More than Just a Facelift for the Metuchen Inn?

March 17, 2011 | By | COMMENTS

More than Just a Facelift for the Metuchen Inn? 1
In the bustling, yet quaint Central New Jersey town of Metuchen stands a historic restaurant, which over the past five years has received a melange of poor reviews. Amidst a shrinking number of dinner guests and overall lull in business, a fire broke out about one year ago. Though the fire was contained to the bar area, there was significant smoke damage done to the rest of the 200 year old mansion. In the beginning of February of 2011, The Metuchen Inn reopened for lunch and dinner service. From the outside, one can see that the once historic restaurant underwent an extensive facelift. My dinner guest and I proceeded inside to see quite a sporadic collection of sconces, paintings and conflicting designs. When owner, Constantine Papanicolaou was asked about the decor, he proceeded to explain there is “a combination of Classicist and Contemporary throughout”. It lacked continuity in my opinion.

More than Just a Facelift for the Metuchen Inn? 2
Once seated in the main dining room (which comfortably seats 40) we were greeted by an army of waiters, waitresses, hosts, and managers. Since our arrival was at 5:15pm, we were slightly surprised at the ratio of staff to guests. We began our meal with the mushroom ravioli in a sauce of leeks and black truffles. This appetizer (see first photo) seemed a bit odd in that it lacked any humanity. I could tell by looking at the dish that the pasta was not made on premises. I did inquire with the manager about this and he said it was homemade; it was very hard to believe. Upon review of both the wine and dinner menu, we selected two contrasting dishes that would present a proper representation of the restaurant. The wine that was ordered was a glass of Pinot Nior and a Sauvignon Blanc which would be paired with two differing seafood dishes. Sesame crusted tuna steak in a ginger reduction with wasabi mashed potatoes and a seaweed salad graced my guests’ plate and I ordered the seared sea scallops in a mango cream sauce with a cauliflower puree and sauteed papaya chunks. The latter (see second photo) was highly recommended by our main waiter, Michael. Sadly both dishes were a bit bland and lacked the inventiveness that I was expecting. The wasabi potatoes were tasteless as an accompaniment to the tuna dish and the sauteed papaya battled against the earthiness of the the cauliflower puree, which in turn overpowered the subtle, sweet flavor of the scallops and mango sauce. The wine pairing went about 50/50 in that the Pinot Noir balanced both the appetizer and entrees; the Sauvignon Blanc was just a bad choice. For dessert we decided to stick with a traditional favorite of Creme BrulĂ©e. Quite nice, surprisingly not made with vanilla beans. There were a selection of sauces that accompanied the custard including chocolate, butterscotch and mixed berry. A glass of 10-year old Port brought the meal to a close.
Overall there is one word to describe the “new” Metuchen Inn: sporadic. From the decor, to the menu, to the wine list, to the staff, to the dishes themselves, there is a lack of continuity. I respect the owner’s decision to reopen this jewel but am not able to follow his vision for the restaurant. There are so many good ideas that are presented that when combined, create a clash. The saying goes, “less is more” and should be prevalent in this case.
The best part of the meal in my opinion was the seaweed salad and the perfectly cooked sea scallops in the well-balanced mango sauce.
Prices range from $35 – $55 per person (with alcohol). Lunch is served Monday-Saturday 12pm-3pm. Dinner is served 5pm-10pm. Sunday dinner is served from 1pm-8:30pm.
For the overall experience, I rate The Metuchen Inn: 2 stars

Categories: Restaurant Reviews

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