For a few years now, Boleskine over on Slow Travel Talk, has been mentioning to me a restaurant in Rahway, David Drakes. Every time we think of going out to dinner, we think, let's get to Rahway, and try it but in the end, our laziness prevails and we end up at my favorite restaurant, The Frog and the Peach. However, this past Saturday night, flush with Chris's bonus (well, at least knowing he was receiving one in a few short days), we decided to celebrate, and took the opportunity to visit David Drakes sister (or maybe in this case, brother) restaurant, Daryl Wine Bar.
I had heard tale that the wait for a Saturday reservation was about three weeks. While that might be the norm in "the City" for the hot spots, it's usually unheard of here. I called on Tuesday anyway, and was able to get 8:45 on Saturday night but the hostess did tell me that while for a party of two, they can usually get you in on a Saturday night with a week's notice, for larger parties, you should really call a few weeks out. I guess that's what getting written up in the newspaper does for you.
We arrived in New Brunswick and began the hunt for parking, swinging by the restaurant first, there was no sign of valet, so I pointed Chris in the direction of our usual parking garage, though some how he missed the entrance and he ended up going around the block. Sine we were already back where we started from, I had him pull into the new Heldrich Center (Daryl, while not in the new hotel, is on the side of the hotel, and I thought maybe they valeted for Daryl). As it turns out, normally, they do, but there was a function at the State theatre, and they had no room left, so back to the garage. This time, I made sure he entered the correct entrance, and found a great spot on the first level, walked through the frigid air, and plopped into Daryl about 8:47 where they were ready and waiting for us.
They took our coats and immediately seated us in the bar room. Is there another room to the restaurant? I think so, but see it we did not. Here's my thing, I don't like hip, noisy places when it's me solo with Chris or if it us and another couple. I want to have conversation with the people with me, I don't want to hear the conversation of the people next to me, and I don't want to go home with a rock soundtrack thumping in my ear. Call me an old fuddy duddy if you like but I have a hearing thing, and if there's any sort of outside noise around me, I can't discern the sound of the people with whom I'm speaking. Sitting at that table, in the bar room, was an assault on my senses. It was loud, it was crowded and the cacophony of music (don't ask me what was playing I already forgot), rang through my head. All that said though, I was able to understand exactly what Chris was saying to me throughout the entire meal (him and the large party seated next to us). So I don't know if my ears have gotten better or if the large high back chairs in which we sat did something to the acoustics, but they worked for me.
Now, I like to chat up the waiter. You all know, I try to watch my weight, and I'm into food, so I ask questions about food preparation and I feel confident that I've gotten to the point where I don't sound like an idiot with my questions. But it doesn't bode well when the waiter must look at his notes to remember the daily preparation for the duck egg, didn't know what brining is let alone if the chicken dish on the menu was brined, and had to check with the kitchen to find out what the four varieties of the creme brulee were on taste of creme brulee dessert (don't ask - when he started talking about cookies, he lost us; but that's later in the meal).
I'm not feeling confident at this point but we push on. Now, here's the shtick at Daryl and I love it! They offer wines by the glass (with a pretty decent size list), in three different sizes, a two ounce pour, a four ounce pour, and a six ounce pour. I think that's fabulous. You get to try different wines, with different courses, at a size appropriate to your appetite (or available points), in different price ranges, that won't break the bank. So I start with a 2 ounce pour of prosecco (Prosecco Crede NV, Bisol) while Chris goes with a four ounce pour of the rose champagne (Rose Champagne Brut 1er Cru NV, Roger Pouillon).
The other thing I love about Daryl, they do small dishes (aka tapas). And while they're no competition for my favorite place (Casa Mono in NYC), for a short ride a way they're worth it. Now said waiter suggested we order four of the taps dishes and each have a main course, for the two of us. We were game because, it was a new place, and we wanted to try a variety of things. Now Chris may disagree with me, but it was too much and I think next time, I may stick with only tapas as I was much more impressed with those dishes than the main courses but I'm getting ahead of me here.
To start with tapas, we went with the Croquettes of Brandade of Cod (think Baccala made into a conical shape and fried), as well as the baby squid, chick peas and baby greens salad. I don't know if they were truly baby squid because they were tentacles and ringlets by the time we saw them but they were good, both dishes were good. With these I went with the Muller Thurgau Flaneur 2005, Königschaffhausen (2 oz) while Chris enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Domaine des Corbillieres.
For the next round (and yes, we asked them to bring the fish tapas first and then these), we had the Venison Carpaccio, which left a bit to be desired; very tender but really, lacking in taste, and then the daily preparation of the duck egg. This dish hit on all cylinders! (okay - it can't compare with my duck egg dish at Casa Mono that I still dream about) but man it was good, prepared with a crispy potato cake and little toast points - yum! With this I tried a Toscana Rosso Poggia delle Fonte 2005, Ciacci Piccolomini (2 oz) and Chris had Zinfandel 2003, Wellington (Sonoma, California). Ciacci Piccolomini wines have a small place in my heart after reading Bel Vino by Isabella Dusi and also after a friend bought me a bottle of their brunello for my 40th birthday. The Toscana Rosso wasn't bad - basically almost a light-bodied red.
After our tapas, Chris enjoyed his hangar steak while I had the Chicken Breast with glazed vegetables and pepper thyme jus. The jus, was more a broth, and there was a lot of it in the plate, so much so, that I think any glaze on my baby veggies was washed away. It tasted good though and was flavorful but just not my favorite thing. Maybe that serves me right for ordering the chicken, but I was curious. We had our last two wines here, for me Bordeaux Rouge de Valandraud 2005, Presidial Thunevin while Chris had the most interesting selection of the evening, Syrocco 2005, Alain Graillot (Zenata, Morocco). I kid you not, wine made in Morocco - who knew?? It wasn't half bad either.
We looked at the dessert menu, but honestly nothing floated our boat. So we popped into the dunkin donuts across the street for some coffee (and a coffee roll) to take home.
Did Daryl surpass Frog and Peach as my favorite restaurant? No. Would I return? Absolutely. I love the concept of having a plethora of wines by the glass and the small bites menu still has plenty of room for exploration for me. Oh and the bill came to $141 before tip - not cheap but we've done worse.