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Cape May Report -- LOOONG

Ellen | Jul 19, 200512:10 PM

The Pier House
The Pier House occupies the former Water’s Edge location, but has better prices and food overall than its predecessor. They have a full bar and fairly interesting wine list. I’ve been twice in the past month and it is now my current Cape May favorite, edging out Peter Shields.

The first time we went we shared several appetizers and an entrée. The grilled octopus served with lemon, oregano and olive oil is served as a single tentacle of smoky tender octopus. A real winner for $8. The flash fried calamari were served with salt, pepper, lemon and pepperoncini. Very light, tender and delicious for $7.50. The lump crab and avocado mangotini was also very good, although I thought $14 was a bit expensive. A salad of baby arugula, red bliss potatoes, bacon cracklings, Maytag bleu cheese, honey lime poppy vinaigrette, chilled shrimp garni was large and excellent for $11. An entrée of halibut served with a sesame blend, roasted peppers, yukon gold crab mashed potatoes, summer vegetables, and scallion veal jus for $23 was excellent as well.

Last night we went and just got entrees. I got the crab cakes, which were panko baked and served with micro greens, Yukon gold crab mashed potatoes, sun-dried tomato tortilla crisp, wasabi crema, lemon buerre blanc. These crab cakes were quite delicious, but they were advertised as jumbo lump and I didn’t find much in the way of jumbo lumps, but for $20 not a bad choice. The other entrée was filet mignon with a wild mushroom merlot reduction, blue cheese mashed potatoes, bacon, crisp summer vegetables, hollandaise for $30. This dish was outstanding overall. The filet was at least 8 oz, cooked perfectly, and meltingly tender. We had a few wines by the glass. Service was very good and total including tax and tip was $100.

Peter Shields Inn
This BYO is a family stand-by. We’ve been going ever since it opened for good food, excellent service, and beach-front dining. This time we ate outside on the screened porch overlooking the ocean because it was a lovely evening.

The soup of the day was roasted tomato with fresh lump crabmeat. It was scrumptious and I could have eaten another bowl. A ceviche of bay scallops and crabmeat marinated in a citrus and cilantro au-jus, accented with Grey Goose was served in the now-ubiquitous martini glass for $12. The crab was good but the scallops were quite bitter. I don’t know if this was the result of the vodka or marinating too long.

The seared tuna was the seafood special. It was served over mashed potatoes with a seaweed salad, the fish was excellent and the seaweed salad was delicious for $29.

The South African Lobster tail preparation for the evening consisted of 8 oz of tail meat that was taken out of the shell and cooked in a brandy cream sauce with crabmeat and then put back in the shell for presentation for $39. It was good but a bit too rich for summer dining.

The best entrée of the night was roasted veal tenderloin served with lobster risotto, flavored with sharp cheddar, accented with roasted corn and chipotle sun dried rouille for $28. Served medium to medium rare, the meat was extremely tender and flavorful and the overall combination was great.

For dessert we had key lime pie cheesecake and something else that I can’t recall. Both were excellent but the portions were very small. I mean unusually small, especially for sharing. I’m not one for oversized portions but it was like half a normal portion. Not sure what was going on there.

Copper Fish
This BYO has been around for a few years but I finally tried it and am glad I did. Their website had a coupon for a free appetizer so that brought us in. We shared a martini of Maine lobster sauteed in cumin butter served with corn salad. We could have eaten a salad bowl full, the lobster and the corn were so sweet and fresh. I had a special of grilled scallops and the other entrée was smoked tomato & jalapeno crab cakes, which consisted of jumbo lump crabcakes sauteed and served on a bed of smoked tomato and jalapeno sauce, drizzled with chipolte cream sauce and served with horseradish mashed potatoes. They were scrumptious and the prices were reasonable for what we got. We were too full for dessert. I can’t recall any more details or prices because it was Memorial Day Weekend, which seems so long ago.

Restaurant 1919
This restaurant is owned by the folks who used to own the Water’s Edge, which closed last year after going downhill over the past several summers and this is their new effort. Still, I wanted to give it a try. I don’t recall most of the prices, but this is one of the most expensive restaurants in Cape May. They have a full bar, big martini list, and a wine list with some interesting selections and a reasonable range of prices.

It was a Saturday night. We were seated quickly and given menus, but it took about 15 minutes while to get our drink order taken and get our wine to the table. Then it took some more time to get our meal order taken.

Fourty-five minutes after ordering our appetizers finally came. The saute of escargot & mushrooms with lemon, garlic, chives, & cream in puff pastry was rich but quite good and a very generous portion for $10.50. A seafood crepe in a cream sauce served at room temperature was also pretty good.

For our entrees we each ordered the special of seared scallops with a mango sauce and soba noodles. Fourty-five minutes after our appetizers were cleared, the entrees came. The scallops were good and there were at least 6 big ones, but the dish was only lukewarm, indicating it had been hanging out in the kitchen too long, and the mango sauce was cloying, thick and sweet, which overwhelmed the taste of otherwise excellent scallops. Given the wait, we did not bother to send them back to the kitchen. By this point we just wanted to finish our meal and leave.

The biggest problem of the evening was the waiting. The place had only been open for three weeks or so. It seemed that the kitchen and the staff did not have their act together, especially in the kitchen. My sense is that the kitchen is way understaffed for its size. They have a lot of tables plus a very large bar and a kitchen-side seating area. I raised this question to the waitress and she agreed. To her credit, she did offer us complimentary desserts. We shared one, a berry cobbler of some sort, but the crust was thick and tough and there was not enough fruit. At least we didn’t pay for it. The people seated next to us told us that it had been even more of a mess on the 4th of July weekend.

Overall, my experience here from a food standpoint was not much different than at the Water’s Edge. Too expensive for what you get in most instances. If you do go, I recommend trying several appetizers and foregoing the entrees. That's what we would do at Water's Edge an it would work out pretty well. If you read Craig Le Ban’s shore dining review in the Sunday Inquirer, he raves that 1919 is now open and how little is changed from the Water’s Edge, but then he casually dismisses what he’d had to eat that evening as not being particularly good. He definitely missed the boat by not trying the Pier House or Copperfish, both of which I thought offer better food at better prices.

But the very best and by far the cheapest meals we had were the blue crabs from Budd’s Bait and Tackle in the Villas. At $20 for number 1s, I steamed them up with Old Bay seasoning, and ate them on our deck with beer and fresh Jersey corn on the cob. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

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