My wife and I managed to wrangle up a babysitter last night for a relatively nice evening out. When deciding where we wanted to go we knew that we wanted to go the BYOB route since we have a ton of wine at home already, and we wanted to stay local. We tossed around a few different ideas, Whispers, Daniel's Bistro... Well, we decided to go slightly more casual and head over to Labrador Lounge.
It had been years since our last visit to this eclectic shore spot. We remembered that the decor was less than inspiring, but upon our arrival we realized that "less than inspiring" was an understatement. I know that they're going for a shore casual theme, but I would term it more as "surfer-shab-chic". Ok, not a big deal. We weren't there for the decor, we were there for service and food, both of which we remember as being good from our last visit. Obviously things have either changed since our last time there, or we mis-remembered those aspects of the restaurant as well.
Let me preface the remainder of my post by saying that yes, I am a service, food and wine snob. However, I am also a realist. I don't walk into Applebee's and expect their steak to be as good as Morton's or walk into a strip mall BYO Italian joint and expect the service to be as good as Nicholas. BUT, when an establishment has Zagat ratings of 25 for food and 22 for service I enter the experience with a certain level of expectation.
Looking at the menu some of the items seemed interesting, but by and large it wasn't so much eclectic as it was repetitive. I asked the server about one of the specials (given on a piece of paper attached to a clipboard) and she then proceeded to pick up said clipboard and read it to me... Not the answer I was looking for. I then asked her for a first course recommendation and her answer, after a ten second pause, was "I don't know." Oh boy. So we made our decisions and placed our order, each of us starting with shrimp app's (one from the menu, one from the specials), then moving on to sushi as a mid course, then our entrees.
The first course came out and the plates were visually appealing, but the flavor was only OK. Although the two appetizers had different flavor descriptors the shrimp in both dishes tasted exactly the same. Mine was served over a mofongo (a Dominican/Puerto Rican mashed plantain pancake of sorts) which was pretty good though it seemed slightly under cooked.
For our second course, which came out approximately 90 seconds after our first course was cleared, we each did a different sushi roll. I went for a specialty lobster roll and my wife did a specialty shrimp tempura roll with avocado... both were topped with spicy tuna. They were pretty good, but considering they were $16 and $15 respectively they should have been great. My lobster was slightly overcooked and the spicy tuna on both was lacking the spicy aspect.
The third course was put down AS the sushi was being cleared (I was actually still chewing). One of my biggest pet peeves on this earth is having food thrown at me. This must have been apparent on my face because my food runner took one look at me and started to apologize profusely... But that didn't change the fact that my food was there. In addition to being rushed, apparently no one found it necessary to give us silverware. So we sat there for at least two minutes before I was able to flag down a busgirl and ask for utensils. My wife ordered a Caribbean themed chicken entree that looked like a hot mess on a plate and the chicken was bone dry. At points she had a hard time even cutting through it. I went with their version of surf & turf which was a NY Strip topped with a "jumbo lump" crab salad, also on the plate were an assortment of veg and mashed potatoes. I have difficulty believing the crab was jumbo lump, it certainly looked like fin meat to me, my mashed potatoes had no flavor and were very obviously left over from a day (or days) prior and had been sauteed to bring them back to life, and my steak was overcooked. In addition to being overcooked, the meat was of a lesser grade, either a lower tier choice or possibly even select. I get better meat at Stop & Shop on special for crying out loud.
Throughout all of this, at no point did anyone take it upon themselves to stop by and check on us and our level of satisfaction. The most attentive person the entire evening was a busgirl keeping up on our water and clearing our plates. The only part of the evening we weren't rushed was after dinner, when it took our server ten minutes to come by, with our check in her hand, to ask if we wanted dessert. We stated that we did and she actually looked annoyed.
Dessert was a tropical fruit bread pudding and a cappuccino creme brulee. The bread pudding wasn't actually bread, it appeared to me to be sponge cake that they warmed, mashed up and placed vanilla ice cream on. I also am positive that it was microwaved considering bread pudding typically takes 8-10 minutes to warm up and this came out in 3 minutes. My wife's creme brulee was watery and bland. She LOVES creme brulee and orders it every time we go out if the establishment offers it. She said it was the second worst brulee she's ever had...
The server finally got her way and dropped the check after we pushed aside our lackluster desserts (again not asking if we liked them)... For the money that we spent on this dinner we could have had a VERY NICE evening at any number of BYO's in Ocean and Monmouth County, and even a few restaurants with liquor licenses. The point on my last statement is this: If you're going to go for the casual, laid back, we don't care type restaurant theme, then you cannot justify charging prices similar to much finer establishments. If you are going to charge those prices, then you better step up your game. 25 for food... 22 for service... You've got to be joking.
115 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742
3581 State Route 35 N, Normandy Beach, NJ 08739