeditor, and sous chef really gave him **** yelling about how it can't be sitting under a lamp, etc. etc. pay attention, lot's of explatives. etc. I'm mentioning this not because it was a sour point, but because I was impressed as they simply did not let any part of any dish sit under any lamp. Heck, 1 guy seemed like his primary duty was just dabbing and wiping plates that were ready to go out. I was also impressed by the sauces that went with many dishes, appeared to not be taken from giant pots, but made at time of the dish. You really get a feel for just what it takes to put out that kind of food.

Throughout the night, at some points it got real busy, I didn't ask how many tickets, but they said they do between 100-150 tickets on friday or saturday, closer to 150 on saturdays.

a couple of other things I noticed.

- easy to remember words for dishes, (i.e. Pig, "Softie" for soft shelled crab)
- I didn't see one person use a knife. Now, I'm sure they did, they split the filet's etc. but we were mainly seated closest to the expediter and salad/dessert person and furthest from the grills/ovens.
- Kitchen was predominantly white. 1 female, and a few hispanic.
- Don't special order rediculous things.
- If a plate was less than 110%, it did not go out until it was.
- Servers deserve a raise for walking up and down those stairs all night.
- If the staff didn't like people at the chefs table, the were great actors, as we felt very very welcome by everyone.
- at NO point did I feel like any part of it was a "show" or fake, or that the staff behaved differently because we were there.

here is a video when it was kinda dead in the kitchen after last push...most of my pictures were taken then as I didn't want to be "That guy".

YouTube - Nicholas Chef's Table

Service was great. I tried not to ask tooo many questions. haha.

P.S. here is dessert, I didn't take pictures of the other food, didn't want to be "that guy" dessert was basically 3 dishes of greatness, but at that point, we could pretty much only stomach a bite of each!

bottom line, worth every penny, we walked upstairs and asked for a booking when the menu changes for fall!
post #2 of 9
Wow! Double wow! One for the restaurant, and one for your wonderful account. I felt like I was there with you. Well illustrated (but tell fiancee, "less headroom and clear foreground clutter next time"), and well written. Thanks for inviting us, and thanks for picking up the tab.


PS. Also tell fiancee that photo criticism was your idea and I, good soldier that I am, was only following orders.
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
For as much as this site and you guys/gals do for me, all the pictures, and all my posts are the best way I can give back since I can't really respond to the culinary questions.
post #4 of 9
Great review, brilliantly done!
I hope you will be doing more, great sunnday morning reading.
I love having a peek into someones else's kitchen, especialy when its in another country!
Very entertaining.
post #5 of 9
Very nice! Well done too RP!

I believe the Chef's Table is an outstanding idea. That was the best part of running a Buca di Beppo kitchen. :D
post #6 of 9

Great experience; wonderful report.

By the way, that "chandelier" over your table is a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture, and it had to have cost thousands.

And it's in the kitchen to brighten up the Chef's Table! :cool:

If I ever get close to NJ, I'll have to see about doing that, if I know far enough in advance.

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
The rest of the restaurant is furnished by these sculptures/light figures, however, speaking with the owner, Nicholas, they are not Chihuly, but another artist who works in the same medium, I want to say his name was andrew something or something andrew, but I was a bottle of wine in when I asked...

I asked if it was the same artist who did the Borgata in AC (Chihuly) and he said no, and then explained about the other guy.
post #8 of 9
Fooled me!

(I fixed the spelling of Chihuly.)

He had a big exhibit at the Phipps Conservatory last year when we visited in Pittsburgh, and whoever the "Andrew" guy is, one of them certainly stole the other's technique and approach. :look:

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
I know Chihuly actually sued a few people for "copying" him...one of them being a guy named Bryan who used to work for him? But I don't think it was the same guy the Nicholas said was the artist...so who knows ;)

I'm SURE it was much cheaper than a Chiluly haha. Nevertheless, still amazing artwork.
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