It all started some fifty years ago when my third grade teacher predicted that I'd end up either as a homeless bum or in jail. Since then, I've often held my own judgment suspect. Given that another poster recently raved about the Gladstone Inn, we decided to go back for a fourth visit last night and find out whether we'd misjudged the place. Indeed, on two out of three counts, I confess that I was wrong. And in so confessing, I also confess that we won't dine there again.
On count one, I remained right: the ambient noise level is reminiscent of a subway station during rush hour. On count two--my contention that the place is always overrun by unruly children--at least last night, I was wrong: by dint of its 'children's menu' the place was still packed with well-heeled tykes but they were also well behaved tykes. On count three, unfortunately, I was also wrong: Leaving Jersey standards behind, judged by New York/Paris/Chicago standards, the cuisine has slid downhill disasterously.
Let's start with the bread. "It's warm!" I chirped happily. But some two minutes later, it became obvious that the bread had been nuked. In contrast to 'fresh out of the oven' bread, microwaved bread cools and hardens quickly; by meal's middle, our own loaf of bread might have served double duty as a paperweight. So on to the appetizers. We had the Black Truffle Ravioli and the PEI (Prince Edward's Island) mussels. Given my memory of Nicholas' extraordinary black truffle ravioli, I was salivating. Given my wife's childhood memories of PEI mussels (she was born in Canada) she, too, was salivating. So much for great expectations. Perhaps the black truffles were on strike for higher wages because as far as either of us could discern, there was not the least hint of them to be found in the dish. The three raviolis themselves were submerged in a pasty quicksand of celery puree that both looked and tasted like it came out of a baby food jar. The mussels were a step up. (What wouldn't be?) But though plump and fresh, like the dish that ran off with the spoon, the alleged herbs and garlic that were supposed to flavor the dish must have run off with the truffles. The mussels in nearby Origin are light years better.
The rack of lamb main course we shared was equally mediocre. To begin with, it was carelessly chosen by the chef, and we spent several minutes surgically removing the fat and gristle that surrounded a (finally) very tasty bit lamb. And yet again, the goat cheese polenta was another pile of flavorless mush, the only evidence for the presence of a tasty black olive tapenade being the menu description.
Regrettably, at Gladstone's inflated prices, we won't go back. And you know what? I think I'll once and for all seek out my third grade teacher and tell her to screw off.