I tried three restaurants this month for the first time over the past two weeks.
1. Vanthias - West Cape May
This is a casual BYO serving a combination of Italian, Middle Eastern and standard American steak, seafood an pasta choices. They also serve breakfast and dinner. Overall prices are lower most places we've eaten, and breakfast looks downright cheap.
On Friday night they started off dinner with a basket of average dinner rolls and a small complimentary salad with a house-made balsamic vinaigrette, which is a nice touch in an era where a salad accompanying your dinner rarely happens any more. I had a the New York strip steak with a crab cake, mashed potatoes, and a few onion rings on top. The steak was cooked as ordered but wasn't a particularly flavorful or tender cut of meat. The crab cake was mushy -- mostly made of crab shreds, and not otherwise noteworthy, the potatoes were fine and the onion rings were superflous. It was a huge portion of food. My companion had a pasta dish tossed with jumbo shrimp, tomatoes and mushrooms in a light wine sauce. Also a huge portion, the shrimp were large and fresh and she liked it. Two entrees including T&T was $50. Service was friendly. But the food was't good enough to return.
Their strong suit appears to be their desserts, but it was late and we were full and tired so we didn't order any. They have a case full of beautiful pies, cakes, and fruit crumbles that I will go back and try. I will go back to get desserts to take out because the other bakery in WCM is terrible.
2. Black Duck - West Cape May
This BYO restauran is across the street from Vanthia's in the old Peaches on Sunset location. It has a very nice, relaxing interior with palmetto fans and white tableclothes in white airy rooms.
On Friday night dinner started with a basket of good crusty rolls. We shared the appetizer of lobster dumplings with a citrus salad and soy sesame dipping sauce. These were not all that flavorful and the salad was overdressed. I had the special of potato crusted drum fish over lump crab meat. This very good, as were the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with baby greens, yukons and tartar sauce, which I tried and will get for myself on return. For dessert we shared the whiskey bread pudding, which was great and I won't be sharing it again. Dinner including T&T was $100.
Also, as much as I hate to eat early, they have a $19.95 three course early bird menu good between 5 and 5:30 that looks like an absolute steal given that entrees start at $22. We tried to get into it again on Saturday night without a reservation (we were planning to try Moonfish Grill - see note below) but they were fully booked.
3. 410 Bank Street - Cape May
I'd heard this place was good but had never gotten around to trying it. Desperate for someplace to eat we stopped here and they were actually able to accommodate our party of 3 immediately. The place was packed and we were seated in the main dining area, which has very high ceilings and was quite noisy. A line quickly formed outside so we just lucked out. They serve Cape May Winery wines but are also a BYO.
We shared two appetizer specials: a cevice and escargot in brown sauce. Both were very good priced at $15 each. We then ordered a special of pan seared drum fish over crawfish etouffe. These clocked in at $35 - the top of their $25-35 price range. The locally caught fish was fresh if a bit overcooked, but we did like the dish. However, entree portions were huge, and I mean huge. We each got three pieces of fish and could have done with half that amount, I mean the amounts were truly silly, even by U.S. standards. The third entree was a filet of flounder over lump crab in a light cream sauce. I didn't taste it but it was pronounced very good. We shared two desserts: a blackberry and strawberry thingy that was OK and a creme brulee that was very good. Total dinner including T&T was $180.
Given the close tables, high noise levels and high prices, we agreed we would not return. I'd rather pay less for a non supersized portions and more relaxed surroundings. For that kind of money I'll eat at the Washington Inn, which is not BYO.
On another note, we tried to eat at Moonfish Grill (formerly Daniel's on Broadway) but it does not appear to be open yet. The place was completely empty on the Friday night of Memorial Day Weekend when we drove by and was closed Saturday night of this weekend. Not sure what is going on there. Also tried to get into Copperfish on Saturday night but couldn't without a reservation. That's a good sign since I liked it so much last year and will go back again this year.