Continuing on with last weekend’s Birthday festivities, Tyrone and I made reservations roughly a month in advanced to a place called Ninety Acres in Natirar Park in Peapack- Gladstone (NJ) for the actual day of my birthday.
I had heard great things about Ninety Acres, mainly word of mouth from a co-worker, my doctor, and brides to be. They all had mentioned how great of a drive leading towards the property would be, the wonderful food, the excellent wine pairing pricing. If you think about it, New Jersey has yet to find its own place in the food world. Where do Jerseyans go for amazing food? New York City. How can we compete what New York has to offer? How do we find our own identity? And with 127 reviews at 4.5 out of 5.0 stars on Yelp, I felt like it was my duty as a Jerseyan and a Yelp Elite to go and experience Ninety Acres…and of course give my feedback!
So Friday early evening, in route to Ninety Acres, Yelp mobile app gave us this weird route, so if anyone in the future decides to go, plug in the address listed on their website into Google maps to ensure you get there safely and promptly. We on the other hand, got lost for 10 minutes in an upscale residential area around Natirar Park. But thankfully, we had no issues by the time we checked in. We mentioned our brief dilemma getting there and in turn they questioned positively to ensure they had the most up to date info about getting to the restaurant for others.
By the time we got to their front of the restaurant, valet service was there ready to open our doors and drive our car off somewhere with no added extra cost. The restaurant was like the pictures; Gastby American, beautiful brick face facade with modern windows. As you went through entrance the two sets of double doors, I had noticed a sign on the door that said “Proper attire required.”
So up until that point, I had a set level of expectations. A beautiful estate, proper attire, valet, prix fixe, wine pairing; it was all a recipe of exceptional dining. But as soon as we were seated, and we as walked through the main dining hall, following the server who was going to escort us to our table, I had noticed immediately that there were three different dining experiences inside Ninety Acres. The Kitchen area, the main dining hall and the bar with the big screen TV. The second our server had opened her mouth to explain how everything was about to unfold, I was immediately a little disappointed that my “Open Table” reservation didn’t give me an option for the “Bring Me Food” section of the dining hall versus the main hall. Here’s the 411: The Bring Me Food option of the restaurant is similar in approach as Eleven Madison Park: you are given a list ingredients to choose from, and based on what you choose, then does the chef create a dish for you based on what you have selected. Had I known that these were only done by phone request, I would have called instead of made an Open Table request.
We were seated just outside the “Bring Me Food” area and given the Prix Fixe menu to look over. While glancing over the menu, our server told us that she would be back shortly to bring over the a la carte menu. The Prix Fixe overall had an excellent variety; they something that I was immediately drawn to based on the two options per course. I wasn’t too thrilled about the wine pairing so we decided not to do it and just freestyle the drinks instead. It was $70 for Prix Fixe and $100 if you included wine or beer pairing.
Shortly after looking over the Prix Fixe, our main server comes over with the a la carte menu and to my dismay, it’s full of casual food! I wasn’t expecting such a n “ordinary” a la carte menu, one with Fish & Chips and Gourmet Pizzas. I almost felt a little misled about Ninety Acres as I read more and more of the menu. Here’s a lovely estate, with all this PR about sustainable and local and organic food, having proper attire needed to dine at the restaurant, with reservations, and here they are serving pizza?!
And on top of the pizza, was our “West Jersey Bizzare” service. Our main server and one of the managers interchangeably pronounced PRIX FIXE as “Pre-fee” as they were tending to my table and the table next to us. Our secondary server brought out the wrong drink order for my other half. And lastly the runner or expeditor, who brought us our dishes and briefly went over all the components, asked us after presenting every plate, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” A simple, “Enjoy” would have been sufficient enough to end your task.
I had to re-think Ninety Acres while sitting there after having placed our orders. This was West Jersey, maybe things are done different here?!? (That’s no real excuse). But at the same time, I felt that two-thirds of my experience was sub par with Metropolitan standards or quite frankly anyone’s standards. If Ninety Acres is supposed to be “top shelf” material in New Jersey, what am I to think when someone comes here and feels the same way I feel about this place? Maybe three different reservations for three different types of dining? I’m not sure, but they internally need to figure that out.
Despite my expectations and the oddities, Ninety Acres did deliver some really good food. Was I totally amazed? Absolutely not. What I impressed? With the dishes at times, yes. Was I pleased with the overall experience? I would say, “almost”. There was no do doubt that the food and drinks were very good (not amazing), and the selection of liquor, both beer and wine supported their mission/objective as an establishment.
Here’s a thorough look at our meal:
To start we were given a break basket compiled of cheddar-herb crackers, french baguette and potato bread. The crackers were delicious, a refined “goldfish” cracker in flavor if you asked me. The baguette was ordinary and the potato bread, although fresh and fluffy, had nothing else to offer.
For drinks to start with, Tyrone had a Brooklyn Pilsner and I had a Jersey Pine Barrens house cocktail (Top image). I highly recommend the cocktail. It was made with Pine infused gin, apple schnapps, simple syrup and Granny Smith apple juice. It was perfectly crafted.
For our first course I had picked the “Scallop, Cauliflower, Capers, Raisins and & Mustards.” I wasn’t expecting the scallops to be raw and I thought that cauliflower came at the forefront more than the scallops throughout the whole dish. The raisins I thought were great contrast to the cauliflower and mustard seeds.
Tyrone had ordered the “Natirar Egg, Foraged mushrooms, Bacon, Mizuna, Dumplings & Chicken Dashi.” It was definitely his kind of dish in flavor, although we both wondered why the “Natirar Egg” was just the yolk.
For my second course, I chose the “Chatham Cod, Sunchokes, Watercress & Meyer Lemon.” Thoroughly enjoyed the grilled sunchokes and my cod was perfectly cooked.
For Ty’s second course, he chose the “Salmon, Porcini, Salsify, Trevisano, Arugula, and Apple.” The trevisano were tasty!
My third course was the “Carolina Squab, Beets, Black Trumpets, Cherries & Red Sorrel.” I had ordered the squab medium and it came it perfectly. I was drinking a Pinot Noir at the time I had this meal, but Tyrone’s Bordeaux was much more suitable with my dish.
For Tyrone’s third course he without hesitation picked the “Ribeye cap, Fingerlings, Pearl Onions, Black Olive, Arugula & Medjool Dates.”
And for dessert, we both had the “Valrhona Dark Chocolate, Coconut & Almond.” The coconut ice cream was delightful! I didn’t really get a sense of dark chocolate which is why I compared it to a deconstructed Almond Joy.
Ninety Acres is located at 2 Main St, Peapack- Gladstone, New Jersey 07977