August 2007 Mountain View
6.41 - 7.5, 6.75, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6, 5
We had been anticipating a visit to Mountain View Brasserie. The demise of the Freehold Country Inn (operated also by Ben and Terry Buel before its sale last year) has left a hole in the hearts of Freehold diners, a shuttering of our home restaurant. We had all tested MVB for lunch and/or dinner before but this was our official encounter.
Located in Greenville, a mile south of the four corners, across from the drive-in, MVB occupies the former Steves Meat Market. However, the renovation the Buels undertook would make Extreme Makeover proud. An enclosed waiting/sitting area precedes the entry lobby where left takes you to the bar and right takes you to the larger of the two eating areas. Walls of golden rod-yellow warmly emanate the soft glow of the lamp-sconces. Original artwork adorns the walls as the bustle of the wait staff attests to the popularity of MVB.
A familiarity with FCI prepped us for MVB. Chef Max and some of the wait staff migrated with the move. Even the menu carries numerous traces of the FCI menu. Terrys gracious greeting and announcement of the specials presents a welcoming first impression. Linens, classy plateware and silverware, centerpieces, comfortable and ample chairs, black and white attired wait staff, etc., all attest to a level of dining that does Greenville and Freehold proud.
Terry seated DP8 at a linened table, with two rows of four, with the men at the ends (what tribal custom did this come from?), a tad tight space-wise but that was mostly overlooked considering that reservations could be made on such short notice. Our waiter, Cin (another familiar face from home), started us with a basket of sliced long loaf bread, accompanied with two ramekins of pressed butter, keeping the nibblers happy early. Drink orders included two bottles of 2005 Woodbridge pinot noir (satisfactory), along with two pinot grigios and a gin-and-tonic.
Appetizers included the house salad for five, the clam and corn chowder for Deb K and Don, while Tim ventured with the melon and proscuitto (excellent). The house salads are a spring mix, with a few cherry tomatoes, and shreds of carrots and zucchini, along with a range of tasty but not overpowering salad dressings. The soups hearty blend of seafood and vegetable is a classic to try again.
Entrees included three prime ribs (medium rare for Deb K, well done ends preferred for Kriss and Chay; all were good, perhaps fattier than usual); the swordfish with crabmeat crust with lobster sauce (Judy excellent); pork chops for Tim and Deb T (good and excellent); veal chops with a plethora of mushrooms in sauce (Don good); and chicken parmagiana (Ken one of his favorites, and but just ok this evening). Potato au gratin was the only choice of potato, satisfactory but we are used to the usual choice of three or four preparations.
The dessert course beckoned. Deb and Don shared the warm chocolate cake with ice cream and whipped cream (a favorite); Chay and Deb shared a Key lime pie, while Ken had his own (excellent, tart); Kriss had the chocolate mousse with orange sections (very good); Judy devoured the apple crisp; and Tim had his Frangelica while Chay sipped the Sambuca on ice.
Service by Cin was friendly, efficient, and competent. The transfer between courses went smoothly, water glasses were filled frequently (the water here is better than FCIs), and Kens coffee was regularly filled (long practice at FCI). Thanks, Cin, for an excellent job.
The pacing of the dining experience at MVB was one that suited us well. Bread came out upon seating, drinks within fifteen minutes, and salads and appetizers another five or ten minutes after that. The entrees arrived almost an hour after seating. Desserts and the bill arrived without the interminable wait we have seen elsewhere.
The one minor distraction was the noise level. OK, it was more than minor, and we cant help but notice it after all the times we have sat at FCI. It almost felt we were at Conca.
The bill was $102 per couple, including drinks, tax, and tip, a middle-ish range for us lately. MVB presented a worthy dinner this evening but did not stand up completely to FCI.
Because of the last minute change (only hours notice), and because this Saturday was one of the nicest days of the year, and because most of us were utilizing daylight to its maximum, we absented ourselves from any pre-session meeting and hors doeuvres at one of our houses, and proceeded directly to the restaurant.
School talk crept in, with ...., summer ending, Tims 60th party a week ago, Kryptons claim to the bed, Buddy now sleeping in luxury, day trips, etc. Sorry, Ken, I could not hear the conversations at your end of the table. The level of discussion kept a high plane until ....